Angela Abraham, OD, has been appointed as the first-ever diversity and inclusion liaison for the New England College of Optometry (NECO). Dr. Abraham will be leading the drive to foster a more equitable and bias-free NECO community.
In a related announcement, NECO has also signed on to the 13% Promise, a new initiative led by Black Eyecare Perspective and dedicated to increasing Black presence in vision care. Both steps are part of a larger initiative for change at NECO, according to Howard Purcell, OD, FAAO, the college’s president and CEO.
“NECO is eager to do its part to help create the more diverse and inclusive community that we all know is the future of vision care, and Dr. Abraham’s appointment is the first action in a larger plan,” Dr. Purcell says. “Angela Abraham has been on faculty at NECO since 2011, and in her we have someone who has always been passionate about mentoring students of color in our field. She’s going to be essential in helping us achieve greater inclusion and living up to the ideals of the 13% Promise. This will take reflection and hard work, and we’re committed to a sustainable and powerful effort to get there.”
Dr. Abraham will work with NECO’s new Alliance for the Advancement of Diversity and Inclusion, which includes faculty, staff and students. The group’s goal is to promote a culture where individuals from diverse backgrounds and life experience feel they belong, are able to contribute, and can thrive academically and professionally. A primary role of this Alliance is to connect D&I activities to a broader set of data-driven, results-oriented strategies, and to promote campus-wide communication on progress.
“This is about more than changing a culture,” says Dr. Abraham. “It’s about bringing ideas in from the outside to cross-pollinate and spur new thinking. I believe in the year 2020, we all see the need to come together with better ideas and bigger hearts, and share both for the greater good.”
Dr. Abraham completed her optometry degree at the University of Missouri-St. Louis School of Optometry and took a fellowship in ocular disease at the O’Donnell Eye Institute, St. Louis. Her undergraduate degree in Biology was at Smith College in Northampton, MA. During her time at Smith, Dr. Abraham was part of a NECO summer program designed to attract more individuals of color to optometry. Years later, she sees her new role as the chance to do the same for others.
“I’m excited about taking on this new role,” says Dr. Abraham. “We all know that it’s a long road to real inclusion and diversity, and I’m really happy to be part of that journey. I know NECO, and I know my colleagues and students are devoted to taking this important next step in optometry education.”
NECO joins the 13% Promise initiative by Black Eyecare Perspective
NECO recently signed on to the 13% Promise pledge led by Black Eyecare Perspective (BEP). The initiative—based on U.S. Census data showing that 13.4% of the U.S. population identifies as Black—is asking for an equal amount of Black representation in eye care companies, colleges of optometry and boards of trustees.
BEP will be working with NECO, and with others who join the pledge, to help reach the 13% goal. That includes providing both resources and accountability to help achieve targeted goals.
“Currently only 3.1 percent of NECO students and 4 percent of faculty identify as African American or Black, so the college will need a clear strategy to achieve this goal, says Traci Logan, executive vice president. “Increasing representation isn’t something we should just talk about as an aspiration, it has to become something we commit ourselves to doing because it benefits our students, employees, patients, and the eye care industry as a whole.”
NECO is also dedicated to sharing what it learns with other optometry schools, and to understanding what others have done. Logan says, “We’ll be seeking best practices and knowledge from other schools and our industry collaborators to stimulate enduring success. These actions represent one step forward in a much longer journey, one we believe has the potential to transform the profession. Or, as we proudly state in our mission, we will change the way people see the world.”