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Eyes on Diversity

Black optometrist with patient

High School Enrichment Program

Organized by UMSL ’s College of Optometry and Office of Precollegiate Student Services.

Within this program, high school students have the opportunity to learn more about becoming an optometrist, a primary eye health care provider. Our program will provide hands-on activities and presentations about pursuing a Doctor of Optometry degree. Students will also engage in professional and personal development workshops.

The Eyes on DiversityProgram is brought to you by the College of Optometry and Precollegiate Services (Bridge) through generous sponsorship by VSP Vision



Applicant Requirements:

  • Currently in 10th, 11th or 12th grade level 
  • Minimum GPA (current or cumulative) of 2.75
  • Complete online application
  • Mail or email 1 recommendation by deadline.
  • Agree to student participant and parent/guardian commitment.
Participants are expected to fully participate in activities to meet program requirements.


Code of Conduct Supplemental Document

Application Process:

  1. Submit online Eyes on Diversity: High School Enrichment Application. This includes submission of short-response question: “Why is access to eye care important in your community?”
  2. Request one (1) letter of recommendation to be submitted to the Eyes on Diversity program director (Dr. Angel Novel-Simmons) by email to: novela@umsystem.edu
  3. Students with completed applications and meeting full eligibility will be contacted by member of Eyes on Diversity team to discuss the program in detail.
  4. Up to twenty (20) students will be selected for the 2024 Academy.

Important Dates:

  • Application opens March 1, 2024
  • Notice of acceptance begins  April 1
  • Program date June 15

Tentative Schedule of Activities:

Morning session: Introductions, program overview, campus tour, professional development workshop, introduction to UMSL + Optometry

Afternoon session: Eye anatomy lecture and laboratory, clinical skills demonstrations, round table conversation with current ODs and students

  • Participants will be provided all necessary materials for full participation in each session. There will be hands-on, interactive learning and laboratory skills presented throughout the program.
  • Successful program participants will receive a small stipend upon completion of the program

For questions and more information please email novela@umsystem.edu

Program Goal: Based upon figures from the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO), less than 4% of all graduates from the existing optometry programs identify as African-American, Hispanic, Pacific-Islander or Native American.  These figures have changed very little over several years. One reason for the lack of minority doctors is due in part to little exposure to the eye care industry. In order to continue providing appropriate care in a more diverse world, our student body must reflect the diversity of the communities we serve. Our primary goal is to increase exposure to optometry among under-represented students in the junior and senior years of high school and more directly assist these students in college planning and preparedness as they pursue health careers.