As conversations around the globe on issues surrounding race and diversity continue to evolve, a few Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) at Salus University alumni are also leading a dialogue, asking for 13 percent of Black representation in the optometry community.
Black EyeCare Perspective, established by PCO/Salus alum Darryl Glover, OD ’11, in partnership with optometrist Dr. Adam Ramsey, has worked toward the goal of 13 percent representation since its founding in 2019. To address the eyecare needs of Black Americans in an increasingly diverse society, Dr. Glover teamed up with fellow PCO/Salus alumni Jacobi Cleaver, OD ‘11, and Essence Johnson, OD ‘10, to create Impact HBCU. Formed under the Black EyeCare Perspective organization to support its 13 percent goal, the initiative links optometry school recruitment and admissions to students enrolled at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
First, we will feature Dr. Glover in this three-part series, highlighting a few of the thought leaders behind Impact HBCU, their work and the importance of the group’s underlying mission.
Dr. Darryl Glover
Dr. Glover credits his mother’s advice to get a routine eye exam back when he was in college as his inspiration to pursue an optometry degree, a memory he might consider somewhat bittersweet.
“When you really look at that, it's very sad it took me until college to get an eye exam,” he said.
But it was still early enough to help inspire the activist he would become, working throughout much of his optometry career to combat health disparities that plague Black communities and others worldwide.
Today, through Impact HBCU, a Black EyeCare Perspective initiative, Dr. Glover works with students enrolled at HBCUs interested in optometry. It’s an effort to create a pipeline of Black students applying to optometry school.
“It's an awareness issue more than anything. A lot of times you hear optometry students say they had their eyes examined at an early age,” Dr. Glover said. “So that awareness factor is with them from a young age.”
Currently, only 1.8 percent of practicing optometrists are African American according to Black Eyecare Perspective.
Furthermore, in 2016, research reported by the Association for Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) exposed the vast underrepresentation of only 2.7 percent of optometry school students identifying as Black or African American. Compare that to data from the Census Bureau showing Black Americans comprise 13.4 percent of the U.S. population and the disproportion is clear.
For Dr. Glover and his peers leading Impact HBCU, however, the solution is even clearer.
“Make more Black doctors, then there will be more Black patients who seek Black doctors, and more Black doctors in the community to create awareness about the importance of having your eyes examined,” he said.
Impact HBCU introduces interested students through a free pre-optometry program similar to an early exposure learning experience, which currently meets virtually on the 13th of each month. Meetings focus on cultivating the skills needed to apply to optometry school such as resume writing and interviewing as well as feature special guests from human resource departments in the eyecare industry. Discussions can range from topics covering mental toughness to how to endure the duration of the Optometry Admission Test (OAT).
Above and beyond preparedness, though, Dr. Glover also points out that the network aims to meet the needs of Black students pursuing the healthcare profession through inclusion, something he considers most important and often overlooked.
“The big piece that people always miss is the inclusive piece,” Dr. Glover said. “Students are surrounded by 40-50 other people who look like them, going through the same struggle. And, that really helps to create a platform where they can utilize their friends and colleagues for motivation to get into the different programs throughout the U.S.”
For more information, please visit BlackEyeCarePerspective.com.