Boynton Beach, FL — (May 22, 2024) — — Latinos en Optometry, a non-profit association dedicated to gaining a broader representation of Latinos and Spanish-speaking professionals within the optometry and larger eye care professional community, today announced the launch of its redesigned website and new domain name, www.latinosenoptometry.org.

According to U.S. Census Bureau projections, by 2040, one of every four Americans will be of Latin-American culture.1 Yet, Latinos are not represented in the eyecare workforce at rates comparable to their share of the general population. Currently, only 5.2% of U.S. optometrists are Latino, according to research from the career resource site Zippia.2

Furthermore, research shows that more than half of Hispanic adults have encountered a communication barrier in the health care system, and they turn to a variety of formal and informal sources for help in overcoming these obstacles.

“These and other findings demonstrate an ever-increasing need for Latino (and Spanish-speaking) Doctors of Optometry, Opticians, and other eye care professionals,” says Latinos en Optometry co-founder Diana Canto-Sims, OD.  “A preponderance of scientific evidence supports the importance of increasing racial and ethnic diversity among healthcare professionals. Greater diversity among health professionals is associated with improved access to care for racial and ethnic minority patients, greater patient choice and satisfaction, better patient–provider communication, and better educational experiences for all students in training.”

The newly designed site features information and resources for prospective and current optometry students, including a series of archived and upcoming free webinars, supported by Transitions Optical, in which Latinos en Optometry Board members share their experiences and offer advice to support and inspire students to consider a career in Optometry. “We need to expose more students to potential careers in Optometry so they can see how it might fit into their passions, interests, skills, and lifestyle and career aspirations,” says Howard Purcell, OD, FAAO, president and CEO, New England College of Optometry and one of the co-founders of Latinos en Optometry.

“Eyecare professionals who want to serve Hispanics and grow their practices must become culturally competent,” stresses Dr. Canto-Sims.  “Doctors who speak the same native language and can relate to the cultural experiences of their patients have been linked to higher patient outcomes3.” Eye care provider members are listed in Latinos en Optometry’s “Find an Eye Care Professional” section to help patients find eye care professionals in their area.  Providers are able to note if doctors and/or staff at their practice speak Spanish.   

According to the National Eye Institute, the Latino population has some of the highest rates of eye disease and visual impairment caused by eye diseases, such as diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma, and a significant number may be unaware of their eye disease. The site’s Patients & Caregivers section offers some general information and resources for these and other commonly reported problems.

Membership is free to all students interested in a career in Optometry or related eye care profession, those currently enrolled in a certified college of optometry, allied health profession, education, and rehabilitation program or in an optometric residency or a fellowship program. Low-cost professional membership is also available, with discounts to first-year practitioners and retired professionals who wish to support the activities of the association.  All 2024 memberships will run through December 31, 2025.

Diversity influences care and affects outcomes to achieve everyone’s optimum vision and eye health. Latinos en Optometry is dedicated to helping current and future eye care professionals deliver eye health care in a culturally mindful manner through ongoing education and resources.

For more information and to become a member, visit www.latinosenoptometry.org.

References

  1. “Connecting Across Cultures: How to Reach Out to Hispanics,” Review of Optometry,    https://www.reviewofoptometry.com/article/connecting-across-cultures-how-to-reach-out-to-hispanics). Accessed November 8, 2023
  2. Optometrist Demographics and Statistics in the US, https://www.zippia.com/optometrist-jobs/demographics/ Accessed November 8, 2023
  3. Takeshita J, Wang S, Loren AW, et al. Association of Racial/Ethnic and Gender Concordance Between Patients and Physicians With Patient Experience Ratings. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(11):e2024583. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.24583  https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2772682