NOSA Celebrates Black History Month

In recognition of Black History Month, NOSA is celebrating the achievements of prominent African-American Optometrists who have made major contributions to the profession of Optometry as well as to society as a whole. We are honored to walk in the footsteps of these optometric pioneers.


Dr. Melantha Nephew, OD

Photo of Dr. Melantha Nephew

 

Idowu Koyenikan once said, “There is no progress or accomplishment without sacrifice.” Dr. Melantha Nephew is no stranger to commitment to NOA or to the profession of optometry. She first became interested in optometry when she had to do a field project for a science class in high school. She interviewed her optometrist who was extremely personable and mentioned how the field was a growing opportunity for women and minorities. This strong recommendation was a driving point for her to pursue optometry.

 

Dr. Nephew attended University of Missouri in Saint Louis Optometry School. At the time, her class contained only five African-American students, a class record. While in school, she got involved and joined the NOSA and learned about the annual conventions, which she attended that summer in Jamaica. She was impressed by the welcoming, spirited, and friendly attitude of the NOA doctors. Two doctors in particular, Dr. Powell and Dr. Hicks, pushed her to her to be more assertive and overcome shyness while embracing leadership roles. She was taken aback by the family and community feel of the conference, which was in starkly different to the reception she received at other associations’ conferences.

 

Currently, Dr. Nephew practices in Dallas, Texas where she has worked for the last twelve years with Sam’s club. She loves working with a large minority patient population including African-Americans and Mexicans. When she is not busy working, she is a committed NOA member. As the previous NOA Secretary and Meeting Planner, she loves to educate youth about optometry and opportunities for advancement.

 

“To be around older minority doctors and know the struggle they faced with prejudice but to see how they overcame and became successful was inspiring in itself. Membership for me in the NOA has not been for anything tangible, it’s given me an invaluable perspective on life and struggle and perseverance. I’m a member not because I’m looking for “what does it do for me”, but because I have a pride and appreciation for where it started and how far it’s come. Along with pride it does also provide the benefit of great continuing education and materials available for educating our minority patients and providing better eye care for the underserved minority communities.” – Dr. Nephew.

 

“Optometry gives me the opportunity to impact people’s lives by helping them to see better. I enjoy seeing all patients but have a special interest in pediatric and specials needs children and adults. It gives me joy when a mother returns with her child a year later stating that the glasses or contact lenses have caused the child to perform better in school. Optometry allows me to be a mentor to children. I enjoy motivating them to aim high at reaching their goals in life.”

 

Written by: Destiny McCoy
Western University College of Optometry

 

Contributing Editor: Courtney Goode
Pennsylvania College of Optometry


Dr. Mesheca Bunyon, OD
Dr. Dr. Mesheca Bunyon

 

Hard-work, Dedication, Service to the Community, and a love like no other. Drs. Lamont and Mesheca Bunyon are active NOA members, business owners, and lead optometrists at Special Eye Care in Temple Hills, Maryland. Drs. Lamont and Mesheca Bunyon are the co-founders of Four Brown Eyes Optometric Social Media Community.

 

Dr. Mesheca Carter Bunyon was born and raised in Richmond, VA. She is a graduate of Morgan State University (’95) and The Pennsylvania College of Optometry (’99). Dr. Bunyon currently serves on the board for the Maryland Board of Examiners in Optometry. She also serves as Secretary for the National Optometric Association. Dr. Bunyon is a member of the Maryland Optometric Association and the Central Maryland Optometric Society. Dr. Bunyon previously served as Region I Trustee for the National Optometric Association for 4 years.

 

Dr. Bunyon is wife to fellow optometrist, Lamont Bunyon for 14 years and mother to Micah (12) and Madden (9). She is an active member of of Mt Ennon Baptist Church.

 

Dr. Bunyon is a past member of the Diversity and Cultural Competency committee for the American Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) and a current member of the Prince George’s County Public School Ethics Panel.She serves as community Service Chair of the National Harbor Chapter of Jack and Jill of America Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated (member since 1994).

 

“Optometry gives me the opportunity to impact people’s lives by helping them to see better. I enjoy seeing all patients but have a special interest in pediatric and specials needs children and adults. It gives me joy when a mother returns with her child a year later stating that the glasses or contact lenses have caused the child to perform better in school. Optometry allows me to be a mentor to children. I enjoy motivating them to aim high at reaching their goals in life.”

 

Written by: Courtney Goode
Pennsylvania College of Optometry


Dr. Lamont Bunyon, OD
                                                   Photo of Dr. Lamont Bunyon

 

Hard-work, Dedication, Service to the Community, and a love like no other. Drs. Lamont and Mesheca Bunyon are active NOA members, business owners, and lead optometrists at Special Eye Care in Temple Hills, Maryland. Drs. Lamont and Mesheca Bunyon are the co-founders of Four Brown Eyes Optometric Social Media Community.

 

Dr. Lamont Bunyon was born and raised in Philadelphia. He is a graduate of Hampton University (’94) and The New England College of Optometry (NECO) in 1999. During his time at NECO, Dr. Bunyon served as Student Council President, Student Trustee on the NECO Board of Trustees, and Student Trustee of the Massachusetts Optometric Society.

 

Dr. Bunyon is husband to fellow optometrist, Mesheca Bunyon for 14 years and father to Micah (12) and Madden (9).He is an active member of of Mt Ennon Baptist Church and has served with the Audio/Video Ministry for 12 years.

 

Dr. Lamont Bunyon was awarded the “2012 Maryland Optometrist of The Year” from the Maryland Optometric Association. He is an important member of the optometric community, serving as Vice President of the Maryland Optometric Association for 4 years, President of the Central Maryland Optometric Society for 2 years, an executive board member of the National Optometric Association for 4 years, and Legislative Key Person for the AOA Super Advocacy Conference for 5 years. Dr. Bunyon has testified on behalf of optometry in front of Maryland State Legislators and on Capitol Hill to US Senators and Congressmen.

 

 

In addition to his executive duties, Dr. Bunyon has found the time to be a mentor to young men through Boys Read, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc, 100 Black Men of America, and coaching youth basketball and soccer. . Dr. Bunyon frequently volunteers with the VSP Vision Van, MOA Community Day, and the Special Olympics Washington DC.

 

Written by: Courtney Goode
Pennsylvania College of Optometry


Dr. De Gaulle I. Chigbu, OD, MS, FBCLA, FCOptom, FAAO, Dipl.
Photo of De Gaulle I. Chigbu, OD
Dr. De Gaulle I. Chigbu is an Associate Professor at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University. Dr. Chigbu received his Doctor of Optometry degree from Abia State University in Nigeria in 1992. In 2002, the College of Optometrists in the United Kingdom awarded him Fellowship status, as well as Postgraduate Diplomas in Ocular Conditions and in Therapeutics. In 2004, Dr. Chigbu was awarded a Master of Science in Clinical Optometry with distinction from City, University of London. He was awarded a Master of Science in Immunology from the Graduate School of Biomedical Science and Professional Studies at Drexel University College of Medicine in 2016.

 

Dr. Chigbu completed his postdoctoral residency training in Primary Care at The Eye Institute of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in 2005. Dr. Chigbu is Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry, College of Optometrist in the UK, and British Contact Lens Association. He is an Associate Member of the American Association of Immunologists. Dr. Chigbu is a Diplomate of the Comprehensive Eye Care Section of the American Academy of Optometry. He is the Vice Chair of Comprehensive Eye Care Section of the American Academy of Optometry, as well as the Written Examination Chair of the same section.

 

From 1999 to 2003, Dr. Chigbu worked as an adjunct clinical instructor at the Optometry Clinic of the City, University of London. He is a lecturer in immunology at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University. He also lectures in microbiology to Scholars students at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University. Dr. Chigbu conducts interactive group discussions to students enrolled in Advanced Studies in Anterior Segment with an emphasis on integrating basic science concepts in clinical care. He is the author of a number of articles in refereed scientific journals, the author of a book entitled ‘Allergic Disorders of the Ocular Surface’ and co-author of a textbook chapter. Dr. Chigbu is a member of the Editorial Review Board of Optometric Education, the Journal of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry. He is also a reviewer for Ophthalmology and Allergy journals.

 

Since August 2005, Dr. Chigbu has been the Lead Optometrist at the Eye Institute Satellite Clinic in Strawberry Mansion and subsequently the clinic at Falls Center. Here he continues to serve his passion of providing eye care to the underserved patient population in North Philadelphia.

 

Written by: Courtney Goode
Pennsylvania College of Optometry

 

Contributing Editor: Kei Sugahara
Illinois College of Optometry


Dr. Josephine O. Owoeye, O.D., MPH, FAAO
Photo of Dr. Josephine O. Owoeye
DEDICATED. EMPOWERING. INSPIRING. Just a few words to describe Dr. Josephine O. Owoeye. The students at The Kentucky College of Optometry are honored to say the least, to be able to study under someone who reminds you every day how determined she is to help you succeed.

 

Her inspiration has always been to reduce preventable blindness, which prompted her decision to attended optometry school at Pennsylvania College of Optometry. She stayed at PCO to pursue a residency in pediatrics. Dr. Owoeye chose pediatrics to be able to help children with decreased vision understand that it was possible to see clearer and help them take steps to improve their quality of life by improving their vision. She also understood some children are unable to verbalize how and what they see and was confident she could help them overcome this challenge. Dr. Owoeye loves the fact that she is able use her problem skills and do detective work to figure out what it is these children need and how to help them.

 

Prior to becoming a full-time faculty member at KYCO, Dr. Owoeye was an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute at John Hopkins University School of Medicine for nearly 12 years. Through her position with the John Hopkins University, she was able to explore different areas of research, patient care and influence policy. She served as a Vision Consultant for the Baltimore City Health Department Bureau of School Health, where she examined and helped improve vision screening procedures. Dr. Owoeye worked to spread awareness among students and parents, which did not go unnoticed. The Baltimore City Health Department saw an increase in the number of children screened and reported an overall improvement in protocol at vision screenings as a result of Dr. Owoeye’s work.

 

Dr. Owoeye has always believed in paying it forward. She has been a member of NOA since graduating in 2003 and has helped develop the NOSA Chapter here at KYCO. Staying true to the NOA’s mission, she mentors students and encourages them to continue to give back to the community. She is committed to ensuring that NOSA members stay active and engaged in local service events and spreading awareness among underrepresented and underserved communities.

 

Dr. Owoeye knows that it takes a village to succeed and equates her success to her support system. For her, they have been her dedicated cheerleaders, supporting and encouraging her every step of the way. This type of support mirrors the support and encouragement Dr. Owoeye showers her students with everyday. Her “it is possible” spirit have been instrumental on her journey and has been adopted by so many faculty and students here at KYCO. It is refreshing to have someone who believes in your success and ensures that you have all the tools you need to achieve such success.
“I get to empower and inspire students. I am excited about this phase in my career because of the “far-reaching” impact – I get to guide and inspire students and they will go on to eliminate preventable blindness in many more children and adults!”

 

This type of dedication not only speaks volumes to Dr. Owoeye’s character but fulfills the mission of NOA.

 

Written by: Sha’Mia Stinson
Kentucky College of Optometry

 

Contributing Editor: Kei Sugahara
Illinois College of Optometry


Dr. Joyce Ramsue-Thompson, OD

You would be hard pressed to find an optometrist with greater passion for her work than Dr. Ramsue-Thompson. She was born in the small town of Cleveland, NC. After just three years at The University of North Carolina, she took her next step and attended Illinois College of Optome-try. Chicago became a platform Dr. Ramsue-Thompson used to propel herself forward into her decorated career.

 

As a first year optometry student, Dr. Ramsue-Thompson attended the NOA conference in Chica-go. She loved the atmosphere and connections to like-minded, service oriented professionals. This would foreshadow many of her later pursuits. During this time an important connection was established in her life. She forged a bond with a fourth year optometry student by the name of Stephanie Johnson. Stephanie’s father, Dr. Robert Johnson Sr., played a huge role as both a hu-manitarian in the city of Chicago and a mentor to Dr. Ramsue-Thompson. Her connection with the Johnson family ran deep, which further instilled the humility of Dr. Robert Johnson in her.

 

Dr. Ramsue-Thompson has explored many of the avenues optometry has to offer, but has always kept the spirit of giving back to underserved communities a common thread of her work. Her humble beginnings in her youth allow her to relate to her patients on many levels. During her jour-ney, she worked at Kaiser Permanente for 17 years providing care to one of the largest HMOs in the greater Cleveland, Ohio area. She also taught ocular disease to students studying to become ophthalmic technicians at Lakeland Community College. Her time was then split between two or-ganizations. The first was ChildSight, a division of Helen Keller International, she worked with for 10 years. The second organization was Northeast Ohio Neighborhood Health Services, NEON, where she worked for 13 years. Recently, in 2013 she helped bring optometry services to a com-munity health center in Lorain, Ohio where she currently works. As an AOA member, Dr. Ramsue-Thompson actively worked on the Health Center Committee for several years to increase optome-try’s presence in Community Health Centers. She is a consultant for the Ohio prison system and currently provides vision services to women in the Northeast Prerelease Center in Cleveland.

 

Dr. Ramsue-Thompson has proved to be a constant support for the profession and those involved with it. Dr. Ramsue-Thompson is a LIFE member of both VOSH and NOA. She has traveled with VOSH to Ecuador and Haiti, serving communities where some have never known the gift of sight. She currently serves as a board member for Northeast Ohio Chapter of Prevent Blindness and is the co-chair of the Community Outreach committee for Prevent Blindness Ohio. She served on the NOA Board as Region II Trustee for 9 years and currently serves on the NOF board. In 2010, Dr. Ramsue-Thompson received a very fitting award from the NOA- “2010 Optometrist of the Year.”

 

Her passion for helping others has remained steadfast, and shows no signs of wavering. When asked about her future plans: “Optometrists don’t retire, they just slow down.” She expresses love for all that she does and will continue to help for as long as she is able. By serving others in need, she is fulfilling what she was put on this earth to do. This epitomizes the ideals of the NOA and what young optometrists should strive toward in their professional career. Dr. Ramsue-Thompson, thank you for your time, thank you for your expertise, and most of all, thank you for your huge heart from which you give back to so many around you.

 

Written by: Sawyer Ellis
The Ohio State University College of Optometry

 

Contributing Editor: Kei Sugahara
Illinois College of Optometry


Dr. Millicent L. Knight, OD, CHC, FAARM
Photo of Dr. Millicent Knight
Current optometry students are standing on the shoulders of giants that paved the way for us to showcase our expertise in patient care and beyond. Dr. Millicent Knight is one of those giants. Having over 25 years of experience in the field, Dr. Knight has focused on furthering holistic care, mentorship, and advocacy. In 2014, she retired from patient care when Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, North America appointed her as the Head of Professional Affairs. At Johnson and Johnson, she led the development and implementation of the company’s professional strategy across the U.S. and Canada and directed its professional and education platform through various educational outreach programs.

 

Dr. Knight knew at a young age that she wanted to become an optometrist. After undergoing vision therapy and experiencing first-hand its impact in her life, she had her sights set on eye care. She earned her OD and BSVS from Illinois College of Optometry. Dr. Knight started her career as an associate optometrist at South Chicago Hospital. Although she enjoyed treating patients in a hospital setting, she knew she wanted to have autonomy by owning her own private practice. After exploring her options, Dr. Knight eventually became the owner of two practices: Integrative Eye & Wellness Center and the North Shore Eye Center in Evanston, IL. While she treated patients, she focused on holistic treatment methods whenever possible. After having multiple patients ask about alternative treatments, she researched and became increasingly interested in ocular nutrition. Dr. Knight was so intrigued by her research into nutrition that she became certified in health coaching and obtained a fellowship through the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.

 

While she was committed to practicing and advocating for the profession, Dr. Knight always enjoyed mentoring young women who were interested in pursuing a career in optometry. She was dedicated to helping them reach their full potential from start to finish, through the process of applying to optometry school and beyond. This desire to highlight the best aspects of the profession extends to her wanting to advocate on behalf of doctors to ensure that companies understand how valuable optometrists are. Through her consulting company, Knight Vision of Illinois Health Care Consulting, Inc., she advised numerous companies and practices in the areas of contact lenses, contact lens solutions, pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals.

 

At her current role at Johnson & Johnson, Dr. Knight is using her experience to foster a strong connection between the company and the eye care community. Dr. Knight believes the cornerstones of her personal wellness are stress management, good nutrition and having fun. When she is not working, she enjoys walking or spending time with her husband and son. Because of her commitment to optometry in areas beyond the exam room, she has paved the way for future optometrists to become more than just practitioners, but advocates as well.

 

Written by: Jeromica Ward
Southern College of Optometry

 

Contributing Editor: Kei Sugahara
Illinois College of Optometry


Dr. Parres M. Wright, OD, FAAO
Dr. Parres Wright
Dr. Parres Wright was just sixteen years-old when she decided to pursue a career in optometry. She fondly recalls receiving her first pair of glasses and feeling immediately overwhelmed with happiness and excitement. She was introduced to a new world that only vaguely resembled the world of blur which she had become accustomed to. She knew immediately that she wanted to recreate this experience for others and asked her optometrist to scribble the title of the profession on a piece of paper for her to research later. Dr. Wright proudly admits that she’s held on to that note till this day.

 

As an undergraduate student at Tennessee State University, Dr. Wright demonstrated a work ethic that was beyond admirable. While completing her undergraduate degree in biology, Dr. Wright worked full-time at a VA hospital where she served as an administrative assistant and helped open community-based outpatient clinics. As an upperclassman, Dr. Wright traded her position at the VA for a position which allowed her to have a direct impact on the quality of life of others by assisting mentally challenged adults in completing activities of daily living. The challenge of working full-time in addition to being a full-time student did not deter Dr. Wright who continued to excel in academics and went on to graduate from Tennessee State University with honors.

 

Dr. Wright’s journey to success in the field of optometry was unique and inspirational. Dr. Wright spent the next four years following her graduation from TSU working at an eye surgery center and then with a retina specialist. It was during these four years that Dr. Wright discovered her passion for geriatrics and low vision. Dr. Wright was later accepted into all optometry schools that she applied for and chose to enroll into Nova Southeastern University’s College of Optometry. While at Nova, Dr. Wright sought out shadowing opportunities for geriatrics and low vision and even volunteered to perform geriatrics research. As a third-year optometry student at Nova, Dr. Wright served as her chapter’s NOSA president and also participated in NOSA’s mission trip to Jamaica.

 

Following her graduation from Nova in 2007, Dr. Wright completed her residency in Low Vision Rehabilitation and Geriatric Optometry at the VA Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama. During her residency, Dr. Wright was one of five residents nationwide to be selected to present at SECO in a series titled “High Hurdles: The Most Challenging Resident Cases of the Year.”

 

Since her residency Dr. Wright has continued to earn her success through her hard work, dedication, and passion for her profession. Dr. Wright headed a low vision clinic at the VA Medical Center in Nashville, TN following her residency and currently practices at Mind-Eye Connection in Northbrook, IL. Furthermore, Dr. Wright’s desire to stay involved in optometry and to have an impact on communities nationwide inspired her to take on the responsibility of Director of Communications of the NOA. When she is not servicing others through optometry, Dr. Wright enjoys spending time her family and volunteering at her local women’s shelter.

 

Written by: Shanelle Jenkins
Southern College of Optometry

 

Contributing Editor: Mimia Wen
UC Berkely School of Optometry


Dr. Janette Dumas, OD, FCOVD
Photo of Dr. Janette Dumas, OD
Although Janette Dr. Dumas knew by 11 years-old that she wanted to be an optometrist, she did not know what an impact she would have on the National Optometric Association, nor how great an impact the NOA would have on her life and career. While in optometry school at the University of Missouri St. Louis, she found herself working part-time for Dr. Carol F. Merrit O.D., the former president of the NOA. Witnessing Dr. Merrit’s dedication to the mission of the NOA inspired her to get involved with the organization herself and to further its vision of greater minority student recruitment and retention.

 

After graduating with honors from UMSL Optometry and completing a residency in pediatrics, she took on the role of Minority Recruitment Coordinator at Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, TN. To reach out to minority students, she coordinated two summer programs: Success in Sight and Eye on Success. Both programs allow minority students to be exposed to the field of optometry. Moreover, she volunteers her time at the Ronald McDonald House and is a Sunday School teacher for Greater New Liberty Church in Memphis, Tennessee. Her contributions to the community caught the attention of the Memphis Business Journal, which, in 2012, named her amongst their “Top 40 Under 40” list. In 2015 the National Optometric Association awarded her its prestigious Doctor of the Year Award in recognition to her many contributions to the organization as well as to the profession of Optometry at large.

 

Dr. Dumas currently teaches Pediatrics Laboratory and Vision Therapy Laboratory as an Associate Professor at Southern College of Optometry. Her interests include lazy eye research and pediatric contact lenses. She currently serves as the Trustee at Large for Region 1 and the Continuing Education Director for the National Optometric Association. To this day, she still serves as Minority Recruitment Coordinator at Southern College of Optometry.

 

Written by: Alka Kumar
Salus University Pennsylvania College of Optometry

 

Contributing Editor: Mimia Wen
UC Berkely School of Optometry


Dr. Chaka Norwood, OD
Photo of Dr. Norwood
On this day during Black History Month, we recognize a doctor that is not only an excellent practitioner, but also a great mentor. Dr. Chaka Norwood makes it look easy being a nationally-involved optometrist that serves as an inspiration for young people seeking optometry as a profession.

 

Dr. Norwood is a native of Mound Bayou, Mississippi, a short distance from where she received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology at Jackson State University. Aside from her Doctor of Optometry from the University of Houston, Dr. Norwood holds a Master in Public Health degree from the University of North Texas Health Science Center.

 

Despite a rigorous optometric curriculum, Dr. Norwood was extremely active during her time at the University of Houston. She was a member of the American Optometric Student Association as well as the Texas Optometric Student Association. She developed a strong relationship with the National Optometric Association (NOA) by serving as UHCO’s chapter Secretary and later President. In 2010, she was awarded the National Optometric Student Association Award for her contributions. On top of all of these involvements, Dr. Norwood was also a member of the Gold Key Optometric Honor Society and served on the UHCO Graduation Committee.

 

During her externship training, Dr. Norwood was able to gain a vast knowledge in eye disease diagnosis and treatment. She received this training by serving patients at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK and Santa Fe Indian Hospital in Santa Fe, NM.

 

Dr. Norwood is involved in national as well as local associations. She is a member of the American Optometric Association, and a current NOA Region III Trustee. Dr. Norwood holds a license to practice optometry in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Texas.

 

Dr. Chaka Norwood is the owner and optometrist at commercial practices in both Memphis and Jackson, Tennessee. She’s shared that she has plans of expanding to private practice. When she is not delivering excellent vision care to her patients, Dr. Norwood enjoys spending time with family, exercising, and travelling.

 

Written by: Brehana Hawkins
Southern College of Optometry

 

Contributing Editor: Mimia Wen
UC Berkely School of Optometry


Dionne Moore Jones, OD, MA, FAAO

Condoleezza Rice said, “Education is transformational. It changes lives. That is why people work so hard to become educated and why education has always been the key to the American Dream, the force that erases arbitrary divisions of race and class and culture and unlocks every person’s God-given potential.” From her first career as a middle school teacher, to her extensive involvement with the NOSA, Dr. Dionne Moore Jones has dedicated herself to helping students of all ages reach their full potential.

 

She received her Bachelor of Science in Education from Ball State University in 1993 and graduated cum laude. In 2000, she received her MA in Education and worked in college administration. In 2004, Dr. Jones earned her Doctorate of Optometry from Indiana University School of Optometry. Dr. Jones continued her optometric education as a resident at the Cleveland VA in 2005. After finishing her residency, Dr. Jones was commissioned into the United States Army and served at Fort Bliss, Texas. In 2006, she received her FAAO with the American Academy of Optometry. Currently, Dr. Jones is assisting her fellow veterans at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Cleveland, OH.

 

Dr. Jones has been involved with NOSA/NOA from her very first year in optometry school. She was the only African American student in her graduating class. As a first year, she helped to reactivate the NOSA chapter at IU. During her time at IU, she served as NOSA chapter treasurer and was president during her 4th year. As a 3rd year student she received the NOA Cave Memorial Scholarship, and in 2004 won the NOA student of the year award! Dr. Jones was awarded the NOA OD of the year award in 2012, and has been intimately involved in working with the NOA and NOSA at the national level. Dr. Jones has served in 3 elected positions on the NOA board including: Student representative, Region II Trustee, and Parliamentarian. She is currently the Director of Student Affairs (Trustee at Large Region II) and coordinates the NOSA track of the annual convention. With this position she is also responsible for overseeing the NOA scholarships that are awarded to many students each year.

 

Dr. Jones is married to Robert Jones and has 2 children (Ezra and Eva). At Temple Baptist Christ, she serves as an assistant team member of the Children’s Ministry. Dr. Jones has a clear passion for working with children and aspiring optometrists. It is because of amazing leaders and educators like Dr. Jones that students are inspired to unlock their potential and use their talents to make the world a better place! Thank you for your dedication to family, students, and country Dr. Jones.

 

Written by: Lauren Spencer
University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry

 

Contributing Editor: Kei Sugahara
Illinois College of Optometry


Dr. Stephanie Johnson-Brown, OD, FCOVD
Photo of Dr. Stephanie Johnson-Brown
As kids we are told to focus on our goals, but what do you do when your vision is getting in the way of reaching them? Dr. Stephanie Johnson-Brown, NOA’s past president has made it her mission to ensure that a child’s vision is never an obstacle to achieving their full potential.

 

Dr. Johnson-Brown received her Doctor of Optometry degree from Illinois College of Optometry in 1978, and earned a Master in Education from Loyola University. She is a behavioral optometrist and executive director of the not-for-profit Plano Child Development Center in Chicago, IL. She has traveled the country and has spoken at countless lectures on vision and learning and won numerous awards including The Women in History Award and National Optometric Association Optometrist of the Year 2011.

 

Despite all her achievements, Dr. Johnson-Brown is most proud of being able to provide “world class vision therapy treatments to patients that are unable to afford it. To see the lives of many of the patients changed as a result of the vision therapy has been very rewarding.” Dr. Johnson-Brown and her staff at Plano continue to work towards the goals of her mentor and late father, Dr. Robert Johnson and co-founder, Dr. Henry Moore who opened Plano Child Development in 1965, as a place where all patients could have accessible vision care.

 

Why is it called the Plano Child Development Center? Plano is the designation of a lens with no power. It is neutral. It is not black or white, plus or minus. Drs. Johnson and Moore conceived of Plano as a place where all people could be served– without regard to color, age, or economic status. Today, Dr. Johnson-Brown continues to work with countless patients to change not only how they see the world, but also to inspire them to change the world they live it.

 

Written by: Kei Sugahara
Illinois College of Optometry

 

Contributing Editor: Mimia Wen
UC Berkely School of Optometry


Dr. Frank Barnes Jr., OD
Photo of Dr. Frank Barnes
Dr. Frank Barnes Jr. is a distinguished doctor of optometry and an example of someone who strives to understand his patients’ experience so he can better serve them. Dr. Barnes is particularly passionate about caring for patients with low vision and blindness whose lives are significantly hindered by severe vision loss. One year prior to receiving his optometric degree from the State University of New York in 1986, Dr. Barnes completed a low vision internship at New York’s renowned Lighthouse Guild, a charitable organization dedicated to advocating for those with visual impairments and blindness. Soon afterward, he was awarded the Feinbloom Designs for Vision Award for excellence in low vision.

 

Today, Dr. Barnes is still actively fighting for the wellbeing of low vision patients by acting as a panel provider for the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. It is likely that each of us knows at least one family member, friend, or colleague who has a disability. Although we interact with these individuals on a regular basis, it can be difficult to comprehend the challenges they face on daily basis, unless we have experienced the permanent and debilitating effects of a serious disease, health condition, or injury ourselves. Dr. Barnes, having worked extensively with such individuals, has been known for his devotion to patient care, always lending a listening ear to his patients with disabilities.

 

In addition to caring for low vision patients, Dr. Barnes has also served on multiple community health committees, including the Montclair Health Advisory and the Head Start Health Advisory Board. He is also recognized for being a former secretary of the Essex County Optometric Society. In addition to serving patients in his optometric practice, Drs. Barnes and Carter, LLC in Montclair, NJ, Dr. Barnes is serving as Regional Trustee for the National Optometric Association’s Region 1, which encompasses the Northeastern United States.

 

It is especially fitting to honor Dr. Frank Barnes Jr. this February as we celebrate both Black History Month and Low Vision Awareness Month. Dr. Barnes has shown through example that professionalism, dedication, compassion, and empathy go a long way; and that as health care professionals, we should always contend for the needs of our patients. Throughout his career, Dr. Barnes has worked to better the lives of patients with low vision. Even to this day, he is persistently working towards the same goal. In the next few days or weeks, think about calling or catching up with a loved one or neighbor with a disability, and do as Dr. Barnes would – ask them how they are doing and offer a listening ear.

 

Written by: Catherine Tsang
UC Berkely School of Optometry

 

Contributing Editor: Mimia Wen
UC Berkely School of Optometry


Dr. Edward Jones, OD

Today, we want to highlight a doctor who has never shied away from leadership or service. Dr. Edward “Larry” Jones graduated from the University of Washington, Seattle in 1981 with a Bachelor of Arts in Black History/Ethnic Studies and a minor in Anthropology. While enrolled, he served as president of his fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon in 1978, and played as a fullback for the University of Washington Huskies. After being accepted to attend Pacific University College of Optometry in 1981, Dr. Jones continued serving as an active member of the school community as a resident advisor in the dormitory, coach for the Pacific University Boxer football team for 3 years, and student representative for the PU Graduate Council.

 

Once he graduated in 1985 from Pacific University with a degree in visual science and a doctorate in optometry, Dr. Jones began his optometric career in Seattle, Washington. Throughout his career, Dr. Jones has remained committed to the National Optometric Association, where he has been a member for 35 years and a board member for approximately 12 years. At last year’s NOA Convention in Chicago, he was honored with the 2016 Optometrist of the Year Award. Recently, Pacific University also awarded him with the 2017 Kamelia Massih Prize for Distinguished Alumni. In addition to the NOA, Dr. Jones has also been a member of the American Optometric Association and Optometric Physicians of Washington for 35 years.

 

Dr. Jones utilizes his skills as an optometrist to give back to the community whenever possible. For the last 3 years he has served the at-risk youth population through his work at the King County Juvenile Detention Center and has examined over 300 children. He is passionate about increasing access to quality eye care to everyone and regularly donates his time and glasses to the homeless and underserved populations in his community such as veterans who cannot afford eye care. Dr. Jones has also helped influence Washington State Law significantly. He was a member of the team that advocated for the new Washington State law which mandates near vision testing for children in all Washington schools. Dr. Edward “Larry” Jones has led a life committed to uplifting those around him through his leadership and service, and serves as a model for how to use optometry for the greater good.

 

Written by: Jeromica Ward
Southern College of Optometry

 

Contributing Editor: Mimia Wen
UC Berkely School of Optometry


Dr. Edwin C. Marshall, OD, MS, MPH
Photo of Dr. Edwin Marshall
The tree of diversity in the field of Optometry has many roots, and if any one person is at the core of that tree, it would be Dr. Edwin C. Marshall O.D., M.S., M.P.H. His contributions have not only helped the optometric profession to branch out to more minority groups and into unreached areas of academia and public policy, but have also provided strength and resilience to the core efforts of health care diversification.

 

Dr. Marshall began his educational journey at Indiana University, pursuing a B.A., O.D. and M.S. degree before going on to the University of North Carolina for his M.P.H. With his repertoire of knowledge and a passion for service, he set out to produce change in the world of Optometry not only nationally, but internationally as well. As the former Vice President for diversity, equity, and multicultural affairs, he helped to increase minority representation at the University of Indiana School of Optometry. Through this role, he helped increase the enrollment of minority students across IU campuses from 14.5% to 19.8% within five years. He then set his sights internationally, serving as medical faculty advisor for the National University of Malaysia and the Cebu Doctors’ College, College of Optometry in the Philippines.

 

In the US, he was involved in both public health and academia, serving on numerous state and national public health committees and teaching at IU for over 40 years. For his numerous contributions, he received the Tony and Mary Hulman Health Achievement Award in Public Health and Preventive Medicine from the Indiana Public Health foundation, and the Indiana University President’s Medal of Excellence in 2013. The American Optometric Association recognized his contributions as well, awarding him the National Optometrist of the Year Award in 2007. In 2009, Dr. Marshall was inducted into the National Optometry Hall of Fame, to stand amongst exceptional individuals who have advanced the profession of optometry through dedicated service, and a lifetime of contributions. This is an award that Dr. Marshall deserves through and through.

 

Today, Dr. Marshall continues to pursue his passion for public health and optometric education by serving on multiple national eye health education committees and minority health state councils. With his engagement in so many branches of optometry – from academia, education and public policy, to community outreach – it is no wonder that he stands at the core of this ever-growing tree of optometry.

 

Written by: Halima Khan
SUNY College of Optometry

 

Contributing Editor: Mimia Wen
UC Berkely School of Optometry


Dr. Brittany N. Rogers, OD
Photo of Dr. Brittany Rogers
It’s not just the well-seasoned optometrists out there that serve as an inspiration to upcoming ODs. Among this group of younger ODs is Dr. Brittany N. Rogers of Ripley, Mississippi. Her modest personality is matched with a long list of achievements in the field of optometry and the community that she serves.

 

Dr. Rogers earned her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Mississippi and her Doctor of Optometry degree from the University of Houston College of Optometry. At UHCO, Dr. Rogers was already making her impact on undergraduate students as an instructor for a pre-optometry program known as TEXCOP (Texas Optometry Career Opportunities Program). In addition to this, she was involved in numerous student organizations.

 

Dr. Rogers’ ties with the National Optometric Association began during her time at UHCO when she served as the President of the National Optometric Student Association (NOSA) chapter at UHCO during her third year. In her fourth year, she was elected to be the National President of NOSA and went on to earn the NOA’s prestigious award of 2013 Student of the Year. Dr. Rogers’ involvement with the NOA did not end there. She is currently a member of the NOA Executive Board, serving as the National Treasurer and Community Service Outreach Chairperson of the organization.

 

Through optometry, Dr. Rogers’ desire to influence the lives of others is constantly being fulfilled. She has participated in vision mission trips in several states across the US as well as internationally in Nicaragua and Mexico. Dr. Rogers’ accolades extend beyond the field of optometry as well. She believes that, “it is important to build a legacy for your community’s future as well as your own.”

 

Along with three close her friends, Dr. Rogers founded a scholarship program for Tippah County High School seniors. The program is called TKBC Collegiate Outreach Foundation and started in 2013. TKBC offers the recipients of the scholarship knowledge about becoming more successful in the competitive college application process. With the 5-year anniversary in 2018, the founders hope to expand its community impact. Dr. Rogers stands behind the notion that we must be the change we want to see in the world by starting with our own communities.

 

Currently, Dr. Rogers is a therapeutic optometrist practicing in Tupelo, MS at Rogers Family Eye Care, LLC. She is actively involved in her church, Beulah Hill M.B. Church in Blue Mountain, MS. Dr. Rogers continues to spread her knowledge as a motivational speaker and mentor to students and young adults in her community and surrounding communities. When Dr. Rogers is not at her office providing quality eye care to her patients or giving back to her community, she can be found planning a small event or spending time with family and friends.

 

Written by: Brehana Hawkins
Southern College of Optometry


Dr. Sherrol A. Reynolds, OD, FAAO
Photo of Dr. Sherrol Reynolds
Strong. Dedicated. Brilliant.
These powerful words are just a few adjectives to describe the doctor we would like to honor today, Dr. Sherrol A. Reynolds. Dr. Reynolds received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Florida before attending NOVA Southeastern University (NSU) College of Optometry to obtain her Doctor of Optometry degree. Her passion for optometric education did not stop there however. After graduating from optometry school in 1996, Dr. Reynolds pursued a residency in primary care at NOVA and later became an adjunct faculty member at the university.

 

Currently, Dr. Reynolds holds the title of Associate Professor at NSU College of Optometry. In her time at the university she has served as clinic chief, module director, and course instructor. She is currently serving as a clinical attending professor in the NSU Diabetes and Macular Service as well as a residency supervisor. Dr. Reynolds is a fellow of the American Academy of Optometry and the Optometric Retinal Society and is currently serving as Vice President of the National Optometric Association. She has also been involved in numerous research studies and released several publications related to ocular and systemic diseases.

 

Apart from her passion for academia, Dr. Reynolds spends a great deal of her time giving back to her community. Not only is she an integral part of the National Optometric Association, but also serves as the faculty advisor for the NOVA chapter of the National Optometric Student Association (NOSA). Along with this, she serves as the chairperson for the Florida Optometric Association Healthy Eyes Healthy People committee, helps with the annual NOVA interdisciplinary mission trip to Jamaica, and mentors at-risk high school students through the Women of Tomorrow Mentor and Scholarship Program (WOT).

 

In 2013, Dr. Reynolds was awarded the NOA’s Optometrist of The Year Award, a deserved and prestigious honor. Dr. Sherrol A. Reynolds truly deserves to be recognized in celebration of Black History Month. Her dedication to the profession of optometry, the NOA, and her community shines through her actions and accomplishments. It is through extraordinary individuals such as herself that the world becomes inspired to live both passionately and compassionately.

 

Written by: Alka Kumar
Salus University Pennsylvania College of Optometry


Dr. A. Philip Aitsebaomo, OD, PhD

In the spirit of Black History Month, we would like to recognize the great contributions of our current NOA president, Dr. A. Philip Aitsebaomo. Dr. Aitsebaomo is walking in the footsteps of great leaders who have paved the way for all minority optometrists such as Dr. C. Clayton Powell and Dr. John L. Howlette. Dr. Aitsebaomo first got involved with NOA as an optometry student at Indiana University, attending his first NOA convention in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Since that first convention, he has only missed two in the past thirty years. He began his NOA involvement as a student member, later becoming an NOA member, then progressing to the roles of regional trustee, CE director, Vice-President and finally his current position as NOA president.

 

Dr. Aitsebaomo obtained a Bachelor of Science in Biology, Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree and a Master’s Degree in Physiological Optics from Indiana University. He obtained a PhD degree from the University of Houston College of Optometry in 1989 and remained at UHCO as a full time Assistant Professor for the following three years. He still maintains an Adjunct faculty position there, teaching in the Contact Lens clinic, while running his own private practice, Alpha Eyecare Associates, PLLC. In 2012, Dr. Aitsebaomo joined the faculty at the University of the Incarnate Word Rosenberg School of Optometry in San Antonio, Texas. He currently teaches Optometric Business Development, Contact Lenses, as well as supervising in the contact lens and primary care clinics.

 

Dr. Aitsebaomo is actively involved in research, and has published several articles in peer reviewed professional journals. He is also an active member of several professional and civic organizations including the American Optometric Association, Texas Optometric Association and American Academy of Optometry. In addition to serving as President of the National Optometric Association, Dr. Aitsebaomo is also serving as President of the African Coalition Political Action Committee in Houston.

 

Out of the many great experiences that Dr. Aitsebaomo has had as an NOA member he especially cherishes having had an opportunity to work along-side the optometrists that have inspired him to join the profession and serve. These doctors include Dr. Edwin Marshall, Dr. Melvin Shipp, Dr. Linda Johnson, and NOA co-founder Dr. C. Clayton Powell. Dr. Aitsebaomo shows us that when the student becomes the teacher, there are no limits to what he can learn. He, along with the NOA leadership are inspiring a new generation of optometrists every day to become lifelong learners.

 

Written by: Kei Sugahara
Illinois College of Optometry


Dr. John L. Howlette, OD
Photo of Dr. John L. Howlette
Valentine’s Day is exactly one week from today. A flurry of rose petals, candy-grams, and boxes of chocolate will once again descend upon us, bringing with it extraordinary acts of sacrifice, generosity, and service not typically practiced on the day-to-day. Such selfless acts, however, were not uncustomary to Dr. John L. Howlette, co-founder of the National Optometric Association (NOA) and active advocate for minority optometrists and optometry students. Dr. Howlette was a man who strived to serve and love his community on a daily basis and in the most charitable of ways.

 

Within the optometric community, Dr. Howlette is most recognized for his substantial role in the establishment of the NOA, a nationally recognized optometric organization dedicated to advancing eye health in minority populations through mentorship and education of minority optometrists. Along with this monumental contribution, Dr. Howlette also received numerous awards and honors throughout his career. The Virginia Optometric Association named him Optometrist of the Year in 1974, and eventually appointed him as VOA President. Later, he was elected President of the Richmond Optometric Society, and became the first African-American optometrist to open a practice in Richmond, VA. His legend was cemented, in 2001, when he was inducted into the National Optometric Hall of Fame.

 

Behind Dr. Howlette’s numerous titles and successful practice was a man of great compassion and service. The Virginia House of Delegates lauded him as a healer, mentor, role model, and community leader. He faithfully provided optometric care to residents in the Jackson Ward neighborhood for decades while actively lobbying for better police protection in surrounding neighborhoods. From 1980 through 1986, Dr. Howlette also served on the Richmond School Board, encouraging change that would improve education, safety, and development in his city. He fought segregation and believed in the unity of optometrists of all races and cultural backgrounds. Today, the NOA consists of 800+ members that are working together to carry out the legacy and mission of Dr. Howlette and NOA co-founder, Dr. C. Clayton Powell.

 

Dr. Howlette was an example of someone who saw optometry as a labor of love. He brought kindness and compassion to his patients daily and allowed that same love to seep into every aspect of his life. His concern for his community no doubt contributed to his many accomplishments and appointments. May we model Dr. Howlette’s altruism by striving to provide the same kind of selfless attitude to our patients, family, friends, neighbors, and of course, significant others. Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

 

Written by: Catherine Tsang
UC Berkely School of Optometry


Dr. C. Clayton Powell Sr., OD
Photo of Dr. C. Clayton Powell Sr.

We live in a time of turbulent change and intensifying public discussion on issues of race, equality, social justice, immigration and healthcare reform. In many ways, today’s sociopolitical climate reflects that of the 50’s/60’s, when multitudes of Americans mobilized to fight for civil rights and anti-discriminatory protections for marginalized groups. Visionary African-American leaders emerged to carve out spaces for minority voices and objectives to be heard. Dr. C. Clayton Powell O.D., former high school classmates with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. himself, was one such visionary.

 

In late spring of 1969, riding the momentum of the Civil Rights Movement, Drs. C. Clayton Powell of Atlanta, GA, and John L. Howlette of Richmond, VA, called a meeting of 25 African American optometrists in Richmond, VA. The goal: to establish a nationally recognized optometric organization for minority optometrists. What emerged was the National Optometric Association (NOA), the first optometric organization comprised of all black doctors whose primary mission was to advance the visual health of minority populations.

 

The charter NOA did not set sail on smooth waters, but rather met with choppy backlash. The recurrent critique being one of racial regression: Black optometrist had fought hard for integration into society and the predominantly white American Optometric Association (AOA). Some saw the birth of the NOA as a kind of re-segregation, a step backwards in the path of racial progress. Others argued that establishment of the NOA was redundant, as membership in the AOA was already open to black ODs.

 

In the 1969 AOA convention in Philadelphia, PA, Dr. Powell presented his counterargument to the AOA board of trustees: While blacks were not banned from joining the AOA, a prerequisite for membership was that candidates belong to their local AOA chapters. In attempts to gain local membership, many black optometrists, especially those in the South, faced rebuff or outright resistance. The power dynamics within the AOA also heavily favored internal committees, in which there was not a single black appointee. But, most importantly, at that time the AOA rarely dealt with issues that resonated with black ODs, including the recruitment of minority optometry students, and the provision of eye care to communities of color.

 

Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Powell, Dr. Howlette, and the other inaugural members, the NOA persisted and is now the largest professional optometric organization for minorities in the US. With over 800 members, the NOA has helped to significantly increase the % of students of color in optometry schools, and supplied much-needed role models and vision care to minority communities across the country.

 

Dr. Powell served as President of the NOA for five years (1969-1974), and was the first African American optometrist to be appointed to the National Eye Institute (NEI) of the National Institute of Health. He has received multiple honors for his contributions to minorities in healthcare, including a lifetime recognition award from the NAACP. He currently lives in Atlanta, GA and remains an influential leader within the NOA.

 

Written by: Mimia Wen
UC Berkely School of Optometry
Brought to you by the NOSA Community Outreach Committee

Photo of Kei Sugahara

 

Kei Sugahara

Illinois College of Optometry

Photo of Mimia Wen

 

Mimia Wen

UC Berkely College of Optometry

Photo of Brehana Hawkins

 

Brehana Hawkins

Southern College of Optometry

 

Catherine Tsang

UC Berkely College of Optometry

 

Jeromica Ward

Southern College of Optometry

 

Sha’Mia Stinson

Kentucky College of Optometry

 

Photo of Benjamin Pon

Benjamin Pon

Pacific University College of Optometry

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