J&J commits to increase people of color in eye care industry
Johnson & Johnson Vision announced it is collaborating with Black EyeCare Perspective to grow the percentage of Black people in the eye care industry to 13% to mirror the number of Blacks in the U.S. population.
The company announced in a press release that by signing the 13% Promise it will continue to support sponsorships and new programs to improve representation of people of color in optometry, bring more diversity and equity into the industry, and create more culturally relevant information and eye health education materials.
Darryl Glover, OD, co-founder of Black EyeCare Perspective, which he said aims to “cultivate lifelong relationships among black optometrists,” stated during a J&J-hosted webinar that only 1.8% of practicing optometrists and only 3.2% of optometry school students are black.
“We realize [13%] is a high number,” Glover said. “We understand we have to build a pipeline and a plan to recruit, develop and create opportunities for black optometrists.”
He explained that the plan is to first create awareness in kindergarten through high school by getting into the community, develop pre-optometry clubs in undergraduate schools, then facilitate optometry school programs to help graduates find the right career fit.
The New England College of Optometry also made a commitment to the 13% Promise during the webinar. President and CEO Howard Purcell, OD, FAAO, said the college has already increased the diversity of its entering class in 2021 over 2020 by 150% for students who identify as Black and 200% for those who identify as Hispanic or Latino.
Webinar participant Charissa Lee, OD, J&J head of North America professional affairs, said, “We recognize at Johnson & Johnson we must keep our diversity strong. We want to ensure health care providers reflect the types of patients and communities they serve. We can only do that if we stand together with unity, solidarity and decisive action to change the trajectory of eye health forever.”
Johnson said individual optometrists, “Can make a change one person at a time. Make yourself available to your community. Spread awareness to our profession. Optometry is a minority in and of itself in health care.”
Purcell added: “Put pressure on your academic institution. Tell them you want to be part of it.”