JACKSONVILLE, Fla.—Johnson & Johnson Vision, part of the Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Companies, is announcing a collaboration with Black Eye Care Perspective, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to redefining the color of the eyecare industry. As part of the collaboration, Johnson & Johnson Vision signed the 13% Promise, an initiative to increase equity and representation in the eyecare industry and in optometry schools by increasing the number of Black students to mirror the 13 percent of Black people in the U.S. population.

“This is a step into a journey that we have been taking for a long time,” Thomas Swinnen, president North America, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, said in an online presentation Wednesday afternoon. “In fact, it started for us in the 1900s, when we made inclusion and respect for diversity a part of who we are. Nevertheless, I think recent events show that access to health care, require much more action. You need to be really making commitments, and really owning your commitment, in a way we've never done before. ”
Added Charissa Lee, OD, FAAO, head North America Professional Affairs at Johnson & Johnson Vision, “We recognize here at Johnson & Johnson that we must keep our diverse communities strong and address the current health disparities and inequities that exist. One of these disparities we want to attack is ensuring that health care providers reflect the types of communities and patients they serve. Dr. [Howard] Purcell [of the New England College of Optometry] talked a little bit about this, and we can only do this if we stand together with unity, solidarity and decisive action, so that we can all change the trajectory of eye health together. For all these reasons, we at Johnson & Johnson  Vision are committed to doing these action items.”
According to data from Black Eye Care Perspective, only 3.2 percent of students and 3.8 percent of faculty in optometry colleges are Black or African American, and this number drops to only 1.8 percent among practicing optometrists. Johnson & Johnson Vision is the first major eye health company to sign the 13% Promise, furthering a long-standing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion through awareness, education, and empowerment in collaboration with associations, public and community organizations, according to the company’s announcement.
Darryl Glover, OD, a co-founder of Black EyeCare Perspective, said during the presentation that he believes if people see someone like themselves as their provider or their physician, they will show more trust in the experience. “If we can get more black optometrists in the exam rooms, we're going to see more faces of color in the exam rooms,” he said.
“And we're going to be able to help create a healthier environment. What we have to look at is that we are the gatekeepers to the health care system. We see so much by just looking at the eyes, so we're going to be able to get these patients that may need help with diabetes and unaware of it or hypertension and unaware … to get them in the right place at the right time.”
He added, “Having the 13% promise will draw more black optometrists and potentially draw more black and brown faces into the exam lane as well which can lead to a better health care system in general.”
Purcell, OD, FAAO, president and CEO of New England College of Optometry (NECO), credited Glover for inspiring many young people to enter the field of optometry. “We can all do that no matter what the color of your skin may be. When you see a patient sitting in your chair, and they're interested in some of the things they [see], or are flipping the dials, talk to them about optometry and what an incredible profession it is.”
In 2020, NECO was the first optometry school to sign on to the 13% Promise, as VMAIL reported.

Johnson & Johnson Vision will contribute to the 13% Promise by continuing to:

  • Support sponsorships and new programs to improve representation of people of color in Optometry.
  • Bring more diversity and equity into the eyecare industry.
  • Create more culturally relevant information and eye health education materials.
“As one of the largest eye health companies, we have an opportunity to drive change and bring more diversity, equity and inclusion in our industry for the greater good of the many patients and doctors we serve,’ Swinnen added in the announcement. “Our partnership with Black Eye Care Perspective is one of the many ways we can further support the future of optometry and work together to create quality, equitable experiences along with healthier outcomes across communities.”