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ROCKVILLE, Md.—Diversity, equity and inclusion in optometric education will take center stage during a first-of-its-kind virtual symposium sponsored by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO), the American Academy of Optometry (AAO), and the National Optometric Association (NOA) on Thursday, Oct. 8 from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. EST. Generously sponsored by VSP Global, the ASCO/NOA/AAO Joint Symposium on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will be held during AAO’s annual meeting, Academy 2020 At Home. An announcement noted that The Symposium will showcase the current state of diversity in optometry and will feature an overview of diversity in the schools and colleges of optometry, and ASCO’s, AAO’s, and NOA’s diversity and inclusion efforts to date; an equity and inclusion success story from a non-optometric health field (veterinary medicine); and strategies for working toward a more diverse, culturally sensitive, and inclusive profession.

This Symposium is complementary to ASCO’s public awareness campaign, Optometry Gives Me Life, which strives to increase the quality and quantity of the applicant pool, especially among those students in underrepresented minority groups. The three sponsoring associations have plans to continue their collaboration and create additional diversity-equity-inclusion-related programming for Academy 2021 Boston, the announcement said.

Symposium planning chair Dr. Karla Zadnik, dean of the College of Optometry at The Ohio State University said, “This symposium is the first of its kind for our three organizations. Ever. Co-presented by ASCO, the NOA and the AAO, it will foster conversation regarding diversity and inclusion in optometry. Hopefully, faculty members at all ASCO institutions will make attendance a high priority.”

“VSP Global is honored to sponsor the Diversity Symposium at Academy 2020 at Home,” said Michelle Skinner, VSP Global chief network officer. “This is an important conversation that aligns with our own organization’s diversity & inclusion strategy, which is focused on accelerating diversity, inclusion and equity efforts to support the diverse communities we serve, including optometry students and doctors of Optometry.”

Sherrol Reynolds, OD, FAAO, chair, membership pillar, American Academy of Optometry and president of the National Optometric Association said, “The American Academy of Optometry membership pillar focuses on increasing membership for under-represented populations. We recently formed a Diversity Task Force that will, among other things, focus on developing initiatives and programs addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion to improve and increase diversity in Academy membership and leadership. Confronting the longstanding pandemic of inequality and racism in our society and our profession requires all of us to do the honest, uncomfortable work of addressing it and facilitating change,” she said.

Attendees do not need to be registered for Academy 2020 at Home in order to attend the Symposium. Click here to access the link to view the Symposium. A video recording of the event will be made available at a later date.

Symposium presenters include:

• Dr. Gary Chu, vice president, professional affairs, The New England College of Optometry, and chair of the ASCO Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Special Interest Group.

• Dr. Edna Chun, chief learning officer, HigherEd Talent, and author of numerous books including “Leading a Diversity Culture Shift in Higher Education” (2018).

• Dr. Rustin Moore, dean, College of Veterinary Medicine and Ruth Stanton chair in Veterinary Medicine, Department of Veterinary Clinical Services, The Ohio State University.

The session will be moderated by representatives of each of the three sponsoring associations, Dr. Cynthia Heard, professor of optometry, Southern College of Optometry and chair, AAO Diversity Task Force; Dr. Sherrol Reynolds, associate professor and chief, Retina and Primary Care Clinic at Nova Southeastern University and president, National Optometric Association; and Dr. Karla Zadnik, Glenn A. Fry professor of optometry and physiological optics and dean at The Ohio State University College of Optometry. The program will feature a question and answer wrap-up at the conclusion of the presentations.

ASCO advances optometric education and research to enhance the health and well-being of the public. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Rockville, Md, ASCO is committed to achieving excellence in optometric education and to helping its member institutions prepare well-qualified graduates for entrance into the profession of optometry. Its membership encompasses the schools and colleges of optometry in the U.S. A number of optometry schools outside the U.S. are affiliate and associate members.

The AAO inspires excellence in optometric practice by fostering research and disseminating knowledge in vision science through its journal, Optometry and Vision Science, and the continuing education presented at its annual meeting. Fellows of the Academy are committed to the premise that learning is a lifelong obligation of a professional, as is the commitment to expand the profession’s knowledge base through ongoing fellowship and exchange.

The NOA, founded in 1969, is dedicated to the optometric profession and service to the underserved through its mission of, “Advancing the Visual Health of Minority Populations.” The NOA is comprised primarily of minority optometrists from throughout the U.S. The NOA continues to develop programs and initiatives to help improve diversity in school and colleges of optometry, scholarships, mentorship and partnerships to increase awareness about eye diseases, and outreach to underserved communities.