We stand on the shoulders of giants. As a profession, optometry is what it is today only because of the bold diligence of those doctors and advocates who came before; the ones emboldened enough to speak out and blaze the path that we all walk decades later. That's much the same story of how optometry came to welcome so many women not only into practice but also into positions of leadership.
Much has been made of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) data that for years has shown two-thirds of all full-time students and graduates are women. In fact, even 10 years ago, all but one optometry school had more female than male full-time students enrolled. That continues to this day. I point this out because we're seeing this level of representation come full circle among our advocates—and it's historic.
The AOA Board of Trustees comprises more women than ever before while three of the nation's largest optometric organizations—AOA, ASCO and the Academy—are led by women. This is true of many of our state boards and volunteers, our local societies and industry leaders, as well as AOA's own volunteer structure. The strong women in our profession are inspiring in their welcoming, encouraging support of one another, and importantly, in their support of optometry.
We're becoming much more inclusive and diverse as a profession—and that's a good thing, an absolute advantage to the direction we're heading and a direct reflection of the patients we serve. March is Women's History Month and while the nation celebrates the contributions of women in society, I want to take this opportunity to think about how far we've come as a profession and how much further still we can go.
Today, I'm encouraging everyone to get involved, volunteer and engage, just as those advocates who came before shaped optometric practice as we know it. Hopefully one day we, too, can be those shoulders on which the next generation stands.
In a virtual kick-off, the AOA launches Leadership Institute with 130 doctors of optometry from across the country. A project of the AOA Leadership Development Committee, the Institute is a yearlong program designed to grow and support the next generation of leaders in the profession.
At the 2021 Leaders Summit, AOA-member volunteers set priorities for the year and launched new initiatives to lead the profession forward.