SUNY Optometry Hosts Part Three of a Live Webinar Series on Race in Optometry


September 29, 2020

Panelists from academia and industry come together to advance the call to action

Race in Optometry Part 3

New York, NY—The State University of New York (SUNY) College of Optometry hosted part three of a live webinar series entitled, Race in Optometry—An Honest Conversation on Diversity & Leadership Development in Industry & The Profession, covering the issues and obstacles that impact minorities in the field of optometry, particularly within the Black community.

“SUNY College of Optometry is proud to establish a platform for addressing racial bias and social disparities in schools of optometry and throughout the profession,” said Dr. Richard Madonna, Professor and Chair of SUNY Optometry’s Department of Clinical Education and Director of the Office of Continuing Professional Education. “Our goal with these forums is to engage and work with the entire optometric community in identifying areas for improvement to bring about positive progress and change.”

Organized by the College’s Office of Continuing Professional Education, the third installment of the online forum featured an elite panel of leaders in academia and the eye care industry who focused on what can be achieved collectively, now and into the future, to advance diversity and leadership in education, the profession, and ophthalmic organizations at large.

“It is clear that we need to be more aggressive and collaborative across the optometric industry to be more effective with our outcomes,” said discussion facilitator, Dr. Edwin Marshall, Professor Emeritus of Optometry and Public Health and past vice president for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs at Indiana University. “We need more minds to contribute to the conversation.”

Alongside Dr. Marshall, webinar panelists included Dr. Derrick Artis, former Chief Operating officer, Vision Source Management, and Consultant, Artis Consulting, LLC; Dr. Jacqueline Bowen, trustee, American Optometric Association; Dr. Millicent Knight, Senior Vice President, Customer Development Group, Essilor of America; Dr. Andrew Mick, Board of Directors, American Academy of Optometry (AAO), Residency Coordinator, San Francisco VA Medical Center, and Associate Clinical Professor, UC Berkeley Optometry; Dr. Howard Purcell, president and CEO, New England College of Optometry; Ms. Veronica Schuver, Secretary & Diversity Project Team Member, American Optometric Student Association, 4th-year Optometry Student, Ohio State College of Optometry; and Dr. Ruth Shoge, who participated in previous webinars together with Dr. Marshall and serves as Assistant Professor, Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University and Chair-Elect of ASCO’s (Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry) Diversity & Cultural Competency Committee.

Introduced by Dr. David Heath, President, SUNY College of Optometry, each panelist provided key insight into their organization’s course of action to address inequities and lack of minority leadership within the optometric profession, including expectations by collaboratively moving toward greater diversity and inclusion.

“Through the Vision Council, we are attempting to qualify and quantify the number of African Americans and minorities in our profession,” said Dr. Artis, who is a member of a task force charged with amplifying a more equitable agenda within all aspects of the eye care community. “It is important to bring talented and diverse people into leadership…and to provide social opportunities for these candidates to meet leaders [who can support advancement].”

Tentative goals outlined by the Vision Council include committing to interviewing and promoting underrepresented minorities for leadership roles in education, organizations, and industry in optometry; provide networking opportunities for underrepresented minorities within highly visible forums in education and industry; recognize industries who have made proactive effort toward diversity, equity, and inclusion; and provide educational materials to optometric institutions and companies who want to make a difference.

The panelists agreed that candid conversation and understanding among various individuals and groups within their organizations and across the optometric community is essential to moving forward. “It has been enriching to have conversations, particularly with our African American doctors, about what we don’t know,” expressed Dr. Bowen. 

“Currently, we are exploring more effective leadership recruitment of minority doctors of optometry and continuing to listen and learn from others in forums such as this.” Said Dr. Knight about her company’s push toward safe and open dialogue: “With the many challenges we have had this year, we have ramped up the communication to hear, in real-time, what various groups are grappling with, what they’re feeling, and how we can best support. It is a courageous conversation.”

In support of optometry schools and colleges, Dr. Shoge pointed to the creation of various workshops for faculty and students in cultural competency, including a Joint Diversity and Cultural Competency Symposium during the AAO virtual meeting to be held Oct. 7-22. At New England College of Optometry, Dr. Purcell highlighted the importance of spearheading diversity and inclusion initiatives with leadership who has a personal understanding of the minority challenges in academia and industry. He also encouraged reaching beyond internal groups to external resources for direction in elevating equity efforts. “External resources from other industries [outside of optometry] who have experience in this area bring a perspective that is quite unique and incredibly powerful in helping guide the path for us.”

Such guidance also comes in the form of career exposure, motivation, and mentorship from the start. “Mentorship, particularly of Black students, needs to be deliberate in the student population,” said Ms. Schuver. Outreach early on in education helps to expand representation within the OD workforce and allow students to become healthcare providers who will serve as role models for their communities. 

“What came out of our strategic planning process at the Academy was a recommitment and rededication to the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusiveness not only within our own organization but optometry overall,” said Dr. Mick. “Our goal is to have our doctors represent the people we care for.” 

Learn more from optometric leadership about advancing race and equity in education and industry and how you can help elevate the cause by viewing Race in Optometry-Part 3. You may also contact the Office of Continuing Professional Education by emailing ce@sunyopt.edu for more information.

Organization Contact: Adrienne Stoller, communications@sunyopt.edu or 212-938-5600

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About SUNY Optometry

Founded in 1971 and located in New York City, the State University of New York College of Optometry is a leader in education, research, and patient care, offering the Doctor of Optometry degree as well as MS and PhD degrees in vision science. The College conducts a robust program of basic, translational, and clinical research and has 65 affiliated clinical training sites as well as an on-site clinic, the University Eye Center. SUNY Optometry is regionally accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools; its four-year professional degree program and residency programs are accredited by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education of the American Optometric Association. All classrooms, research facilities and the University Eye Center, which is one of the largest optometric outpatient facilities in the nation, are located on 42nd Street in midtown Manhattan. To learn more about SUNY Optometry, visit www.sunyopt.edu.

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