Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging is our Strength in Eye Care

Journey with Dr. Darryl Glover as he unravels Dr. Beverly Bianes’ inspiring transition from a Title I student to an optometry pioneer. Discover her deep ties with the Optical Women’s Association, her transformative initiatives in San Diego set to enlighten 500,000 students about optometry, and the power of embracing diversity. This episode is a beacon for innovators, educators, and visionaries in eye care. Dive in!

Why is Diversity Important in Eye Care?

Diversity in eye care is essential because it provides cultural sensitivity and competence, improves communication, builds representation and trust, and addresses health disparities. Diversity in eye care is essential for addressing the unique needs of diverse patient populations, but it also enhances the quality of care, fosters innovation, and contributes to a more equitable healthcare system.

Introducing and Discovering Dr. Beverly’s Optometry Journey

Dr. Darryl Glover:
I want to welcome our colleague, the rock star herself, Dr. Beverly. How are you doing today?

Dr. Beverly Bianes:
I’m doing great. Wow, what a great introduction, Dr. Glover. You’re one of my favorite optometrists, just behind my husband, my daughter, and my son-in-law.

Dr. Darryl Glover:
Well, thank you so much. And thank you for being on the show today.

Dr. Darryl Glover:
If you don’t mind, could you share a bit about your background, where you’re from, and how you entered the wonderful profession of optometry?

Dr. Beverly Bianes:
Of course. I grew up attending a Title I high school. Later, I went to UCSD and the Southern California College of Optometry. That’s where I met and married my optometry sweetheart, Dr. John Pack.

As for how I got into optometry, coming from a Filipino family, they often choose your profession for you. You’re usually expected to be in healthcare, or perhaps become a lawyer, an engineer, or enter the field of education. Most of my aunts were nurses. Initially, I thought, “Oh, I’ll be a nurse.” However, one of my favorite aunts, an RN, told me, “No, you’re not going to be a nurse. You’re going to be a doctor.” I was unsure about becoming an MD.

But everything changed when I was fitted for contact lenses for the first time. It transformed my perception of eye care. I was an Asian girl who always sat at the front because I couldn’t see clearly, and I felt embarrassed wearing the large, clunky glasses that my mom had chosen, likely because they were on sale or all she could afford.

I didn’t want to wear them, so I always sat in the front. Being fitted with contact lenses boosted my confidence and encouraged me to be more active, even running for president and joining the cheerleading team. The experience had such a profound impact on me that I decided then and there: I wanted to be an optometrist to help people see clearly and potentially change their lives. So, that’s a brief look into my background.

The Optical Woman Association Experience: Women Supporting Women

Dr. Darryl Glover:
Let’s begin with the Optical Women’s Association. How did you become involved with this organization? And could you share how it has benefited you both personally and professionally?

Dr. Beverly Bianes:
Absolutely. The Optical Women’s Association. holds a special place in my heart. It came into my life at a pivotal moment. I was introduced to the Optical Women’s Association in 2019 by its President, Depp Vulcan. She briefly mentioned it and invited me to their meeting at Vision Expo West. I hadn’t heard of the Optical Women’s Associates before, so I looked it up. I was instantly drawn to its mission: women supporting women through networking, education, and peer support. At that time, I felt I needed that kind of support. I often wasn’t exposed to diverse leadership in private practice for years. I yearned to see what the wider industry offered.

The women I encountered at the Optical Women’s Association left a lasting impression. I was inspired by their stories, achievements, and, most importantly, their unwavering support for each other and newcomers like me. On a personal level, the Optical Women’s Association. provided me with a platform to rediscover myself. After 30 years in private practice, I realized my passion lay in creating and building initiatives from scratch and fostering connections.

Through the Optical Women’s Association, I had the opportunity to spearhead several projects. One was ‘Coffee Break: Connecting One at a Time.’ Another, which I’m particularly proud of, is ‘Food for Thought.’ This project stemmed from the belief that food, as a universal experience, can bridge cultural gaps. In the wake of distressing national events, focusing on our commonalities seemed more critical than ever. Food tells stories of our cultures and traditions, and sharing a meal can cultivate deep connections. After all, isn’t a unique bond formed when you sit across from someone and break bread?

Inspiration from Black Eye Care Perspectives & A Dive into Diversity in Eye Care

Dr. Darryl Glover:
I’d love for you to start from the beginning and walk us through the direction of this initiative you’re spearheading.

Dr. Beverly Bianes:
Absolutely. As I stepped into the role of society president this year, it became evident that each president typically introduces an initiative or project that aligns with their vision for the year. Your organization, Black EyeCare Perspectives, greatly inspired me. The way you aim to change optometry, one percent at a time, resonated with me. Hence, I decided to concentrate on promoting diversity.

San Diego, as you might know, has stark disparities. We have affluent neighborhoods but also areas where poverty is rampant. I hail from the region that houses most Title I schools, surrounded by historically marginalized communities. Initially, my team and I began with PowerPoint presentations for these schools. As I sought opportunities within private Title I institutions, I connected with Assistant Superintendent Matthew Tessier. He surprised me by proposing something more ambitious.

He shared that in 2020, the San Diego County Office of Education had acquired a building from a shuttered charter school. Matthew envisioned converting a classroom in that building into a comprehensive representation of the optometry profession. He planned to immerse students in the field — from front desk tasks, billing, boutique management, and lab work to even experiencing a day in the life of an optometrist. We aim to provide these students with a robust introduction to optometry, broadening their horizons and perhaps sparking an interest in a future career in the field.

A Vision for a Brighter, Diverse Eye Care Future

Dr. Beverly Bianes:
It’s genuinely exhilarating. Assistant Superintendent Matthew has a commendable vision. He emphasizes the importance of introducing diverse career options to children not just in high school or college, but much earlier. In specific communities, children often find themselves pigeonholed into predefined career paths. By introducing them to many professions early on, like in the fourth grade, we broaden their horizons.

We have the potential to influence almost half a million students through this classroom. Matthew envisions schools rotating their students weekly, exposing them to profession-themed classrooms, such as optometry, engineering, and more. It’s an honor that optometry was chosen.

I’ve already secured commitments. For instance, SCCO is donating essential equipment like a chair, a phoropter, and a slit lamp. I imagine a child donning a white coat, role-playing by taking a case history, making the experience hands-on. Companies like Neuralense have pledged to contribute tools that demonstrate optical concepts. We aim to engage not just students but also enlist the help of optometry undergraduates. A dedicated teacher will also be assigned to oversee the classroom.

I’m bubbling with enthusiasm for this initiative. The potential impact on the community is monumental. One unique feature we’re incorporating is an interactive wall showcasing professionals in the field. For instance, we could have images of me or even you, and by scanning a QR code, students can hear a brief intro about our roles. This way, they can learn about various niches within optometry, from vision therapy to sports vision, without stepping into an actual clinic. They’ll have a comprehensive experience right within that classroom.

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