Columbus, OH,
08:50 AM

College of Optometry summer program works to boost diversity in eye care

For Isaiah Jordan, the desire to understand and heal the human eye led him to the field of optometry. But it was a special program for students considering optometry that led him to The Ohio State University.

Jordan is an alumnus of the College of Optometry’s Improving Diversity in Optometric Careers program. The three–day residential program is designed to attract ethnically underrepresented minority students to careers in optometry.

“Growing up, at least for me, I had never seen an African-American male doctor and I feel like that’s an issue,” Jordan said.

Jordan grew up in Columbus and graduated from Wright State University before attending the I-DOC program. He’s now in his third year in the university’s optometry school. He said diversity in the medical field makes a difference in patient care.

“I feel like it makes you a little bit more comfortable when you go and see a doctor to know that they are a little bit more in tune to you and your needs,” he said. “I guess it also makes you feel like you're being listened to. It's just overall more comfortable.”

Students in the I-DOC program come from colleges and universities across the country. The most recent class of more than two dozen students wrapped up on campus last week.

I-DOC students learn about new vision technology, eye diseases and new information about better eye care. Guest speakers include Ohio State graduates in the field of optometry. The participants receive information on the requirements for admission and the application process, and get a chance to ask questions of the alumni, faculty, staff and students of the College of Optometry.

Barbara Fink, professor of optometry and vision science, runs the I-DOC program said diversity plays an important role in improving the profession overall.

“It enriches us, it enriches our class. Making our class more diverse helps the class,” Fink said. “It also helps the profession. It helps students to be with other students who don’t look like them and come from different backgrounds for them to be better able to interact with and care for their patients. And it helps them when they leave to go out and serve a larger community.”

Joshua Simpo, a second-year student from the University of South Florida, attended the program this month. He said he found it to be informative and supportive. He said it also helps serve a critical mission.

“I think growing the ranks of diversity in any medical field is very important. But in optometry it’s even more important here because optometry is a subsection of medicine,” he said. “I think it’s important for us serving our community, it’s important for them to see people that look like them.”

Simpo said the I-DOC program has influenced where he will apply to continue his education.

“With the friendliness of the staff and the faculty, I do see myself coming to Ohio State as one of my number one options for optometry school. Before I was thinking of going somewhere a little closer to home but now that I see it, I’m really liking the vibe of the school,” he said.