RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif.—VSP Vision and Black EyeCare Perspective a not-for-profit dedicated to redefining the color of the eyecare industry, one percent at a time, have completed the first year of their multi-year partnership. Over the course of 2022, the partnership hosted two-day, outreach events at three Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), including Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Fla. Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tenn.; and Paul Quinn College in Dallas, Texas. The events were in support of Black EyeCare Perspective’s 13% Promise and Impact HBCU Program, two initiatives designed to increase equity and representation of Black students in the eyecare industry to reflect the percentage of Black people in the current U.S. population.

Students learned first-hand from Black optometrists about pathways to optometry school, academic resources and scholarships, and the role optometrists play in the healthcare landscape. In some instances, students shared that their school’s event allowed them to meet a Black optometrist for the first time.

Black EyeCare Perspective chief visionary officer Essence Johnson, OD, FAAO, Dipl ABO, said, “Our message with the IMPACT HBCU program is ‘If you see it, you can be it.’ That’s why we have boots on the ground at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which produce more Black professionals than any other higher learning institution.” She continued, “When it comes to optometry, we look to advancing our profession through technology, but a form of advancement is diversity. With more Black optometrists, the Black community can have increased access to care and experience better health outcomes.”

Students were also introduced to careers in vision care as a whole, including opportunities at VSP. For students who previously didn’t have access to vision care, they received an eye exam at no cost via a VSP Vision Eyes of Hope mobile clinic parked on their campus.

Marvin Davenport, VSP Vision's vice president and chief diversity officer, noted, “We’re truly grateful for our partnership with Black EyeCare Perspective and the opportunities we’ve had this year to impact so many students and the eyecare industry. We look forward to planning additional mobile clinic events at HBCUs, annual scholarships for Black third-year optometry students and mentoring and leadership development programs.

The Black EyeCare Perspective Pre-Optometry Club (BEPPOC) is the first nationally recognized pre-optometry club by the Associations of the Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) that was established in 2020 to ensure not a single, potential Black or African American student or optometrist is ignored, discouraged or disadvantaged. With a membership of over 130 Black future optometrists representing 76 unique undergraduate institutions, 20 being Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), 90 percent of the inaugural cohort matriculated into a school or college of optometry and was connected to over $100,000 in resources, scholarships and grants.

VSP Vision and Black EyeCare Perspective showcase their work over the past year to bring more Black optometrists into the eyecare field.