Optometry Podcast: Allyship in Action

This Podcast was Produced in Partnership with Transitions Optical

“There’s an entire segment of our population that is feeling left out, and it is a moment for us to step up and demonstrate our values in the community,” states Patience Cook, Director of North America Marketing at Transitions Optical at the top of this episode. Transitions Optical started their Diversity Advisory Board in 2010, and over the past year there’s been an even greater call to action in the pursuit of improving equity in both patient access to healthcare and representation in eyecare across all members of the industry. Dr. Essence Johnson joins the episode as the Chief Visionary Officer for Black Eyecare Perspective and a member of the Transitions Diversity Advisory Board. 

“We are redefining the color of the eyecare industry, 1% at a time,” states Dr. Essence Johnson as a goal for her work in Black Eyecare Perspective. “I’m passionately pursuing my purpose,” she shares, and joining the Transitions Optical Diversity Advisory Board was a natural fit. The Diversity Advisory Board is a collection of doctors, patient consumers, and industry professionals that help better understand and execute on where the eyecare industry can make actionable change. 

Nationwide, 13% of the American population is African American, but only 2.7% of optometrists identify as Black or African American. There are only 3.8% of opticians that identify as Black, and only 3.1% of opticians identify as Hispanic – compared to 16% of the American population. “A lot of companies were asking themselves, what is our role in addressing this need for change,” explains Cook. They decided to partner with Black Eyecare Perspective to provide support for their work with HBCU students.  In addition, Transitions Optical will support other programs — with expertise and guidance from the Transitions Diversity Advisory Board members — as a step toward helping improve Black and Hispanic representation in optometry and opticianry. 

One of their goals is to reach more African American and Hispanic students before they make their long-term career decisions to consider eyecare industry careers, from optometry to ophthalmology and opticianry. In addition to growing presence with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Transitions Optical has an initiative to partner with the Pinellas County School District in order to offer high school students a career and technical track in optical. They are developing a pilot program in Optometric Assisting with five high schools and Pinellas Technical College in Pinellas County, Florida. The student make-up of the participating schools is 38% African American and 13% Hispanic, where high school students can achieve an optometric assisting certificate by the time they graduate. From there they can move forward to enroll in the optician degree program with the local community college, enter the optometric office workforce as a certified staff member, or consider going on to get their undergraduate degree and then on to optometry school. 

“We know it’s going to take some time,” Dr. Glover says about these initiatives, “but it starts with today.” 

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