June 18, 2021

Dear College Community,

SUNY College of Optometry joins with our Black students, faculty and staff in recognition of Juneteenth, the commemoration of the ending of slavery over 150 years ago. Our observance of this day on June 19th is a significant part of not only Black history but also America’s history in the journey to be a free, fair and just nation for all. With the many conversations and social unrest over the past year, it is evident that our journey in many ways has just begun. The recent recognition of Juneteenth as a federal holiday is an important step forward.

Since last spring, the SUNY Optometry community has focused on addressing the challenges and concerns of our Black community members by partnering with student leaders and advocates on critical issues that impact minority representation, growth, and sense of belonging. Our charge for change began last June with the formation of the President’s Task Force on Race and Equity (TFRE), a panel of faculty, staff and students with the mission of identifying areas for improvement while opening up the conversation about race, ethnicity, and bias throughout the College community. Through collective examination, the TFRE introduced an array of actions and initiatives to promote active discourse and understanding about all racial disparities that impact the work of our campus and clinic. These efforts feature campus-wide programs focused on generating understanding, dialogue, and connection across cultures.

Our continued investment in creating a community that values the contributions of its diverse membership is spearheaded by the newly formed Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging. Throughout the upcoming year, I encourage each of you to participate in the Diversity Series events and trainings offered and embrace the opportunity to learn about the experiences of those whose background differ from yours.

In closing, as we honor Juneteenth and its significance to the Black community, let us use this time to reflect on both our history and progress as we continue the work towards moving beyond bias and eradicating racism in all its forms by ensuring that all voices throughout our campus and clinic are recognized, heard and welcome.

David A. Heath, OD, EdM
SUNY College of Optometry