PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. and RALEIGH, N.C—2020 and 2021 have been busy years for the members and supporters of Black EyeCare Perspective (BEP), which has raised its profile among Black eyecare professionals, prospective optometrists (students) and supporters from across the industry. Its engaged members have shared their personal professional journeys with others, and developed two signature events including: IMPACT HBCU (the first Tuesday of October) and Black EyeCare Perspective Pre-Optometry Club’s (BEPPOC) Signing Day (the last Tuesday in April). The group also has posted an Annual Report to provide transparency to the dollars and support raised and to recap its goals.

Notably in August of 2020, the groups established Diversity Perspective, Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization designed and created to improve equity in health care through awareness, action and accountability. “We’re redefining the color of the health care industry 1 percent at a time by creating a pipeline for students and professionals,” stated the organization which was founded by optometrists, Drs. Adam Ramsey and Darryl Glover and and created to cultivate and foster lifelong relationships between African Americans and the eyecare industry.

IMPACT HBCU is a recruitment and awareness event to introduce more students to the eyecare industry and support future Black optometrists on their journey. HBCU stands for Historically Black College and University. Black and African American optometrists represent less than 2 percent of practicing optometrists and approximately 40 percent of optometrists that received their undergraduate degree from an HBCU.

Several leading eyecare and optical retail companies stepped up to be the initial three supporters of the program: America’s Best, MyEyeDr. and Warby Parker. The Association of Schools & Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) has become a bronze sponsor of the program.

Essence Johnson, OD, FAAO, and chief visionary officer of Black EyeCare Perspective, said, “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.”

The first IMPACT HBCU event had to be held virtually in October of last year, but it might be possible for another approach in October 2021, Dr. Johnson noted, as plans are underway.

On the path to building the story of optometry to prospective students who might not have considered an optometric career path, BEP launched its Pre-Optometry Club (BEPPOC). The first and only virtual pre-optometry club, Black EyeCare Perspective Pre-Optometry Club is nationally recognized by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO). It was established in August 2020 to ensure not a single, potential Black or African American student or optometrist is ignored, discouraged or disadvantaged.

Noted Johnson, “The reality is in order to have more Black doctors we have to actively recruit them as well as create more opportunities to not only help them survive, but thrive in their pursuit. The Signing Day, with the support of Johnson & Johnson Vision, celebrated the achievements of BEPPOC members who have been accepted into optometry school or college of optometry and also awarded its Matriculation Grant Recipients and Video Contest Winner(s).”

Since August 2020, BEPPOC has grown to over 60 members, with about 34 percent of the membership applying to optometry school this cycle and with an acceptance rate of over 80 percent.

Black EyeCare Perspectives’ goals remain focused as the group raises its profile and connects with supporters across the industry. The organization has raised over $80,000 in the form of direct sponsorships from the eyecare industry to increase the representation of Black and African American students being accepted into optometry school (1 percent increase per year until the overall 13 percent goal is achieved and sustained) through targeted recruitment and intentional retention.