Candid conversations between Optometric Office’s Eric L. Bran, OD, and leading optical executives about their product strategies.

Jennifer Smythe, OD, MS, FAAO, is the Dean of the Pacific University College of Optometry and the first woman president of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO).  A graduate of Pacific University, she completed her residency in contact lenses at the college, as well as her Masters of Science in Clinical Optometry. Here, she talks about her vision for ODs.

Eric L. Bran: What has becoming the first female president of ASCO meant for you?

Jennifer Smythe: I’m honored to represent the optometry schools and colleges at a national level and be part of conversations that include meeting the needs of the current and emerging students. As the demographics of the students have changed and more women enter the profession, it is a natural progression that women move into leadership roles, and I am privileged to serve in that capacity.

ERIC: One of your priorities is to continue to promote the optometric profession and to increase the applicant pool. Can you update us on the progress?

JENNIFER: In September 2011, ASCO and the AOA began the joint project on further developing a robust, diverse, and highly qualified national applicant pool.

The first phase of the project consisted of comprehensive research: an environmental competitive market scan, a historical applicant trend analysis, and an assessment of the marketing materials of the schools and colleges of optometry.

The next phase was the development of a printed booklet and a redesigned ASCO website. The colorful and engaging True Stories booklet conveys to prospective students true stories about how optometrists improve the lives of real people significantly and immediately through the gift of sight.

As with the booklet, the redesign of the ASCO website is in line with the overarching objectives of the association’s long-term marketing goals, which include promoting the Doctor of Optometry program to a broad range of audiences; increasing awareness and understanding of the profession and ASCO; and increasing the number, quality, and diversity of applicants to the schools and colleges.

Last fall, more than 900 prospective applicants and representatives from the schools and colleges of optometry participated in ASCO’s first virtual optometry fair. The event was an opportunity for students to ask questions from the comfort of their own computers as they consider whether optometry is the right profession for them.

Future initiatives include the revamping of the “Each One Reach One” practitioner program, a spring email campaign/virtual fair, and increasing our social media presence.

ERIC: How do you feel Obamacare will affect the profession going forward?

JENNIFER: As a result of advocacy efforts in Washington and across many states, our legislators understand the critical link between vision and learning. As the primary eyecare provider we will have pivotal roles in providing integrated, interprofessional care. Now, we need to move forward to be part of teams that have elements of shared decision making.

ERIC: What is your key message to other ODs?

JENNIFER: Share what you do with students of all ages. Our data shows that students who enter optometry school were most influenced to pursue our career paths by other doctors of optometry.

Allow aspiring students to observe in your practices and mentor new graduates who enter your communities. Also, if you haven’t connected with your alma mater, attend a function at your home optometry school to hear what exciting changes are occurring, what challenges the students and faculty face, and how you can provide insight, advice, and support.


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