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History of Salus/PCO


Today the University is a diversified, globally recognized, health professions university that offers a wide range of accredited post-graduate and professional degree programs. Currently, the University has more than 1,200 students and more than 14,000 alumni worldwide. 
PCO founder, Dr. Albert Fitch, was considered a visionary by his peers and a revolutionary by others in the healthcare community. His goal in establishing the Pennsylvania State College of Optometry (our original name) as a nonprofit educational institution in 1919 was to create a professional school of optometry comparable to those of medicine and dentistry. His desire was to “obtain a higher standard of proficiency and to enlighten the public mind on the subject and science of optometry and its relationship to the conservation of vision.” That desire to set and maintain a higher standard of education is evident today at Salus University, where the institution continues to break new ground with creative and innovative curricula for all of its degree programs. 
The name Salus University may still be young, however, the history and reputation of our founding institution - the Pennsylvania College of Optometry - is known and respected around the world. Changes in the nation’s healthcare delivery system are significantly altering every facet of our diversified medical and health science professions. Central to the Salus mission is keeping pace with the rapidly expanding healthcare issues, setting national trends and standards and being the leader in providing the nation’s top health science, education and rehabilitation professionals.


PCO is the first institution in the country to offer a graduate degree and certificate program in Vision Rehabilitation. That new degree program - and the three others that follow – means that PCO is no longer a single-purpose institution. Today, our College of Education and Rehabilitation is the only institution to offer four degree and certificate programs in the following areas: Low Vision Rehabilitation; Orientation and Mobility; Education for Teachers of Children with Visual and Multiple Disabilities; and Vision Rehabilitation Therapy (formerly Rehabilitation Teaching).


An Optometric Technician Program is established in conjunction with Manor Junior College – this program was discontinued in 1987. The College augments its curriculum with a Master of Science in Low Vision Rehabilitation.

1984 Masters


The Department of Graduate Studies adds the certificate program for teaching children who are blind or visually impaired. The department adds a Master of Education in this area the following year.


The Institute for the Visually Impaired is established to coordinate all of the educational, clinical, rehabilitation and research activities of the College devoted to the problems of partially sighted. Optometry students are able to earn a dual degree of Doctor of Optometry and Master of Science in Low Vision Rehabilitation.


The Irving Bennett Business and Practice Management Center, along with the Cornea and Specialty Contact Lens Center, are established. PCO and Hahnemann University School of Medicine establish an educational affiliation agreement.

Tom Lewis


Dr. Thomas Lewis, ’70 becomes the fifth president of the College. Dr. Lewis leads several successful fundraising campaigns, creates new academic programs (Audiology, Physician Assistants, Masters in Public Health, Occupational Therapy, Doctor of Philosophy), establishes a new campus in Elkins Park, builds a student center, advances the institution to University status and renovates The Eye Institute.

A Stumble into the Right Direction: Dr. Thomas Lewis