National Optometric Association, Dr. Marvin R. Poston Foundation and VSP Global® Announce Recipients of Visioning the Future Mentorship Program


RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif. – In continuing a commitment to increasing awareness about the optometric profession to minority communities, the National Optometric Association (NOA), the Dr. Marvin R. Poston Foundation and VSP Global, announced today the recipients of Visioning the Future mentorship program. Launched in 2019, Visioning the Future mentorship program is designed to identify African American/Black students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and foster their professional and career advancement in the field of optometry.

Nearly $30,000 total was awarded to 10 promising HBCU graduates who were recognized at a special virtual reception hosted by NOA. Additionally, as part of the mentorship program, students will receive assistance in the application process, valuable guidance in career planning, networking opportunities and access to a variety of educational resources. Once enrolled, the goals of the program will extend into their membership in the National Optometric Student Association for further assistance with college or university enrollment and graduation.

This year’s program recipients are:
Ebony Thornton
Ijemdinma Ozodigwe
Khaliah Knighten
Lauren Price
Lexxus Roberts
Lydia Smith
Maleiah Carroll
Nijewel Holliday
Shirmarie Starks
Winter Beaton

The Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) data reveals the number of enrolled African American/Black optometry students is around three percent, significantly lower than the number of other minorities in the United States.

“This partnership is critically important in addressing the need for more diversity and inclusion in our schools and colleges of optometry, especially among African American/Black students,” said Dr. Sherrol Reynolds, president of the NOA. “Over the years, there has been little to no growth in the number of Black students in optometry schools. This partnership allows for increased awareness of the profession, mentorship, guidance, and a path forward for these students to realize their dream of becoming an optometrist and giving back to their communities.”

“I have experienced first-hand the gratitude of these awardees as they start their journey into the profession of optometry. These future ODs already understand the positive impact their presence will have on the minority patients they will serve,” said Paula H. Boone, OD, director of the mentorship program at NOA.

Marlene Bell, daughter of the late Dr. Marvin R. Poston — an icon in the field of optometry, the first Black optometrist to practice west of the Rockies and a founding member of VSP, shares, “My father was passionate about mentoring the younger generation and knew that success in optometry requires strong role models. He’d be thrilled to see this mentorship helping bridge the gap in diversity.”

“Providing mentorship opportunities to underrepresented students is critical to creating a more diverse and inclusive generation of optometry,” said Jarrett Johnson, OD, MPH, and VSP Global board member. “We congratulate these deserving students and are honored to provide resources and support as they prepare to enter this truly great profession.”

To learn more about VSP’s commitment to diversity, click here.

*Award recipients in the image above from left to right are:
Top row: Ebony Thornton, Ijemdinma Ozodigwe, Khaliah Knighten, Lauren Price, Lexxus Roberts
Bottom row: Lydia Smith, Maleiah Carroll, Nijewel Holliday, Shirmarie Starks, Winter Beaton

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About VSP Global
At VSP Global®, our purpose is to empower human potential through sight. As the first and only national not-for-profit vision benefits company, this is what drives everything we do. For more than 65 years, VSP has been the leader in health-focused vision care. Every day, the people who power our complementary businesses (VSP® Vision Care, Marchon Eyewear, Inc., Visionworks®, Eyefinity®, Eyeconic®, VSP Optics, and VSP Ventures) work together to create a world where everyone can bring their best vision to life. That means providing affordable access to eye care and eyewear for more than 80 million members through a network of more than 39,000 doctors. And it means expanding access to vision care to those disadvantaged by income, distance, or disaster. Through VSP Eyes of Hope®, more than 3.3 million people in need have received no-cost eye care and eyewear. Learn more about how we’re reinvesting in greater vision, health, and opportunities for all at vspglobal.com

About National Optometric Association (NOA)
The National Optometric Association (NOA) was founded in 1969 in Richmond, Virginia, as a not-for-profit corporation. The NOA has been a leader in the cause of improving the quality and accessibility of eye care in minority and other historically underserved communities. Our mission of “advancing the visual health of minority populations,” through recruitment of minority students into schools and colleges of optometry, providing scholarships, and mentoring is a shared priority and commitment with VSP Global and the Dr. Marvin R. Poston Foundation. The development of the Visioning the Future Mentorship Program continues Dr. Poston’s legacy of helping the next generation of minority optometrist. More information about the NOA is available online at: http://www.nationaloptometricassociation.com/

About Dr. Marvin R. Poston Foundation
The Dr. Marvin Poston OD, Education and Development Fund/Donor Advised Foundation is established to assist underrepresented groups of color wishing to become optometrists.

The Foundation provides scholarship to African American students attending Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) among other institutions of Higher Education in their efforts to attend and succeed at the colleges and universities of Optometry throughout the US.