Although the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) was already established as one of the best institutions in optometric education with an excellent reputation, when Jeffrey Nyman, OD, FAAO, joined the faculty in 1977, he was hired to assist in the clinical overhaul needed to make the transition to the profession's forthcoming medical model. 

jeffrey nymanIn fact, Dr. Nyman was attracted to a faculty position at PCO because it was on the cusp of a “major thing” that was about to happen. “We had two clinics at the time, one on Broad Street and one also on Spring Garden. And, now we were going to be creating the largest clinic in optometric education,” he said. “But more than just the size of it, we were trying to create a primary care and specialty care setting in optometry that would be multidisciplinary and something that had never existed in the profession before.”

That “major thing” was The Eye Institute (TEI). And, under the leadership of then-president Norman Wallis, OD, PhD, FAAO, Dr. Nyman was not only joining a faculty that included future PCO giants in the classroom but also a group of young healthcare professionals who would also go on to be standouts, visionaries and pioneers in PCO’s history clinically as well. 

“There was a confluence of people and forces that came together at the right time. We were the major institution that influenced the transformation of this profession from a purely optical profession to one that has both optical and medical components,” said Dr. Nyman.

dr. nyman with patientIt’s been 44 years since Dr. Nyman joined PCO, the founding institution of Salus University, which has been a major force in advancing the profession of optometry and producing generations of top healthcare professionals during his tenure. Currently, an associate professor and the director of Emergency Services at TEI, he’s been instrumental in helping PCO/Salus continue to grow and advance the profession.

“That first decade we were establishing the TEI model and a small group practice environment with the development of our specialties,” said Dr. Nyman. “What we did in that time is we created a medical model of delivery that was able to get off the ground before any of the state laws allowed that to happen.”

Dr. Nyman was trained at the Massachusetts College of Optometry — now known as the New England College of Optometry (NECO) — during the time when Dr. Wallis was an associate professor there. When Dr. Wallis took the president’s job at PCO, he brought along another NECO connection, Dr. Charles Mullen, who became the first executive director of TEI after it was built. It was Dr. Mullen who convinced Dr. Jeffrey Nyman to leave the faculty at NECO and come to PCO in 1977. Neal Nyman, OD, would eventually follow his brother to PCO in 1985. Both would become primary care suite chiefs.

dr. nyman teaching at TEIDr. Jeffrey Nyman said he has had opportunities over the years to move up in the administration and offers to segue into the private sector, but has turned them all down. “I’ve had a chance to reflect and discuss things with my family and friends and we all came to the same conclusion: I’m not an administrator at heart, I’m a clinician and teacher at heart. Those are the two things I like to do best,” said Dr. Nyman.

He believes he has a special relationship with his students, particularly when he gets a chance to work one-on-one with each of them and serve as a mentor. He describes his teaching as “constructive” rather than “destructive.” “I try to remember what it was like — still 50 years later — to be a second-year student wondering what was going to happen on my first day clinic,” he said.

As for how long he’s going to continue teaching, Dr. Nyman has set no perimeters. “My wife keeps asking me how long I’m going to do it, but I think the question is how long am I going to do it full-time,” he said. “I always say that I’m taking it year by year. I still have a lot of vigor, so I don’t think I’m going to be retiring this year. But I do want to take some part of life to enjoy the moments that you write poetry about. I just can’t yet envision the date of my retirement.”

dr. nyman with patientOne of the reasons he stays, he said, is that in addition to his teaching and clinical duties, he’s been able to maintain a loyal and almost family-like patient load. And, he still believes he can help create a better future for optometry. But if he did decide to retire, he’s confident the future of this profession has never been better than it is now. “We’re living in an unbelievable wealth of great training for our students,” he said.

Since the first day he joined PCO/Salus, Dr. Nyman said it’s been the University’s mission — and his mission — to produce the best clinical optometrists out there. “We have the pride of knowing over the years that we can say to our students, when you tell people that you were trained at PCO, that’s going to mean something. And, it does,” he said.

Dr. Nyman is distinctly aware and humbled by his contributions over the past four-plus decades in that effort. “I do have that feeling that we did something very important,” he said. “I never had any real doubt that we were going to be able to accomplish what we wanted to do.”

When he’s not teaching, Dr. Nyman enjoys snow skiing. In addition to the pandemic, last winter saw this area experience a good amount of snow, which encouraged Dr. Nyman to buy himself some new ski boots and take on Elk Mountain, near Uniondale, Pennsylvania.