Each issue, Dr. Mark Colip proposes a new topic to members of the ICO family. With the help of noted alumni, he puts a spotlight on important people at ICO and across the profession of optometry.

"Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has been a major topic we have explored in-depth this year. One of the many strengths of ICO’s educational program has always been the diversity of our patients and the varied pathologies we see regularly that enhance our students' experience. Anyone observing ICO’s entering classes over the years has noticed an increase in the diversity of our student body. Recently, I heard an employee say, “at ICO, we celebrate our diversity every day.” In this column, I try to share with you various perspectives, from respected individuals, on the issues at hand. I hope you enjoy reading the perspectives of key ICO alumni on this important topic."

Tracy Matchinski, OD '95, FAAO

Assistant Professor Illinois College of Optometry

“Why are diversity, equity, and inclusion

important for ICO?”

DEI (Diversity Equity & Inclusion) is complex and my understanding and application of all aspects of DEI are ongoing. As an optometrist and faculty member, I know it is critical to aggressively apply all aspects of DEI at ICO. By doing this, we can inspire ICO students to provide the highest level of care and reach their professional goals.

DEI is important throughout the whole ICO process: awareness of optometry as profession, recruitment to ICO, ability to attend ICO, ability to participate at ICO and become an OD. The more an organization embraces DEI, the better that organization will be. Diverse backgrounds and life experiences will energize and enrich discussions and contribute to a better functioning organization. For ICO, this means a more dynamic education environment. Embracing DEI will contribute to a healthier campus culture, academic success and career readiness. Additionally, ICO needs to understand challenges students may be facing given their race/background and provide assistance as well as paths for success. It is important to recognize both barriers and advantages to create equity for all students. I am pleased to see ICO devoting time and resources to make this happen at ICO.

“How does DEI impact the healthcare that we teach and deliver?” 

DEI impacts how we teach and how we provide care. It is important to help ICO students really think about professional opportunities and consider possibilities.

This may be having discussions about applying for a residency, providing a type of care when they graduate or thinking about research opportunities. Diverse representation and inclusion can help each of our students to see opportunities available in practice, research, policy development, industry, and education. DEI is important in clinical care. Patients must be able to access and embrace their care. We need to show students how to work with all patients, be aware of what barriers patients may face and know ways to help patients navigate those barriers. In clinic, it can also be inspiring young patients to consider optometry as a profession. If a young patient is working with a student of the same race, that young patient can see the possibility of becoming an eye doctor.

Nana Owusu, OD '08

President Alumni Council


“Why are diversity, equity and inclusion important for ICO?”

This is a topic that affects us all. Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are concepts rooted in the idea of caring for one another equally; it isn’t political, it’s humanitarian. As it relates to optometry, DEI allows for sharing of our skillset with our communities by providing all in need an opportunity to enjoy high-level ocular health care in an environment that is welcoming to all.

In order to accomplish this, it’s important that we embrace the differences that make us special rather than ignoring them. Effective growth and development in diversity, equity and inclusion at ICO will yield a stronger team of caring student clinicians, staff, faculty members and administrators with a wide variety of talents and experiences. Ultimately, this will lead to a greater ability for us to care for our diverse communities of patients, and allow for a more comfortable learning environment at the college.

“How does DEI impact the healthcare that we teach and deliver?”

It has been well documented that the representation of people of color across medical professional programs does not parallel the beautiful diversity of the United States. Further to this, the healthcare disparity is obvious and is ripe for strong efforts for repair. As the premier optometric institution, ICO has an opportunity to lead by example from the student to administrative level in making steps toward bridging the clear gap. Each of our community deserves a high level of care and with an improved understanding of the special differences we have, as humans, clinicians will have an opportunity to improve the patient experience at all levels.

Thomas Elton, OD '11

Elton Eyecare Inc. Edina, Minnesota

“Why are diversity, equity, and inclusion

important for ICO?”

DEI is important to ICO on two fundamental levels. The first being ICO can act as a pure incubation hub to attract, develop, and retain diverse talent and offer them the opportunities to serve the diverse communities that they represent. As an alumnus, I have been especially proud of President Colip and Dr. Nanu Owusu’s efforts in both fundraising and naming that our institution can do better around positive change in relation to DEI.

Secondly, having diverse individuals studying at and serving at ICO enhances the school by allowing it to foster higher levels of cultural and emotional intelligence. When we attract students and staff that are representative of the communities we serve, we leverage our individual diversity of thought and experience to collectively develop our entire ICO community.

“How does DEI impact the healthcare that we teach and deliver?” 

DEI underpins most aspects of our patient care delivery. First, ensuring we have the providers who look like you, sound like you, and share your lived experiences providing you care is critical to making patients feel comfortable and represented. For example, as an LGBTQ provider, I know that my LGBTQ patients in particular feel more comfortable sharing personal information and trusting me with their care — more so than another provider who may not share their identity. 

Patient care is at the forefront of what we do, we deliver patient value. Our patients are not monolithic. Our patients come from all different backgrounds: ethnic, racial, cultural, educational, religious, gender, sexual orientation, etc. In order for us to ensure we can serve their needs from a medical perspective as well as a personal engagement perspective, we need to represent them. We need to be representative of them. And that’s why it’s so critical as we focus on recruiting and educating up-and-coming doctors, that we keep the end state in mind: patient care and how we are developing doctors to actually serve the needs of

a fundamentally changing society (ethnic, racial, etc).


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