Opportunities grants awarded for profession’s future

August 17, 2022
Over three dozen Opportunities in Optometry grants have been awarded since 2021, helping traditionally underrepresented minority groups within the profession apply for optometry school.
AOA/AOSA Opportunities in Optometry grant

Empathy defines Lamar Goodwine’s approach to patient care.

As a high myope suffering two retinal detachments and cataract surgery as a child, Goodwine turned his personal experience into motivation for pursuing eye care as a profession someday. So far, it’s a journey that has seen him providing care as an optometric technician these past four years in the Washington, D.C., area. But now, Goodwine is ready to take the next step.

“I used to be on the other side of this table,” Goodwine says, alluding to his childhood as he sits behind pre-testing equipment in an exam lane. “Those experiences have allowed me to have greater empathy for the patients I work with, which is why I’d like to become an optometrist.”

Goodwine isn’t alone; in fact, he’s one of eight students whose “dream” of pursuing optometry received financial assistance in the way of an AOA/AOSA Opportunities in Optometry grant. Intended to defray the costs associated with applying for optometry school, such as application and exam fees, travel and other expenditures, the Opportunities in Optometry grant program helps ensure these initial expenses don’t hinder students from traditionally underrepresented minorities within optometry from applying in the first place.

Like Goodwine, 2022 grant recipient Yoloni McFarland’s path was oriented toward optometry at an early age. Although McFarland wasn’t a fan of her medically necessary eyepatch or—later—glasses, she relished the opportunity to visit her optometrists’ office. Accompanied by her grandmother on each visit, McFarland remembers being “infatuated” with the optometry practice’s clinical equipment and how she was encouraged to explore the phoropter and slit lamp.

“I knew then—and now—that was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” McFarland says, recalling a no less profound moment shared by her grandmother. “She introduced the idea that I could be just like my optometrist if I wanted to and, before she passed away, I promised her I would.”

Now, McFarland is well on her way to making good on that promise.

Building optometry’s future

In 2021, the AOA and the AOSA launched the Opportunities in Optometry grant program, supported by Optometry Cares®—The AOA Foundation, to help promote diversity and equity within the optometric profession for generations to come. Since the program’s launch, 40 grants, totaling $1,500 apiece, have been awarded to students preparing to enter optometry school, including eight grant recipients chosen by a selection committee in 2022. The grants are made possible through the generous support of EssilorLuxottica and gifts from the AOA, AOSA and members of the profession.

Stemming from the work of the AOA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force and the AOSA Diversity Project Team, Opportunities in Optometry grants represent a concerted effort to not only build diversity, equity and professional leadership in optometry but also expand access to primary eye care across the nation. In fact, the latter represents a personal aim of 2022 grant recipient Alicia Pedrera Perez as she applies for optometry school.

“As a future optometrist, one of my major goals will be to consistently focus on the awareness of vision care, especially in the Latino community and because in my native country there is not a tradition of checking and taking care of eyesight from an early age,” Perez explains.

The 2022 grant recipients include:

  • Lamar Goodwine, Washington, D.C., Penn State University
  • Yoloni McFarland, Louisiana, Louisiana State University
  • Alicia Pedrera Perez, Florida, Miami-Dade College
  • Alexandia Vital, Florida, University of Central Florida
  • Edesthele Decius, Florida, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University
  • Ivie Osazuwa, Georgia, Georgia State University
  • Kyrah Odudu, Maryland, University of Maryland Global Campus
  • Therrin Wilson, Tennessee, University of Tennessee

Help support Opportunities in Optometry

The AOA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force and the AOSA Diversity Project Team have committed to paving a path toward a broader, more diverse and equitable profession, and Opportunities in Optometry grants are an integral part of that sustained pledge. The profession can help support these efforts to encourage underrepresented minorities to join the family of optometry and expand access to primary eye care across the nation—here’s how:

  • Donate to support Optometry Cares—The AOA Foundation. Your contribution—which can be made directly toward the Opportunities in Optometry grant program—can help offset the cost of study materials, application fees or transportation for an optometry school interview for a grant recipient.
  • Help spread awareness of the AOA/AOSA Opportunities in Optometry grant program. Know someone who might benefit from an Opportunities in Optometry grant program? Encourage applicants to visit the Optometry Cares—The AOA Foundation website for eligibility criteria and additional application information. The next round of grant applications will be announced in December 2022. 
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