These days, enrollment at most optometry
schools is 50% female or higher � a trend that's not showing signs of slowing
any time soon.
In fact, for the '98/'99 school year for the
17 schools of optometry, about 54% of students were female; 46% were male,
according to the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry.
This is a far different environment when Jan
Jurkus, O.D., M.B.A., F.A.A.O., graduated as the only woman in her class in the
Carol Schwartz, O.D., M.B.A., F.A.A.O., had
a similar experience when she attended optometry school in the late '70s. Her
class comprised about 150 students, of whom only 10 to 15 were females -- and
this was the first class in which female students numbered in the double
"We were such an anomaly," relates
Dr. Schwartz, "that I vividly recall a lecturer who addressed us in the
audience as the optometry students and their 'visiting wives.'
"Needless to say, this sparked a
walkout of all the female students."
What it's all about
Stories like these and an overall wish to
help other female O.D.s overcome barriers prompted Julie Ryan, O.D., F.A.A.O.,
Linda Casser, O.D., F.A.A.O., and Drs. Jurkus and Schwartz to co-found a new
group dubbed DIVA.
DIVA stands for:
One of the primary goals of this group is to
encourage successful women optometrists to mentor and network with young,
female O.D.s to help them avoid re-inventing the wheel, explain the founders.
�If you look at optometry as a whole, women
have made great strides," says Dr. Schwartz. "We have female deans
and many female professors � but that type of leadership hasn't carried through
to industry, where there still appears to be a glass ceiling, or to key roles
within large practices."
Dr. Jurkus adds, "Although women are
starting to gain leadership positions in the profession, mentoring and sharing
will allow the new generation of women optometrists to continue that
Explains Dr. Schwartz, "It's time for
us, some of the female pioneers in optometry, to give back and begin nurturing
the next generations of female O.D.s."
DIVA members will aim to foster this
Come one, come all
Optometric Management will host a reception
at the Academy of Optometry meeting this year to welcome anyone interested in
We hope you can attend the event on Friday,
Dec. 8, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Disney Beach Club Resort