The IOA had the opportunity to chat with one of our Fall Seminar speakers, Dr. Sherrol Reynolds. Reynolds completed her undergraduate at the University of Florida, graduated from Nova Southeastern University (NSU) College of Optometry in 1996 and did a residency in primary care optometry. She decided to become an optometrist after seeing her aunt lose her vision to diabetes. Educating patients about their disease, increasing awareness and preventing vision impairment, especially in underserved communities, is a major focus. Reynolds is married with two children. Each year for the past 18 years, she has participated in an international outreach mission trip to Jamaica with students from the National Optometric Student Association at NSU. The group provides eye care to hundreds of underserved individuals in the rural area of Jamaica. Reynolds is the current president of the National Optometric Association (NOA), an organization dedicated to the optometric profession and service to the underserved through their mission of “Advancing the Visual Health of Minority Populations.” Read on to learn more about Dr. Reynolds and the NOA and plan to attend the Fall Seminar on October 2-3, 2019, to meet her!
When and how did you get involved with the National Optometric Association? I became involved in the National Optometric Association (NOA) as a student at NSU College of Optometry in 1993. I had the privilege of having the late Dr. Terrance Ingraham, who was president of the NOA at the time, join NSU as a faculty member and attended the convention that was held in Fort Lauderdale at the time. I also had the opportunity to meet Dr. C. Clayton Powell, who along with the late Dr. John Howlette, and 25 other Black optometrists founded the NOA in 1969, the height of the civil rights movement. We are forever grateful for their determined courage, calm dignity, creative vision, and inspiring dedication to promote optometrists of color at a time when they faced many challenges, criticisms, and difficulties.
What is it like to be the head of a national organization? Being president of the NOA, an organization dedicated to the optometric profession and service to the underserved through our mission of “Advancing the Visual Health of Minority Populations” has been a rewarding experience. I’ve had the opportunity to help build upon the success of this great organization, expand the number of scholarships the NOA awards to deserving NOSA students, and implement programs that promote minority eye health education and awareness. For example, our Three Silent Killers initiative serves to increase awareness and decrease visual impairment from diseases such as diabetes and glaucoma.
Has it impacted your practice, and if so, how? The NOA has partnered with various organizations, such as the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) to update NEHEP’s Glaucoma toolkit to include images of younger African-American/Black individuals (those in their 40’s) to emphasize that glaucoma starts earlier, making the language easier to understand which addresses the issue of literacy and can be a barrier to increasing awareness about glaucoma and treatment options. The NOA helped develop NEHEP Write the vision: Make your plan to protect your sight, designed to inform African-Americans about eye diseases and encourage them to take action to maintain healthy vision.
The NOA has partnered with Prevent Blindness to promote August Children’s eye health and safety. These initiatives plus our Three Silent Killers program have allowed doctors to have more diverse eye health information to disseminate to our minority patients.
As President, what are your main goals for the Association? My goals as president of the NOA are to help the organization achieve more, do more, and build upon their success. In addition to our scholarship program and initiatives, the NOA is working on developing a national mentorship program focused on increasing the diversity, particularly the number of Black students in our schools and colleges of Optometry.
What are some of the challenges the Association faces? The National Optometric Association (NOA) recently celebrated 50 years, a major milestone for an organization. Today, we are in the midst of an exceptionally challenging time in U.S with the rise of divisive rhetoric. Therefore, the NOA must continue our hard work to ensure that the legacy of this organization endures forever. We owe it to the next generation of smart, gifted and talented young people who dream of being optometrists and giving back to their communities.
What would you want Indiana members to know about the Association? The NOA remains committed to addressing eye health disparities through advocacy, education, and community outreach programs to underserved communities.