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VSP Vision Awards Seven Scholarships at 2023 National Optometric Association Convention

“We’re honored to have presented two scholarships at the NOA convention that invest in the education of students and help create pathways to improve equity in optometry and eye care.”

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(PRESS RELEASE) RANCHO CORDOVA, CA — VSP Vision recognized seven outstanding optometry students at the 2023 National Optometric Association (NOA) Convention earlier this month for demonstrating leadership and service in the optometric profession. Two students were awarded the inaugural Empowering Equity Scholarship, created in collaboration with Black EyeCare Perspective, and received $15,000 toward their education. Five students earned the Dr. Marvin R. Poston Leadership Award, provided in partnership with the NOA in honor of Dr. Poston who was the first Black optometrist on the West Coast and co-founder of VSP Vision. Each of those honorees received a $4,000 scholarship.

Inaugural Empowering Equity Scholarship Winners ($15,000 each)

  • Azalia Roach – class of 2024 at NOVA Southeastern University College of Optometry
  • Mihret Girum – class of 2024 at Herbert Wertheim School of Optometry & Vision Science at the University of California, Berkeley

2023 Dr. Marvin Poston Leadership Award Recipients ($4,000 each)

  • Khaliah Knighten – class of 2026 at Inter American University of Puerto Rico School of Optometry
  • Babirekere Bakama – class of 2025 at Inter American University of Puerto Rico School of Optometry
  • Laura Medina – class of 2024 at State University of New York College of Optometry
  • Daniele Ewert – class of 2023 at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry
  • Isa Prude – class of 2024 at NOVA Southeastern University College of Optometry

“We’re honored to have presented two scholarships at the NOA convention that invest in the education of students and help create pathways to improve equity in optometry and eye care,” said VSP Vision Chief Diversity Officer Marvin Davenport. “Congratulations to each of the recipients, who not only demonstrated their commitment to the profession, but proved their tendency to choose empathy and compassion as practitioners.”

“We’re thrilled to recognize Azalia Roach and Mihret Girum as the inaugural winners of the Empowering Equity Scholarship and we look forward to their future success in the field,” said Black EyeCare Perspective Executive Director Essence Johnson, OD, FAAO, Dipl ABO. “Our collaboration with VSP Vision is just one way we’re creating a pipeline for Black students to enter the field of optometry and increase representation in the industry.”

“The National Optometric Association (NOA) is incredibly grateful to VSP for their collaboration in providing scholarships to students and offering vision care services to indigent individuals in the Fort Lauderdale area during the convention,” said National Optometric Association President Dr. Edward “Larry” Jones. “This partnership has a profound impact on promoting education and improving access to vision care.”

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The Empowering Equity Scholarship and the Dr. Marvin R. Poston Leadership Award are two of the many scholarships designed to support the future of optometry. Within the last 10 years, VSP Vision has provided more than $3 million in scholarship support to optometry students. To learn more, visit here.

About VSP Vision

At VSP Vision, our purpose is to empower human potential through sight. As the first national not-for-profit vision benefits company, this is what drives everything we do. For nearly 70 years, VSP has been the leader in health-focused vision care. Every day, the people that 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 85 million members through a network of more than 41,000 doctors.

It also means expanding access to vision care to those disadvantaged by income, distance, or disaster through VSP Vision Eyes of Hope. To date, more than 3.8 million people in need have received access to no-cost eye care and eyewear through one of our Eyes of Hope programs. Learn more about how we’re reinvesting in greater vision, health, and opportunities for all at vspvision.com.

About the National Optometric Association

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 Vision 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 optometrists.

About Black EyeCare Perspective

Black EyeCare Perspective (BEP) was designed and created to cultivate and foster lifelong relationships between African-American eye care professionals and the eye care industry. BEP is creating awareness and changing the narrative of the role of optometry from a profession, provider and patient perspective. BEP is creating brave spaces and facilitating courageous conversations within the eye care community through diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. BEP is changing the mindset of the next generation of eye care professionals to impact the industry in ways we have yet to see. The Black EyeCare Perspective Pre-Optometry Club (BEPPOC) is the first nationally recognized pre-optometry club by the Associations of the Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) that was established in 2020 to ensure not a single, potential Black or African-American student or optometrist is ignored, discouraged or disadvantaged. With a membership of over 160 Black future optometrists representing 76 unique undergraduate institutions, 20 being Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), 90% of the inaugural cohort matriculated into a school or college of optometry and was connected to over $100,000 in resources, scholarships and grants.

To learn more about Black EyeCare Perspective, their initiatives, BEPPOC and ways to support visit: www.blackeyecareperspective.com.

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