Developing a Diverse Applicant Pool in Optometric Education Mini Grant Program

The Developing a Diverse Applicant Pool in Optometric Education Mini-Grant Program provided seed money for specific programs/projects that assisted schools and colleges of optometry with programs designed to implement educationally sound activities to recruit and retain underrepresented minority students, financially disadvantaged students and first generation college students. The recipients listed below are the final grant recipients of this ten-year-old program; the program will not be offered  in 2016.

The Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) and its member institutions have embraced the concepts of diversity and multiculturalism in optometric education and in the profession. ASCO bases its diversity program on several assumptions including: (1) Greater diversity among health professionals is associated with improved access to care for our diverse society, greater patient choice and satisfaction, better patient-provider communication, and better educational experiences for all students, which will prepare them for the diverse communities they will serve in practice, (2) Diversity is good for optometric education and the profession, and (3) It is the right thing to do. The ASCO Diversity and Cultural Competency Committee is identifying new programs and means to achieve these goals. Please stay tuned for new developments in this area.

If you have questions regarding diversity and cultural competency initiatives contact Carol Brubaker, Manager of Professional Affairs, at


Illinois College of Optometry
Focus on Your Future
is a week-long summer program aimed at introducing ICO and the profession of optometry to underrepresented minority undergraduates. Participants will meet ICO staff, faculty, students and alumni, and get to know the city of Chicago. The program includes sample lectures or optometry courses, overview of the admissions process, career and leadership development and clinical exposure. Participants are housed at no cost in ICO’s Residential Complex and at the end of the program each attendee receives a certificate of completion.

Indiana University School of Optometry
Focus on Your Future…I Can See Clearly Now targets primarily underrepresented minority/first generation high school students entering their junior or senior year who have an expressed interest in continuing their education in a health profession or science-related field. With an introduction to varied research opportunities available and hands-on lab experiences, it captures their attention and piques their interest in optometry. The three day in-residence experience provides participants with opportunities to learn about the profession of optometry and the process of becoming a Doctor of Optometry. It concludes with a clinic tour including an actual eye exam. Students leave with a stronger knowledge and understanding of optometry and the importance of eye health.

New England College of Optometry
The Increasing Applicant Pool Diversity Through Inspiration Program motivates underrepresented minority students from Boston high schools to consider careers in optometry through presentations given by staff and underrepresented minority students about the scope and practice of optometry. Students have hands-on practice in pre-clinics and are given white coats to wear for further inspiration. An after-lunch visit to one of Boston’s many neighborhood health centers for a talk with Doctors of Optometry about the provision of health care in underserved neighborhoods sheds light on practice in action. By providing an understanding of the role of Doctors of Optometry and the experience of wearing a white coat while learning basic techniques and visiting neighborhood health centers, the program motivates students to see themselves as future eye care providers.

Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry
The Preparatory Optometry Program (POP)
was started nine years ago at Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry in conjunction with the Farquhar College of Arts & Sciences. The POP program is designed to evaluate and demonstrate the potential academic ability of a student to successfully complete the professional optometry program. Students learn side-by-side with professional optometry and other health professional students at NOVA’s Health Professions Division. The experience provides POP students with an understanding of the challenges and demands of a professional curriculum while studying the basic medical sciences. POP provides a unique platform to assist minority students in the pursuit of an optometric education and strives to ensure their success in the professional optometry program.

SUNY State College of Optometry
Increasing Diversity by Engaging All (IDEA)
– This project involves the creation of a social media platform specifically designed to engage underrepresented minority students in a dialogue. The centerpiece of this dialogue is the profession of optometry and how students can successfully become Doctors of Optometry. This project strives to give underrepresented minority students the tools they need to successfully apply and be accepted into an optometry program.

The Ohio State University College of Optometry
The goal of The Quest to Optometry: Recruitment of Underrepresented High School Students through Exploratory Activities and Tours is to develop interest in optometry in underrepresented minority high school students in Central Ohio high schools by providing them with exploratory activities and tours of the College of Optometry. The program audience is schools with large populations of underrepresented minority students. The Quest provides day-long field trips that include guided cow eye dissections, audience response presentation on ocular involvement in systemic diseases, hands-on activities about how to examine the eye, presentations on vision disorders and eye diseases, analysis of their online survey, tours of the university and college, lunch at the Ohio Union, and panels of Doctors of Optometry and optometry students.

University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry
Providing Diversity in Optometric Education through Continual Enhancement of Current Programs and Creation of New Programs that Promote Diversity in Optometry
– UAB’s programs perform two tasks – minority recruitment and minority retention. The Explorers Post program introduces middle school students to the profession of optometry and the Community Outreach Development (CORD) introduces high school and middle school students to the sciences and healthcare professions. UABSO also has long-standing relationships with HBCUs and continues to collaborate with medicine and dentistry in the Prime Program. Once students matriculate, they have access to the programs that assist them with adapting to professional school and to the Brown Bag Lecture Series.

University of California – Berkeley, School of Optometry
Open to all, the goal of Berkeley Optometry’s Opto-Camp is to provide pre-health science/pre-optometry majors, especially those who are underrepresented in the profession and/or first-generation college students, with in-depth information about Optometry as a career track and to prepare attendees to be successful applicants to optometry school. The objective of Opto-Camp is to present a three-day “in residence” experience that will provide participants with opportunities to learn about the profession of optometry and the process of becoming a Doctor of Optometry.

University of the Incarnate Word – Rosenberg School of Optometry
Summer Optometry Institute (SOI)
– SOI is a program designed to familiarize first generation and underrepresented minority Pre-Health and Pre-Optometry students with the professional surroundings of optometry school while developing their interest and drive to succeed within the profession. Special focus is on preparing and strengthening the student’s application portfolio for admission through various workshops as well as developing the necessary skills to be successful in optometry school. Additionally, participants experience career exploration with current Doctors of Optometry, student life with host student ambassadors, and live academic and clinical environments with faculty. The program concludes with students being matched with a current faculty member in an effort to foster a future mentoring relationship.