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NEW YORK—Black Eyecare Perspective is launching a new initiative, IMPACT HBCU, to bring more awareness of the vision care field to Black students, educate them about the opportunities in optometry and cultivate more involvement from students in Historically Black Colleges and Universities throughout the U.S. To support the program, several leading eyecare and optical retail companies have stepped up to be the initial three supporters of the program: America's Best, MyEyeDr., and Warby Parker.

Explained Dr. Darryl Glover, co-founder, "Over the last decade, the increase in underrepresented minorities have increased in eyecare with the exception of African Americans. Black Eyecare Perspective was created to foster lifelong relationships with African Americans and the eyecare industry. Our goal is to create more black representation on all levels and to cultivate an environment that aligns with equity and inclusion.

"In order to accomplish this, the need for more Black eyecare professionals is imperative. As an industry, we must work together as a team, family, and profession to fix the pipeline to increase the number of Black eyecare professionals. The Impact HBCU (Historical Black College University) initiative is a great starting point and will play a vital role in creating awareness about the profession. Our goal is to visit all HBCUs on one day with one message and inform students on the greatness of the optometric profession."

Dr. Glover told VMAIL that the program is being developed to touch the 107 HBCU schools on the same day with the same message. "We may do this in person and we may also, due to the current pandemic, do a virtual event, but we will highlight the message and reach students in great numbers to introduce students to the opportunities in vision care."

Added Essence Johnson, OD, FAAO, chief visionary officer, Black Eyecare Perspective, “Our IMPACT HBCU initiative is a targeted recruitment event to increase the visibility of optometry within the Black community and increase the volume of Black and African American applicants into optometry school.

"HBCUs produce approximately 40 percent of African American optometrists, myself included. We want to increase the quantity, but also improve in the quality of the students applying to optometry programs through the Black EyeCare Perspective Pre-Optometry Club (BEPPOC). The first of its kind, BEPPOC aims to provide resources and prepare a student for admittance into optometry school while providing continuous support to sustain them throughout their optometric career,” Johnson said.

"The industry is confronting the reflection seen in the mirror," said Jacobi Cleaver, OD, FAAO, also working on this program. As diverse as the profession is, why is Black representation lagging so far behind? There’s multiple reasons for this but I believe the biggest reason is the lack of awareness. Created out of necessity, the Impact HBCU initiative allows us to go directly to the source for recruitment. Our intention is to reach every HBCU on the same day with one unified message. If not now, then when? If not us then who?”

Dr. Adam Ramsey, Black Eyecare Perspective co-founder, commented, "Has diversity increased in eyecare, yes we have more women and more minorities. But when you really break it down, we’ve increased the representation of 'underrepresented' minorities like Asian, Indian and Hispanic, but we still miss increasing the numbers of Blacks in optometry, a number that has stayed relatively flat.”

The personal and professional points of view of Black eyecare professionals, including optometrists, opticians, associates and company executives are part of the mission of the two-year-old Black Eyecare Perspective, a group founded by Drs. Ramsey and Glover, which aims to further cultivate relationships between African Americans and the eyecare industry via in-person conversations, the group’s blog, events and visibility via a strong social media presence.

The IMPACT HBCU supporters have stepped up to help the program. Sue Downes, CEO of MyEyeDr., told VMAIL, “We are proud to support this initiative along with our industry partners, Warby Parker and National Vision. We passionately believe that in the fight against racial injustice and systemic racism, we must come together as one team and unite in one voice. We share the commitment to bringing awareness, expanding access and deploying resources to people of color so they can learn about optometry as a career and ultimately thrive within our profession. We are grateful to Black Eyecare Perspectives for organizing these efforts.”

Stated Reade Fahs, CEO of National Vision, Inc, operators of America's Best, "We are committed to advancing the profession of optometry, and finding ways to attract a diverse group of students to the profession is critical. Through our America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses brand, we are looking forward to collaborating with Black Eyecare Perspectives and our industry peers to help attract more Black optometrists to the field, and what better place to start than with college students as they think about their futures.”

Drs. Darryl Glover (l) and Adam Ramsey, founders of Black Eyecare Perspective.
Warby Parker's Neil Blumenthal noted, "We’re thrilled to support the Black Eyecare Perspective’s Impact HBCU program, which will help create a critical pipeline to the optometry industry for the Black and BIPOC community. We recently released our Racial Equity Strategy outlining our plans to promote racial equity within both Warby Parker and the eyewear industry at large, and supporting this program is an important step in achieving our goals to increase Black representation throughout the field."

The new program and the three initial supporters were disclosed during yesterday's Virtual EYE2EYE Series, " Open Your Eyes! What Allyship of Diversity & Inclusion Looks Like," hosted by The Vision Council and Vision Expo. Organized by Tarrence Lackran, director of partnerships and programming for The Vision Council, the Coffee Talk session was moderated by Howard Purcell, OD, FAAO, president of New England College of Optometry, and explored the current state of diversity and inclusion in the eyecare industry with four vision community leaders who shared their personal commitments to allyship of BIPOC in the vision industry and their thoughts on what is needed to build a more equitable agenda in eyecare.

Participants included MyEyeDr.’s Downes and Warby Parker's Blumenthal in addition to Myles Zakheim, OD, CEO of Optometrix and co-owner at Zak and Julia Gogosha, Owner of Gogosha Optique. The panel followed up on the conversation that began during the June 17 Coffee Talk—Open Your Eyes! Taking Steps to be an Ally of Diversity & Inclusion—which was moderated by Danielle Richardson, OD, and explored the intersection of diversity, inclusion and allyship with several vision community leaders, The sessions are both posted on the Eye2Eye YouTube channel.