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So “they” say, April showers bring May flowers, and more importantly May smiles. In academia, there are few events that make an impression like smiling optometry graduates making their way across the stage, except for the smiles of family and friends, often loaded up with flowers, congratulating their graduate immediately afterward. Indeed, our graduates, now alumni and colleagues, have spread their wings. There are very few times in academic life where there is a slow-down from the pace when the program is running at full speed. The beginning of summer post-graduation lends itself to a bit of reorganization, the office clean-up, fewer students and perhaps finishing up (or getting back into) projects. You can almost hear the collective faculty sigh!
Here at ASCO, we don’t see that same reduction in pace — the opposite! As a Board, we are finishing up the strategic planning process for the next five years and are working diligently to maintain the quality programs that are hallmark of our organization and educational mission. In addition, we are embarking on our new and exciting partnership with Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, and our “Eye on Diversity” initiative. Through this partnership, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care shares and re-affirms ASCO’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, which we all feel can have long-lasting impact on our profession. The goal of the schools and colleges of optometry is to educate future Doctors of Optometry who reflect the populations that we all serve. Without greater student and faculty diversity, the profession will be hard-pressed to achieve substantial change.
The partnership will support existing and new ASCO programs such as efforts to educate an increasing number of diverse undergraduates about the opportunities offered by a career in optometry through ASCO’s Optometry Gives Me Life campaign (www.futureeyedoc.org), cultural competency training programs, videos, and other resources for students, faculty and practitioners, and opportunities for engagement through speaker series and/or other events. ASCO shares Johnson & Johnson Vision Care’s commitment to change through education.
ASCO’s strategic plan addresses challenges to diversity in optometric education, and identifies three main goals:
- Build awareness of the profession of optometry as a highly valued and rewarding career choice among prospective students and their influencers (namely, their parents and career advisors).
- Provide resources, support, and encouragement to faculty and administrators in building an inclusive organizational culture that welcomes diverse students who will feel like they belong in both their educational institutions and in the field of optometry.
- Support culturally competent training that enables students to provide top-quality care to an increasingly diverse population of patients.
As the Class of 2022 enters the workforce, we can all reflect on how the last two years have shaped these new graduates, all of us, and the world. The accomplishments and the unique perspective of each of these graduates will be visible on their faces on graduation day. It is my hope that within each lies a greater tolerance, patience, and understanding — hard-won tools that will carry each forward over the many years of a bright career. To the class of 2022 — congratulations and best wishes for a future!