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Summer has seen a number of faculty title changes. Congratulations to the following three faculty promotions:
And congratulations to these faculty members on their new titles or roles:
Dr. Janette Dumas Pepper expands role to enhance support for minority students
Southern College of Optometry is addressing the necessary conversation of race relations and diversity in the nation head-on with an initiative to expand its leadership and build a more equitable and inclusive campus culture. The Memphis-based optometry institution expanded Dr. Janette Dumas Pepper’s current role of coordinator for minority recruitment and named her coordinator for student diversity and inclusion. In addition to her faculty position in clinical and didactic instruction, she will step into this new role to guide SCO in creating and sustaining an inclusive environment for all students and prospective students.
“Recent events in our nation empowered SCO leaders to take an honest examination of our own internal issues and discover what more we can do to stand in solidarity with minority communities, beginning with our students,” said Dr. Lewis Reich, president of SCO. “We must continue to prioritize support and resources devoted to expanding opportunities for applicants from a wider variety of backgrounds and experiences. Dr. Dumas Pepper achieved great success in recruiting a more diverse student body, and I’m confident that she is the right person to enhance connections across our campus.”
Protests and calls for equality erupting across the United States in recent weeks moved SCO to encourage a more open dialogue among current students and explore internal opportunities to provide critical academic and social support for the students. Pepper’s expanded leadership will allow her and the college to better implement the voiced suggestions from faculty and students. Though diversity is emphasized in the recruitment process, the college found more opportunities to enhance inclusivity among students during their four years of study.
“Optometry has evolved immensely over the past decades,” Pepper said. “We’ve seen shifts in gender and a wider range of backgrounds among students pursuing this degree. However, we found opportunities for our students to learn more about each other’s backgrounds and heritage. We are working with students to gather their input and address this gap by inviting honest conversations, increasing student advising and adapting curricula.”
Pepper will drive the planning and implementation of various initiatives alongside the department of academic support services. She will also serve as an adviser to support a stronger campus presence for SCO’s diversity-oriented student organizations, such as Spectrum for LGBTQ optometry students and the National Optometric Student Association for students of minority and underserved communities.
MADISON, MS – Aaliyah Cole, a 2017 graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, has been named a 2020 recipient of the Mississippi Vision Foundation’s (MVF) Helen Allison St. Clair scholarship for students of optometry.
“We are proud to have a young woman of Ms. Cole’s character, scholarship and leadership to represent the future of the field of optometry as the recipient of the St. Clair scholarship,” said Dr. Kimberly Ragan, president of the Foundation.
Cole, a third-year student at Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, is a graduate of Jefferson County High School where she was Valedictorian and the University of Southern Mississippi earning a BS in Biology, Summa Cum Laude, while minoring in Chemistry. She was inducted into the USM Student Hall of Fame. Cole serves as Vice-President of the Mississippi Optometric Student Association, and is a member of the American Optometric Student Association, the National Optometric Student Association and is Chief Editor of SCO’s yearbook. She was selected to participate in the Mississippi Rural Scholars program designed to cultivate well-trained physicians to practice in Mississippi.
“It is an honor to be a 2020 recipient of the Helen St. Clair Scholarship. Growing up in an underserved community, I witnessed a deficit in healthcare and eye care and decided that I wanted to help meet the need. As a current third-year optometry student, I am excited about returning to Mississippi to serve others and provide eye care to those in need. I am truly grateful for this opportunity,” Cole said.
Cole, the daughter of Beatrice and Biven Cole Sr. of Fayette, said her passion for optometry will allow her to serve her community. “Through optometry, I can make an impactful difference in the lives of children with vision-associated learning disabilities that, with proper intervention, could set them on a different path through life. Additionally, I can provide a way for someone who was once unemployed because of vision impairments, to be able to provide for their family with the aid of vision correction and corrective devices. The thought of opening up the world to a child who has had difficulty seeing since a young age or making it possible for a grandparent to see the beautiful faces of their grandchildren motivates me to work hard in my optometric education. In short, I chose optometry to offer the gift of sight to the world and to open the door for endless possibilities,” she said.
The Helen Allison St. Clair Optometry Scholarship was established to honor the memory of long-time Mississippi Optometric Association (MOA) Executive Director Helen Allison St. Clair. Mrs. St. Clair served the MOA for more than 28 years and had a passion for optometry students and doctors. Her family and friends want her passion and service to optometry to live on in the awarding of annual stipends from the scholarship established in her name at the Mississippi Vision Foundation.
Dear SCO family,
Recent events have prompted soul searching and reflection across the country about some of the challenges that we face as Americans. From disparities in healthcare that have affected large segments of our community in the COVID-19 pandemic, to last week's tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and too many others, the deep hurt should be apparent to us all.
Optometrists choose a career in health care because they really want to help others. How we, as an institution, view the world around us helps shape our values. Those values were defined to reflect our desire to impact others through the important work we do. We train our students to listen to their patients, to notice changes in their health, and how to treat each other with professionalism and compassion.
As some of you know, SCO is one of only 23 optometry schools in the nation, so a sizable amount of this country's residents receive their vision care from an SCO graduate. We must work together to make sure that we do everything we can as individuals, and as an institution, to ensure that we don't exist in a silo. We shouldn't fool ourselves into thinking that there are those among us who have not been impacted by the need for changes in how society treats segments of our fellow citizens. As the son of a Holocaust survivor, I know firsthand what hate can do to families and individuals.
Just last month, SCO's first female African-American graduate passed away. Dr. Adedayo Olympio was a 1983 graduate who practiced in Springdale, Maryland. The fact that it took 51 years after SCO was founded for her to become SCO's first female African-American graduate should tell you how slowly change can take place. As a society, we cannot continue hoping that more changes occur without us doing our part to help ensure that all Americans achieve equality in the 21st century.
Think how disturbing it would be if one of your coworkers or fellow students were to be targeted with excessive force or treated unjustly because of their race in violation of equal protection under the law. Many of the people in our lives have experienced fear and anger, and we must do a better job in hearing them and understanding them.
SCO remains committed to providing an inclusive, safe, and welcoming community for everyone. As part of our values, we promote respect and integrity. Please do your part to help change hearts and minds so we can be part of the solution. We use the term "family" a lot at SCO. Just remember that when one member of our family hurts, we all do. Let's all do our part to make sure that all members of our family feel heard and are respected equally.
Thank you all for caring,
The Class of 2021 recently participated in the Spring 2020 Continuous Quality Improvement Project where students work on problem-solving exercises to recommend clinical care ideas that can be implemented in future workplaces.
Dr. Jim Venable, Vice President for Clinical Programs said: "This year's submissions were the most impressive of any year thus far, so much so that I have decided to increase the award amounts in order that each member of the respective teams can benefit more."
Dr. Venable's team of judges announced these winners for the Spring 2020 Continuous Quality Improvement Project:
First Place, splitting a $1,500 prize for their proposal for improving the patient experience in Contact Lens: Student Doctors Daniel Bloemer, Mario Martinez, Noelle Schmitter-Schrier, Greyson Ramos, and Sara Stockwell.
Second Place, splitting a $1,000 prize for "Extreme Makeover - TEC Optical Edition": Student Doctors Autumn Killop, Emily Laga, Samantha Lee, Michelle Nagro, Casey Oltman, and John Tompkins.
Third Place, splitting a $500 prize for Improving Contact Lens Insertion and Removal Training: "Student Doctors Michael Sayonh, Lindsey McCallon, Emily Barron, Trevor Smith, and Bret Brill.
Dr. Lisa Wade, who teaches the Practice Management course, added about the experience: "Given the abrupt and significant changes optometric practices have undergone in the last seven weeks, I think it will be a skill that you will have occasion to use early and often in your optometric career."