Closing the Gap: Increasing Racial Diversity in Optometry

When you visit the eye doctor for a new pair of glasses, it is usually not a doctor of a minority race assisting you. It is something that goes unnoticed. However, there is a disproportionate number of minorities in medical fields with high positions. Fortunately, specific organizations are creating opportunities for people of color thus, diversifying companies.

Racial diversity in optometry is a growing concern in the United States. Despite America being an incredibly diverse country, industries across the states have yet to reflect that. As of 2015, more than 79% of optometrists in America identified as white. America, the melting pot, should consist of industries that reflect its diversity. It is important to ask why this isn’t happening and what can industries do to promote more diversity.

One way to create visibility for minorities aspiring to study eye care is through the 13% Promise. The Black Eye Care Perspective has worked with optometry schools to create diversity within the eye care community. Within this community, most have pledged to the 13% Promise, which is dedicated to creating opportunities in the optometry field for minorities.

Increasing visibility is not about reaching the numeric goals but about improving the lives of people of color. Visibility creates more opportunities and discussions for people that extend beyond smaller arenas. In recent years, reports like Diversity in our Colleges and Schools of Optometry have sought to create a dialogue to help make eye care diversity a normalized conversation. The goal is for diversity in this field to become the norm.

One significant path that educators and professionals use to diversify the optometry field is through historically black colleges and universities (HBCU). Impact HBCU, a program focused on this pipeline to eye care schools from HBCU, has increased students’ awareness about their potential career paths. They work together to help students build impactful resumes and coach promising students through potential interviews. The program also connects with admissions staff and educates promising optometry students on the ins and outs of their chosen profession.

Having at least 13% or more of all optometrists be people of color will help create visibility and opportunity for the community. These examples will communicate to younger generations that they could have a career helping others find the perfect pair of glasses.

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Bibliography

Fink, OD, PhD, Barbara, et al. “Diversity in Our Colleges and Schools of Optometry | The Journal of Optometric Education.” OptEd, 2017, journal.opted.org/article/diversity-in-our-colleges-and-schools-of-optometry.

Lyerly, Jennifer O. “The 13% Promise: Increasing Racial Diversity in Optometry.” Optometry Times, 29 Sept. 2020, http://www.optometrytimes.com/view/the-13-promise-increasing-racial-diversity-in-optometry.

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