Illinois College of Optometry Hosts Special Summer Program for Minority Students
CHICAGO — Twenty-four college students from across the country are learning about the profession of optometry during the Illinois College of Optometry’s (ICO) “Focus on Your Future” summer program this week. This week-long program, now in its second year, is designed to introduce underrepresented minority undergrads to the profession of optometry.
“This program provides an opportunity for students to meet other people who have similar backgrounds and share the same desire to get into the profession of optometry,” said Teisha Johnson, director of admissions and marketing for ICO. “As one of the world’s leading urban optometric institutions, ICO is pleased to offer this unique summer experience at no cost to the participating students, with the exception of travel and transportation fees.”
Participants attend sample optometry course lectures, about topics such as neuroanatomy and optics, and ICO student panel discussions. They are given an overview of the ICO admissions process and participate in career and leadership development sessions. They also gain valuable clinical experience by observing in the Illinois Eye Institute and experience ICO student life by staying in ICO’s Residential Complex during the program, which ends Friday, July 10.
This experience introduces students to a growing profession. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment of optometrists is projected to increase 7 to 13 percent through 2016, as a result of the vision care needs of a growing and aging population.
“Optometry is a great career possibility for me and this program is a great way to get exposed to the profession,” said Nya Randle-El, a sophomore at Moraine Valley Community College and native of Hickory Hills. “My favorite part of the program so far has been the hands-on learning with the instruments, but I have also enjoyed the lectures.”
The “Focus on Your Future” program is open to all undergraduate underrepresented minority students who are currently in their first, second or third year of college. Interested students are required to participate in an application process. They’re also asked to submit a one-page personal essay describing their motivation to participate in the program and the profession and a letter of support from an academic advisor or faculty member.
ICO would like to see participation in O.D. programs better reflect the population, especially with the growth in underrepresented patient populations. Currently, only 3 percent of all optometry students are African American and only 4.5 percent are Hispanic or Latino, according to the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry. “Focus on Your Future” aims to bridge the discrepancy in minority enrollment in O.D. programs compared to the population.