Most people would agree that one of the hallmarks of our nation and one of the keys to its success has been its diversity. This also holds true for institutions such as ours which are strengthened when they actively work to reflect the communities that they serve. Given the SUNY College of Optometry’s location in one of the most diverse cities in the world, it is one of our obligations to ensure that we prepare our students to care for all the members of our broad community. And, having a widely diverse College community plays an important role in helping to achieve that goal.
Both SUNY system and the College have had long-standing commitments toward making diversity and inclusion a priority. We’ve worked hard to ensure that our classrooms, laboratories, offices and clinics fully reflect the wide range of diversity found within our community—the all-minority representation in our Class of 2019 is over 45 percent and more than half of our total workforce on campus is culturally diverse.
We’re working hard to increase the number of underrepresented students on campus as well. For many health professions, and specifically for the profession of optometry, efforts to matriculate greater numbers of underrepresented minorities into the field have come up short. For nearly 20 years, SUNY Optometry has been one of the only graduate institutions of higher learning in New York State that participates in the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program. CSTEP is a New York State initiative designed to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups pursuing careers in mathematics, science, technology and health-related fields. Last summer, we received a renewal of our CSTEP grant through 2020 and expect to expose another 300 underrepresented students to optometry and other health professions over the next five years.
Our CSTEP programs offer several opportunities for traditionally underrepresented students to get a firsthand look at what we do. (You can learn more about these programs on our website
.) Most gratifying, however, is the fact that we currently have 17 former CSTEP participants enrolled in our OD program. The CSTEP program is just one of the ways that we’re working hard to ensure that a wide range of individuals are exposed to what optometry has to offer. We’ll continue to build on the success of our CSTEP programs because we fully believe that when the range of diversity in our community is reflected on our campus, our institution becomes stronger.
Have a wonderful summer.
David A. Heath, OD, EdM
We recently hosted a very successful CSTEP Symposium designed to introduce students to our programs.