The International Optometric Bridging Program (IOBP) at the University of Waterloo School of Optometry & Vision Science (WOVS) was developed in 2005 to provide optometrists educated outside of North America (Internationally Graduate Optometrists (IGOs)) with a structured orientation to Canadian standards of optometric practice. The program provides qualified applicants with opportunities to gain the critical language, academic and clinical skills necessary for registration in Canada.
For IGOs, the process to becoming a licensed optometrist in Canada requires success through a number of stages including: academic authentication and credentialing, the Internationally Graduated Optometrist Evaluating Examination (written and OSCE), the IOBP and Optometry Examining Board of Canada.
Since it’s inception, the IOBP has developed into a 14-month long program which includes extensive didactic and clinical laboratory time, experience in the WOVS clinics, and two 10-week clerkship rotations within Canada. IOBP curriculum has evolved to address the unique needs of IGOs, which may include: English language deficiencies in an occupation specific context, cultural competency and adapting clinical skills and knowledge to meet Canadian standards. IGOs are commonly adult learners, often with families or other compounding circumstances not often associated with the typical undergraduate optometry student.
As of March 2019 398 IGOs have successfully completed the IOBP. The demographics of bridging participants include both immigrants to Canada and Canadian citizens who were educated abroad. Countries of education have included: the United Kingdom, Australia, China, India, Nigeria, Iran, Columbia, Philippines, South Africa and Egypt, among others. Of the 398 bridging graduates, 273 IGOs were trained as optometrists and 125 as ophthalmologists.