At the IU School of Optometry, we’ve been celebrating Black History Month. This is a great opportunity for us to honor Black optometrists and to highlight their lasting contributions to the profession. As always, IUSO’s alumni have opened doors and created a rich legacy for all optometrists.
Here are some of our alumni’s notable firsts.
Charles Comer, BS/MS’60, of East Chicago, IN
Dr. Comer was the first African American graduate of IU School of Optometry and the first African American optometrist in East Chicago.
Edwin C. Marshall, BA’68, BS’70, OD’71, MS’79, of Bloomington, IN
Professor Emeritus of IU School of Optometry
Dr. Marshall was the founding chair of the Indiana State Department of Health’s Minority Health Advisory Committee and the first optometrist appointed to the Indiana Interagency State Council on Black and Minority Health. He was the first optometrist elected president of the Indiana Public Health Association, and then became the first optometrist to be elected chair of the executive board of the American Public Health Association. Dr. Marshall was the first African American tenured full professor of optometry in the U.S. and the first optometrist to serve as a vice president of Indiana University. He was the first African American elected president of the Indiana Optometric Association and honored with the Indiana Optometry Lifetime Achievement Award. He also was the first optometrist to receive the Indiana State Health Commissioner Award for Excellence in Public Health and the Indiana University President’s Medal for Excellence.
Melvin D. Shipp, BS’70, OD’72, of Goodyear, AZ
Dean Emeritus of Ohio State University College of Optometry
Dr. Shipp is the first optometrist to be president of the American Public Health Association; awarded a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellowship; and to become honorary fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health (London, England). Dr. Shipp is the first African American to be hired as a full-time faculty member at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry (UABSO); elected president of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO); to serve as president of the National Board of Examiners in Optometry; and to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO).
Ollie Powe III, OD’77, of Mobile, AL
Dr. Powe was the first African American to establish a private practice of optometry in the state of Alabama.
Linda D. Johnson, OD’78, of Jackson, MS
Director of Optometry Services at Jackson-Hinds
Dr. Johnson is the first African American female optometrist in Mississippi.
Juanakee Adams, OD’80, of Fairfield, AL
Owner, Adams Eye Care / Founder of the 20/20 Vision Explosion conference
Dr. Adams is the first African American female optometrist licensed in the state of Alabama.
Paula Harmon Boone, OD’80, of Chesapeake, VA
Director of the National Optometric Association’s “Visioning the Future” HBCU Mentorship Program and NOA trustee
Dr. Boone is the first African American female licensed to practice optometry in the state of Virginia.
Gloria Christopher Jennings, OD’80, of Indianapolis, IN
Owner, Gloria C. Jennings OD, PC
Dr. Jennings is the first African American female optometrist licensed in the state of Indiana.
Vera E. Burns, OD’82, of Atlanta, GA
Owner, Vera E. Burns, OD
Dr. Burns is the first African American female optometrist in Atlanta, GA. Also, she is the first woman and African American optometrist appointed to the Georgia State Board of Optometry.
Betty J. Harville, OD’83, of Eads, TN
Professor Emerita at Southern College of Optometry
Dr. Harville is the first African American female optometrist in the state of Tennessee. She is also the first African American female professor at a U.S. optometry college and the first female optometrist to achieve the title of full professor at Southern College of Optometry.
Do you know of other IUSO alumni notable firsts not listed above? Let us know in the comments section.