Representation Matters: Bridging the Gap in Eye Care for Diverse Communities

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I was raised in a family who saw the importance of serving others. My cousin was the first doctor in our family, and my family looked at me and said, “You’re next.” So, I took the challenge. After a lot of research and shadowing a Doctor of Optometry, my heart was screaming for a career in the optometric field. Now, I am in my fourth year of optometry school at Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry. 

Throughout my time at optometry school, I climbed the ladder within the National Optometric Association (NOA) student organization—the National Optometric Student Association (NOSA)—to serve as my school’s OD1 Representative, Secretary, Chapter President, and the NOSA National Historian. By serving in these various roles, I have seen tremendous growth in my leadership skills and realized that I am capable of far more than I initially thought. I have NOSA to thank for that. 

My participation in NOSA also allowed me to learn more about how VSP Vision and VSP Premier Edge support the next generation of optometrists. Premier Edge Career Support provides students and new ODs with valuable information about the various modalities of practicing, so we can understand our options once we graduate. VSP also provides an array of scholarships, which are vital for students. 

In fact, I was honored to be awarded $15,000 through the inaugural Empowering Equity Scholarship at the 2023 National Optometric annual conference earlier this year. In partnership with Black EyeCare Perspective, VSP announced this scholarship to highlight optometry students who are passionate about advancing diversity in the optometric profession and continue their commitment to support the 13% Promise—a mission to improve and increase representation of Blacks and African Americans in the optometric industry. 

As a member of the Black community, I appreciate the opportunities that VSP provides people who come from similar backgrounds as me to support equity in the profession of optometry. I recognized that many people in communities of color might not understand the direct link between their systemic health and their visual health, so I created a public service announcement for this scholarship to educate this audience and increase their eye health awareness. For me, this was just the first step to impact diverse communities and shine a light on how they can improve their eye health as I begin my career. This scholarship showed me that there is a community of people who will support me as I continue my optometric journey.

Representation matters. Patients are often more open and receptive to what the doctor has to say when the doctor looks like them, and this is no different for optometry. I think it’s important for us to continue to diversify the field, so we have more Doctors of Optometry who are passionate about the conditions that predominantly affect minority communities and we can continue to make a positive impact for our patients. As Eye See It, my role in providing eye care to people in my community can not only save their sight but also save their lives.

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