AOA’s Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion

The American Optometric Association upholds and advances diversity, equity and inclusion. AOA is committed to advancing the diversity of the profession of optometry, nurturing an organizational culture that is committed to diversity and inclusion and continuing efforts to ensure access to care. These endeavors enable AOA to further the profession of optometry and improve the eye, vision and overall health of the public.

Enhancing the Diversity of the Profession of Optometry

We are committed to implementing initiatives that attract more underrepresented minorities to the profession, engage diverse doctors, students and paraprofessionals in leadership roles  and providing the tools and resources to support them, including continuing educaiton.

Nurturing an Organizational Culture Committed to Diversity and Inclusion

AOA is committed to nurturing a staff culture that embraces the value of diversity and inclusion through ongoing training and collective efforts aimed at reinforcing the importance of a diverse and inclusive team. Advancing the principles of diversity and inclusion in the workplace is important to improved collaboration and morale as well as greater innovation, productivity, and representation in the work we do to uphold the profession of optometry and public access to the care doctors of optometry deliver to the public.

Enabling Greater Access to Care

Through state, federal, regulatory, public awareness and education efforts, the AOA has been an unyielding force in expanding access to eye health and vision care for all Americans. The AOA’s  and our members’ objectives are centered on improving the quality and availability of eye and vision care, goals that are at the center of the work doctors of optometry across the country conduct each day.

Updates

AOA Special Report: Being Black in Optometry

Optometry as a profession has made colossal strides throughout history. From the time optometrists were first licensed in 1901 in Minnesota; to 2004 when amplification legislation was enacted in Vermont stating that every state practice act formally included the term diagnose as part of the optometrist’s scope of practice; to today, as optometrists are recognized as essential care providers and part of the COVID-19 vaccinator workforce.

While there have been monumental achievements, challenges remain for the profession to address. One of those challenges is ensuring diversity.

And if optometry’s goal is to deliver eye care across the globe, increasing access for all, it is much more attainable through a diverse profession that reflects a diverse population. What has been the experience of Black doctors in optometry over the past several decades? Five AOA members share that perspective. Read more.

Opportunities in Optometry Grants

To promote diversity and equity in the optometric profession for generations to come, the American Optometric Association and the American Optometric Student Association have created the AOA/AOSA Opportunities in Optometry Grant program, which is supported by Optometry Cares. This fund is designed as a one-time stipend for under-represented minority students interested in the field of optometry to help defray costs associated with applying to optometry school. Learn more.

 In Pursuit of Access to Quality Eye Health and Vision Care

In August 2020, AOA’s Health Policy Institute published a paper detailing the critical role access to comprehensive vision and eye health services can play in health care disparities. Read more.

AOA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the News

  • Inaugural grants awarded to build diversity, grow access

AOA/AOSA Opportunities in Optometry Grants represent a concerted effort to not only build diversity, equity and professional leadership for the next generation of optometry, but also ensure expanded access to primary eye care throughout America’s communities. Read more. 

March 29, 2021 Statement from the AOA Board of Trustees

The American Optometric Association stands united in opposing acts of violence, harassment and discrimination against people of any group or community. We condemn all actions of hate and the biases they engender. AOA supports doctors of optometry in continuing to use their influence as trusted physicians and community leaders to counteract baseless biases and ensure the use of factual information in all matters related to patient care and public health. Doctors of optometry do not tolerate language or actions that denigrate anyone based on their race, nationality or other identifying characteristic. Together with our affiliates, the AOA stands ready to connect members with appropriate resources, including state and federal civil rights and law enforcement authorities, to address incidences of bias, discrimination and hate. Doctors can address any questions or needs to President@aoa.org.

Doctors of optometry embrace our role in building a better profession and a better world. We draw strength from our camaraderie as a profession and our care for our patients, staffs and communities. We recognize that acts of bias, as well as mass violence, wound our communities, including our member doctors and students as well as their staff members and the patients for whom we care. As a leading professional association of doctors and students and a nationwide force for health and vision, our AOA affirms its unyielding belief that there is no place in our country for racism, intolerance, violence or hate.

June 9, 2020: Statement from AOA Board of Trustees

The American Optometric Association (AOA) has a clear mission: To advocate for the profession of optometry and serve doctors of optometry in meeting the eye care needs of the public. Through the important community-by-community and nationwide dialog resulting from the death of George Floyd, the AOA affirms its unyielding belief that there is no place in our country for racism, intolerance or hate.

As America seeks a national understanding of the unacceptable harms that racism inflicts, the AOA stands with all of those affected by tragedies. We recognize, support and embrace our profession's leadership role in helping communities, states and our country come together, heal and stand stronger than ever against inequality and injustice.

Doctors of optometry take and, each day, fulfill a solemn oath to provide care with compassion and due regard for the human rights and dignity of patients. The AOA will continue to support doctors of optometry in all efforts to safeguard and improve health in their communities, including addressing social determinants of health, and to further expand access to sight-saving and lifesaving, patient-centered care. In places where the delivery of essential optometric care has been disrupted, the AOA will continue to seek to assure its rapid restoration through advocacy and relief efforts, including the good works of Optometry Cares ®—The AOA Foundation, which administers Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief.

The family of optometry is a nationwide force committed to healing, unity and service, and our work has never been more important.

AOA’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force

The task force, assembled by the AOA Board of Directors in March 2020 is comprised of three active Board members, AOA Trustees Jacqueline M. Bowen, O.D., Teri K. Geist, O.D., and Lori L. Grover, O.D.

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