Warby Parker gift establishes scholarship to increase Black representation in optometry

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New England College of Optometry (NECO) announced today that eyewear brand Warby Parker has established a first-of-its-kind scholarship fund at NECO with the goal of increasing Black representation in the field of optometry.

One of the largest single donations from a vision care business in recent history, this generous $440,000 gift establishes the Warby Parker Scholarship to be awarded to two Black scholars and covers tuition for the College’s four-year doctor of optometry program. Consistent with NECO’s mission, recipients must exhibit leadership potential and have the desire to impact the field of optometry. The Warby Parker Scholarship fund is part of a larger joint diversity and inclusion initiative between the brand and the institution.

The Warby Parker gift comes at a time of heightened awareness nationally about the need to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment – everywhere. Only 2.7% of optometrists currently identify as Black, and the industry has seen historically low Black representation due to lack of awareness and exposure. NECO recently signed on to the 13% Promise, a pledge led by Black Eyecare Perspective (BEP), which asks for greater equity and Black representation in eye care companies, colleges of Optometry and optometry boards of trustees. As part of their larger Racial Equity Strategy, Warby Parker’s efforts aim to promote racial equity at Warby Parker and externally within the optometry industry at large. More specifically, the brand has committed to ten specific goals, one of which is to increase Black representation in the field of optometry and in the technology sector.

“Warby Parker is making an investment in the future of the eye care industry and our shared commitment to social responsibility,” states Howard Purcell, OD, President and CEO at NECO. “The Warby Parker Scholarship is part of a broader effort at NECO to attract a more diverse student body and to develop future leaders who will impact healthcare outcomes and the profession.”

“We should all be taking concrete action to change our respective industries,” says Neil Blumenthal, Co-Founder and Co-CEO at Warby Parker. “This scholarship fund is a fundamental step in our effort to increase Black representation throughout the field of optometry, and we’re excited to support the New England College of Optometry in this necessary work.”

Dr. Pratil Lal, Director of Vision Services at Warby Parker, adds, “As healthcare professionals, we can collectively help reduce health outcome disparities, if we can empathize with patients’ cultural backgrounds and beliefs. We can only achieve this by working with institutions like NECO to create a more diverse talent pool within the industry.”

This Scholarship fund comes on the heels of Warby Parker and NECO’s work earlier this year to launch Warby Parker’s Pupils Project program in Boston, which eliminates the barriers that students face getting proper vision and eye care. Along with Boston Public Schools, Prevent Blindness and 2020 On-site, Warby Parker worked with NECO to help Boston Public School nurses ensure all students participating in the pilot program received vision screenings, follow up care and eyewear.