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VSP Global and NOA Honor 5 Optometry Students with Dr. Marvin R. Poston Leadership Award

Award recipients receive a $4,000 scholarship.

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(PRESS RELEASE) RANCHO CORDOVA, CA — VSP Global and the National Optometric Association (NOA) announced the recipients of the 2020 Dr. Marvin R. Poston Leadership Award. The eponymous award is named in celebration Dr. Poston, an icon in the field of optometry and the only Black co-founding member of VSP. The award recognizes outstanding optometry students in each cohort who uphold Dr. Poston’s commitment to leadership, service and diversity. Award recipients receive a $4,000 scholarship toward their education.

The 2020 recipients are:

  • Randi Jo Francis, Illinois College of Optometry
  • Astiney Franklin, OD, 2020 graduate of Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
  • Zarina Meer, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
  • Monique Mohammed, OD, MS, 2020 graduate of SUNY College of Optometry
  • Darian Travis, University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry

Students are considered eligible for the award if they are an active member of the National Optometric Student Association (NOSA), demonstrate leadership and service in the optometry profession, and make a commitment to a future career in private practice. The award has been presented annually since 2014 in collaboration with the NOA.

Dr. Poston’s daughter, Marlene Bell, shares on the legacy that inspired the award, “My father was a humanitarian, optometrist and family man who took pride in not just his accomplishments, but also the accomplishments of others pursuing their goals. He was a soft-spoken man who volunteered his insights so that, together, each of us could achieve our shared and individual dreams.”

Despite enduring deep-seated racism and discrimination throughout his education and career, Dr. Poston’s legacy leaves no shortage of milestones. He was the first Black American admitted to the University of California, Berkeley, School of Optometry. Upon graduation in 1939, he became the first Black American licensed to practice on the entire West Coast. He was also the first Black American to be honored as Optometrist of the Year by the American Optometric Association and the California Optometric Association.

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In 1955, Dr. Poston not only went on to help form VSP, formerly California Vision Services, he also served as president in 1963. The co-founders pioneered prepaid vision plans providing high quality, cost-effective eye care. Since, VSP has grown to serve nearly 90 million members through a network of more than 40,000 doctors and is the only national not-for-profit vision insurance company.

“Dr. Poston is one of the greatest examples of why people of color must continue to fight for equality within our country and our profession. I am delighted to stand on this great man’s shoulders and continue to bring excellent care to my community,” said award recipient Astiney Franklin, OD.

Additionally, devotion to his fellow man was a cornerstone of Dr. Poston’s character. After being a mentor to so many, he created a consulting firm to help young optometrists overcome some of the barriers he faced breaking into the field. In his community, he established vision-screening programs for the underserved at The Children’s Vision Center of the East Bay, West Oakland Health Group and the East Bay Skill Center.

“We are honored to recognize these five deserving students who are continuing Dr. Poston’s remarkable legacy,” said Jarrett Johnson, OD, MPH, VSP Global board member and long-time NOA member. “As our nation rightfully takes stock of the ways we foster racial equity, we must also look within our profession to expand diversity and inclusion. We are committed to carrying forward the important example set by Dr. Poston and creating more opportunities for the underrepresented within the next generation of optometry.”

Learn more about Dr. Marvin. R. Poston at these links:

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