by Caleb Jones

Demetric Jones and Smit Patel, Class of 2025, have been elected as representatives for the Diversify Optometry Program (DOP). Jones will represent the program for the UAB School of Optometry's chapter of the National Optometric Student Association (NOSA), and Patel will represent the program for the School's chapter of the American Optometric Student Association (AOSA).

The DOP is a joint initiative between NOSA and the AOSA. Their official mission is to promote an influx of Black and minority undergraduate students into the profession of optometry through mentorship, career and professional development, networking, and enrollment assistance. The organizations’ shared vision is an inclusive optometric community with minority representation reflecting that of the general population.

Throughout the duration of this one-year appointment, Jones and Patel will be working to promote minority enrollment and retention in optometry school and provide mentorship and networking to undergraduates. Jones will work specifically with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

“I strongly believe that many minority undergraduate students, for various reasons, don't have optometry on their radar as a career choice,” Jones said. “Working with HBCUs, I hope to expand optometry mentorship to increase student exposure into this great healthcare field. I'm putting forth my best effort to raise awareness and strive to create equity in Black representation in colleges of optometry leading to greater numbers of practicing Black optometrists.”

Patel has noticed the lack of awareness about graduate studies, including optometry, amongst minorities too. As an undergraduate student, he helped found an organization called Indian Cultural Exchange to encourage minority students to pursue graduate studies.

“I understand the lack of exposure to the field of optometry and want to help bring in more diverse groups,” Patel said. “My main goal as the DOP liaison is provide mentorship and host events that will help educate undergraduates about the field of optometry and help diversify optometry.”

According to a Letter of Intention co-authored by AOSA and NOSA national leadership, the DOP will make optometry networks stronger, mobilizing more practicing optometrists to become involved in diversifying the profession, and will be the start of a greater, more collaborative and diverse era of optometry.

You can read more about the joint initiative’s plans here.