OD/MBA student Demetric Jones will be spending the next 13 months in service to the Birmingham-area Hispanic community through a prestigious Albert Schweitzer Fellowship opens a new website. Jones is part of UAB’s unique OD/MBA dual degree program, in which he’ll earn both a master of business administration and a doctorate of optometry concurrently.
“I’m honored to be selected,” he said. “As a student in a professional program, I thought it would be difficult to maintain good grades and dedicate time to an outreach project. I was more so interested when I found out I could have a partner. We can collaborate and make an impact.”
The Schweitzer Fellowship program is dedicated to developing a pipeline of emerging professionals who enter the workforce with the skills and commitment necessary to address unmet health needs. Alabama Schweitzer Fellows are competitively chosen from graduate and professional degree programs in universities throughout the state. They come from a variety of academic disciplines and work to address existing health disparities in their communities through special projects during their year as a fellow.
Jones and optometry student Samantha Chapman are partnering on their fellowship project to address eye care access among Hispanic patients in the Greater Birmingham area. Working with Cahaba Valley Health Care opens a new website, they aim to increase participation in free vision screenings and to make its social media presence more accessible to Spanish speakers.
“I now know that in the Hispanic community, they have an issue with the healthcare system,” he said. “We’ve found out that a lot of times individuals in the Hispanic community don’t trust anything that’s free. They want to know the catch.”
Jones said that citizenship status and income won't affect the screenings. He and Chapman want people to know more about their vision status and how to protect their eyes.
“We’ve seen where some people in the Hispanic community who have a visual issue or eye health issue won’t come in to seek service because of misinformation or stereotypes,” he said. “One patient waited until his condition got so severe that he almost lost his vision completely. We want to educate people and let them know that we’re here to help.”
Jones and Chapman also want to reach out to notable people within the community to help them build that trust.
The fellowship will end in April 2024.
Pairing optometry with business
The fellowship may be 13 months, but Jones’s path to optometry has been a long time coming. Though he’s known he wanted to be an optometrist since studying biology at Middle Tennessee State University, family obligations and a lack of funds kept him from pursuing his professional degree after earning his bachelor’s degree.
Jones spent eight years working at Unilever, a factory that manufactures several brands of ice cream, learning about business and management firsthand.
“When I received my bachelor’s degree, I knew I had to help support my family right then and there,” he said. “It was a good living. It just got to a point where I could do so much better going back to school.”
He said he’d long known that he wanted to be an optometrist and chose UAB because of the ability to earn an MBA at the same time.
“What attracted me here was that I could do a dual degree, that was a big factor,” Jones said. “I don’t have any regrets.”
Jones plans to open his own private practice and believes the business instruction in the MBA program will be instrumental in helping him succeed.
Optometry students take one business class in the OD program, but Jones wanted more.
“I think my MBA classes will help me greatly when it comes to running my own practice,” he said. “There’s so much to it. I want to be able to know my inventory, know how to balance my own books. I don’t want that to be a foreign language to me.”