Article Date: 11/1/2000

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 mid-70s.

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 digits.

"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:

         Dedication

         Innovation

         Vision

         Achievement.

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 trend."

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 mentoring.

Come one, come all

Optometric Management will host a reception at the Academy of Optometry meeting this year to welcome anyone interested in joining DIVA.

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



Optometric Management, Issue: November 2000