Academic, Clinical & Personal Excellence Initiative Makes Better Doctors

Amid the hustle of labs, classes and exams, the program offers a calm—and informative—respite.

In the caffeine-fueled world of academia, SUNY Optometry decided to nurture student success with something gentler: tea. And thinking. Those are two of the guiding ideas behind T-Chats session, the central component of the Academic, Clinical & Personal Excellence Initiative (ACPEI), a program designed to assist students in becoming the best doctors and community members that they can be.

Dr. Guilherme Albieri
Dr. Guilherme Albieri
ACPEI is a partnership between the offices of Student Affairs and Academic Affairs, as well as Beta Sigma Kappa (BSK), an international optometric honor society. It is funded by a grant from the College’s foundation, the Optometric Center of New York.

All students are welcome to participate, and last academic year, approximately 240 did. Participation involves attendance at a T-Chat session, which is a workshop or informal conversation around a specific topic. “Why T-Chats?” asks Dr. Guilherme Albieri, vice president for student affairs. “We stimulate thinking and we serve tea.”

Past discussions have covered topics such as stress management, test anxiety, debt management, study strategies, sleep hygiene and career planning and are led by faculty, outside speakers, Student Affairs staff and BSK members. Says Albieri, “My office has been investigating predictors of success in both the academic and clinical setting for years. We also listen closely to our students’ needs. The topics covered by the ACPEI emerged from both the literature and research we have conducted and by listening to our students’ needs.”

A lot more happens at these sessions beyond refreshments and conversation. At the heart of the initiative is a commitment to achieving the school’s guiding philosophy. “Excellence is one of the College’s core values. To meet this goal, the Office of Student Affairs implemented ACPEI to offer workshops and structured learning interventions in the areas of academic, clinical and personal excellence,” says Dr. Albieri.

ACPEI will launch an assessment tool—the Learning and Study Strategies Inventory—to measure students’ learning strategies and methods. Dr. Albieri explains it will help predict student success and indicate how the College can enhance its educational interventions.