ASCO Launches Speaker Series to Discuss and Educate on Issues Pertaining to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging

October 4, 2022

Speaker Series is Part of Eye on Diversity Initiative Generously Supported by
Johnson & Johnson Vision

The Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) launches a series of powerful, one-of-a-kind webinars on a host of diversity topics by world-renowned content experts from outside optometry. Called the ASCO Eye on Diversity Speaker Series, sponsored by Johnson & Johnson Vision, this series of six powerful sessions will reveal unique insights and perspectives on diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and belonging issues that face optometry students, residents, faculty, practitioners, and staff members on a daily basis.

The six speakers, presentation topics and dates are:

  1. Thursday, September 29, 2022 at 7:00 pm Eastern Time – Wajahat Ali, Go Back to Where You Came From
  2. Thursday, October 6, 2022 at 7:00 pm Eastern Time – Patricia Arredondo, Thriving through Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging: A Continuous Journey
  3. Thursday, October 20, 2022 at 7:00 pm Eastern Time – Vincent Pompei, Creating an Inclusive Environment for LGBT+ Patients and Staff
  4. Thursday, November 3, 2022 at 7:00 pm Eastern Time – Cie Armstead, Building an Inclusive Culture: As a Doctor of Optometry, What’s In It For Me?
  5. Thursday, November 17, 2022 at 7:00 pm Eastern Time – Wema Hoover, Reframing Diversity, Equity & Inclusion; How Difference Can Make A Difference
  6. Wednesday, December 14, 2022 at 7:00 pm Eastern Time – David Ikard, The Dangers of Whitewashing History

For more information on each speaker, their presentation as well as the registration link can be found on the ASCO website at: In addition, those unable to attend the live session should still register, ensuring they receive a link to the recorded presentation for later viewing.

The ASCO Eye on Diversity Speaker Series is a significant component of ASCO’s Eye on Diversity initiative, generously sponsored by Johnson & Johnson Vision.

“Johnson & Johnson Vision and ASCO’s partnership affirms the belief that dedication to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging is not only the right thing to do, but that action must be done on a grand scale. We have a responsibility to ensure the communities we serve feel included, heard and appreciated and this speaker series will help educate Doctors of Optometry, and future optometrists, to become better healthcare practitioners to all they serve,” says Charissa Lee, OD, MBA, FAAO, Head of North America Professional Affairs, Johnson & Johnson Vision.

“This generous sponsorship by Johnson & Johnson Vision, the largest in ASCO’s history, has allowed us to greatly increase our DEI efforts,” says Dr. Melissa Trego, ASCO President. “We are so grateful that Johnson & Johnson Vision is aligned with our commitment to achieve significant change in optometric education.”

This support and unprecedented sponsorship from Johnson & Johnson Vision has allowed ASCO to augment its initiatives focused on diversifying optometry’s student body and to address the challenges associated with diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in optometric education. ASCO is using this extraordinary sponsorship to support 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 (; cultural competency training programs, videos, and this unique speaker series.

The need for diversity
From 2016 – 2019, ASCO’s member schools and colleges faced a decline in the number and diversity of applicants interested in pursuing a career in optometry. For years, the number of applicants to optometry schools and colleges from Black backgrounds hovered from 100 – 115 applicants (4 – 4.6% of total applicants), and those from Hispanic backgrounds ranged from 60 – 74 applicants (2.4 – 2.8% of total applicants). During this time, the number of Black students enrolled in all 4 years of optometry school ranged from 164 – 209 (2.7 – 3.1% of total students), and the number of Hispanic students ranged from 249 – 292 (4.5% of total students). In 2016 – 2017, ASCO saw the number of Hispanic applicants rise to 261, but subsequent numbers again plateaued.

ASCO’s directors, members, and staff recognize that the schools and colleges of optometry are the place to start to expand the diversity of voices and perspectives serving the increasingly diverse patient population in North America. A more racially and ethnically diverse applicant pool can lead to greater diversity in the student body, followed by more diversity among faculty and practitioners who are enabled to offer more culturally-competent and culturally-responsive patient care.

Many studies have shown that patient outcomes are better when the provider population is more diverse, so attracting students from underrepresented backgrounds to a career in optometry supports the long-term capability of the profession to serve a population with increasing eye and vision care needs. As the percentage of racial and ethnic underrepresented groups in the general population grows, it becomes increasingly important that the members from those racial and ethnic groups recognize optometry as an attractive and vital career choice open to them.

ASCO’s strategic plan addresses challenges to diversity in optometric education, and identifies three main goals:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. Support culturally competent training that enables students to provide top-quality care to an increasingly diverse population of patients.

ASCO’s Eye on Diversity initiative, supported by the Johnson & Johnson Vision sponsorship, is addressing all three goals.