Dear Students, Colleagues and Friends of the College,
June 2021 marks more than 50 years since the 1969 Stonewall uprising in New York City, an event which led to a worldwide movement toward accepting and embracing differences in sexual and gender orientation. As we celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community’s progress, and our collective campus reaffirms our support of LGTBTQIA+ individuals and initiatives during PRIDE month, it is important to reflect on the history and advances we have made as a society toward tolerance and inclusion—an effort that continues, especially in the wake of all the social injustices that occurred over the past year.
PRIDE month is an opportunity for us to recognize our LGBTQIA+ students, peers, family, and friends for their contributions and courage toward cultivating a society that allows people from all walks of life to live authentically and free of discrimination.
From student resources to patient care, the College has taken the lead in optometric education and advocacy with SPECtrum, the nation’s first LGBTQIA+ club housed at a college of optometry established 2016 by alumnus Dr. Brandon Harnos and faculty advisor Dr. Michael McGovern. The student-run group offers a safe space for LGBTQIA+ members and seeks to educate the College community around the full spectrum of human gender and sexual diversity. Working in partnership to enhance the patient experience, SPECtrum, the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB), and the University Eye Center (UEC) implemented a new patient intake form that is LGBTQIA+-friendly and inclusive. Introduced to our adult and pediatric services on June 1st, the form is accompanied by SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) terms, guidelines, and protocols to help our UEC staff facilitate effective interaction and exchange with our LGBTQIA+ patients of all ages.
As part of a host of activities for this year’s PRIDE month and our continued celebration of diverse backgrounds, SPECtrum and the Office DEIB are hosting a live webinar on Culturally-Responsible Care, featuring an expert panel of optometric clinicians and students including a transgender patient advocate who will address best practices for caring for and communicating with different patient populations. I hope all of you will take time and part in this forum on June 15th. This event follows the SUNY-wide Town Hall with Chancellor Malatras and SUNY student advocates on June 10th discussing topics affecting the SUNY LGBTQIA+ community.
As SUNY Optometry commemorates 50 years since its founding, we know that we have only just begun the charge for change but are committed to ongoing and mindful progress. This month and always, let us learn from, show support, and celebrate our LGBTQIA+ members with PRIDE!
David A. Heath, OD, EdM