The Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) at Salus University announced today that America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses will be the sole sponsor of PCO’s Summer Enrichment Program (SEP) with its vision to increase underrepresented students of color in the optometric profession.
Totaling $300,000 through a five-year commitment, it is the largest sponsorship Salus has received, to date, in support of its diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Originally founded in 1977 by Robert E. Horne, then vice president and dean of Student Affairs, SEP has benefited more than 700 prior students. Renamed in his honor, SEP will be able to reach 100 new students thanks to the America’s Best commitment.
“To fully achieve the level of diversity in Optometry that we all hope for requires that we overcome a variety of systemic obstacles. Salus’ Summer Enrichment Program, founded by the legendary PCO Dean Robert E. Horne, played a pivotal trajectory setting role in the lives of many Optometrists of color practicing today,” said National Vision CEO Reade Fahs. “There would be fewer minority Optometrists practicing today were it not for this program. National Vision’s America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses brand is proud to be reigniting this program and laying the groundwork required to increase the number of students, residents, faculty and practitioners of color in the optometric profession.”
“We are thrilled to partner with National Vision and America’s Best to provide opportunities for underrepresented minorities to obtain an optometric education,” said Michael H. Mittelman, OD ’80, MPH, MBA, FAAO, FACHE, president of Salus. “Their generosity to underwrite our Robert E. Horne Summer Enrichment Program for five years, will not only help to diversify and enrich Salus, but also permit us to more directly serve those communities in which we live and work.”
Past programs provided an invaluable experience for those who participated.
“I’m a product of summer program after summer program after summer program,” said Essence Johnson, OD '10, FAAO and Chief Visionary Officer for Black Eyecare Perspective. “If it wasn’t for the exposure that I had in the Summer Enrichment Program and the pipeline created for me into the eye care industry, I wouldn’t be the wife, mother and entrepreneur practicing and preaching optometry to her community today.”
“The Summer Enrichment Program completely changed the trajectory of my life,” said Darryl E. Glover Jr., OD ’11, and co-founder of Black Eyecare Perspective. “By allowing me the opportunity to learn with grace, I was able to understand the tools I would need in order to excel in optometry school. Having been a college student who worked a full-time job, I had previously not been able to reach my full potential as a student. The Summer Enrichment Program, led by Dean Horne, gave me the opportunity to fulfill my dream of attending optometry school.”
The redesigned program will feature three weeks of remote (online) instruction and two weeks of in-person instruction, coupled with peer interactions and faculty mentorship. It will be led by Ruth Shoge, OD ’06, Resident ’07, a previous SEP participant and faculty member. Dr. Shoge hopes to eventually expand the program beyond PCO into the University’s other colleges in order to help recruit more students of color into all the healthcare professions that Salus educates.
Salus University has had a long partnership With National Vision and many Salus graduates have been part of National Vision over the years. They include.
Dozens of Salus graduates have been elected to one-year terms on the Clinical Panel since its inception in 2002. They include:
NVIs longest tenured doctors are from PCO/Salus (20 years+ listed below):