President's Message

Message from the President of the Optometry Alumni Society
Chris Smiley

My social media feed recently has been filled with heartwarming posts featuring Ohio State Optometry awardees at the National Optometric Association (NOA) conference. This reminded me of a meaningful conversation I had with Sherrol Reynolds, OD, NOA’s former president. We shared dinner at a conference during a tumultuous time when racial tensions were high, and the distressing scenes in the media deeply troubled me. Curious about how I could contribute positively to optometry, I asked Dr. Reynolds for her perspective on the matter. She emphasized the importance of creating more opportunities, having a seat at the table, and having a voice. Her words have stuck with me ever since.

Recently, I came across an eye-opening article that highlighted the lack of representation among Black individuals and women in leadership positions within the business and optometry fields. While progress has been made in terms of women’s representation, the numbers are still dishearteningly low for Black women. In my own optometry school journey, I am forever grateful to professionals like Cynthia Heard (OD’92), whose dedication as a clinical educator has shaped countless optometry students’ careers, including mine. She is a true shining star in our profession.

Reflecting on Dr. Reynolds’ advice and these concerning statistics, I believe it is crucial for us as Ohio State Optometry alumni to take individual and collective action to help foster a more inclusive and stronger optometry community. While I am not an expert in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), I have developed a strong sense of cognitive awareness and curiosity to better understand these issues.

As lifelong learners, we must approach DEI with an open mind, just as we would when learning new clinical techniques and concepts in optometry. One valuable resource to start with is the book, The Conversation: How Seeking and Speaking the Truth about Racism Can Radically Transform Individuals and Organizations, by Dr. Robert Livingston. This scientifically-grounded, story-driven book offers insights into racism, why it’s a concern, and how we can take action against it. By exploring such resources, we can become better equipped to bring about positive change in our organizations.

Think back to when you first explored a career in optometry. There was likely someone who profoundly influenced your decision and guided you in the right direction. Pay this forward by mentoring aspiring optometrists from diverse backgrounds and connecting them with diverse leaders in your professional network and programs like Ohio State’s Improving Diversity in Optometric Careers (I-DOC) program.

As Ohio State Optometry Alumni, let us be bold, courageous, and committed to continuous learning. Together, we can shape a more inclusive and thriving optometry community for everyone.

Chris Smiley (OD’01)
President, The Ohio State University College of Optometry Alumni Society