Fox Family Foundation Newsletter June 2021
As economic and ethnic barriers contribute to eye health disparities, Fox Family Foundation (FFF) has been focusing on career development programs in partnership with Big Picture Learning (BPL), the Southern California Eye Institute (SCEI), and Vision To Learn (VTL) to open awareness and opportunities for disadvantaged communities in vision and eye-care fields.
In response to a workforce in crisis, SCEI developed an Ophthalmic Technician Education Program (OTEP) which is designed to cultivate underrepresented minorities into the sector. Presently less than 7% of ophthalmologists are people of color, which impacts cultural and linguistic competence. Mounting evidence suggests eye wellness outcomes are heightened when physicians and patients share the same race or ethnicity.
Project InSight, an FFF fellowship initiative launched in 2020 within BPL, successfully developed multiple entry points and pathways to expose high school students to an array of careers that serve blind and low-vision populations.
Partnering with SCEI, Andrea Purcell and Carrie Ferguson (BPL) worked with Dr. Joseph Cocozza and Dr. Carlos Lastra to design and pilot an Ophthalmic Assistant A/B curriculum. Though highly academic in nature, this curriculum also provided hands-on learning modules that gave students the opportunity to perform non-invasive eye exams on friends and family members.
One BPL student, Roció Rodriguez shared that after learning how to take at-home eye exams, she practiced on her immediate family, mainly testing for visual acuity. The results indicated that many of them needed to see a specialist, and having learned of the importance of getting screened regularly, the family now has a designated optometrist.
With the goal of ensuring access to mentorship, job shadowing and real-world work experience, Joan Chu Reese, the Executive Director of Vision To Learn and Nora MacLellan, Outreach Coordinator, proposed a series of Mobile Vision Van screenings in which BPL students could both learn and assist how to implement a successful vision screening campaign.
Students from three high schools planned and are executing mobile eye clinics over the next few weeks. They are mentored by executives from Warby Parker, Classic Optical and VTL. These clinics will serve under-represented communities throughout Southern California, providing free eye screenings and glasses to students in need.
The potential to scale this program is enormous, and FFF believes very strongly that as grantees collaborate, the footprint of impact expands exponentially.
2020 will forever be associated with hindsight, COVID-19 and vision. FFF is proud of our grantees who, when hit with the pandemic, innovated, collaborated and delivered programming that exceeded expectations.
On June 7th, 2021, Project InSight's first Fellow, David Benitez-Gonzalez, delivered his final exhibition before a panel of Big Picture Learning executives, principals and current and aspiring Fellows, as well as the Fox Family Foundation.
To complete his Fellowship, David interned over 120 hours under optometrist Dr. Jason Aronson and received additional direct mentorship throughout his initial coursework. David will be receiving a $1,000 scholarship for completion of his Fellowship and is considering the OTEP program through SCEI to pursue a career in the ophthalmic allied health fields.
The fellowship is open to high school students who are nominated by an advisor. Please visit www.projectinsightfellows.org for nominations.
"I couldn't believe there was an internship at such a young age. I always associated this opportunity with college."
-David Benitez Gonzalez