Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Mission Statement

The University of Iowa Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences is committed to providing the highest quality care to all patients, regardless of age, ethnicity, race, sex, religious background, sexual orientation, gender identity, or ability status. We specifically recognize that a major barrier to equitable healthcare for our patients is systemic and institutional racism.

We are actively working to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in our department, and the residents are central to this effort. As part of this undertaking, we endeavor to critically reflect on the structures and practices that have contributed to the under-representation of minority groups in ophthalmology. With these efforts we hope to inspire and normalize conversation to deconstruct our own implicit biases and raise awareness towards practices that potentially detract from patient health outcomes. 

Departmental Initiatives

The Committee for DEI is actively working towards an integrated anti-racism curriculum. This includes open and closed discussion forums among residents and faculty, guest lectures, a speaker series, and multimedia screenings. The development of these initiatives is ongoing. 

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) has developed a DEI toolkit to assist residents and faculty in improving awareness. The Minority Ophthalmology Mentoring (MOM) program is a partnership between the AAO and Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology that serves to increase DEI in ophthalmology by connecting underrepresented students with mentorship, career planning, networking opportunities and educational resources. Several of the University of Iowa residents are mentors in this program. We are proud of our Department Chair, Dr. Keith Carter, who is the Chair of the MOM Executive Committee and who spearheaded this initiative. To learn more about the program, visit the MOM homepage or listen to a recent podcast with Dr. Carter.

Institutional Initiatives

The University of Iowa is committed to actively engaging in diversity, equity, and inclusion.

View the University wide anti-racism initiatives. Furthermore, the University of Iowa has developed the Anti-Racism Collaborative (ARC) and anyone is encouraged to participate in the ARC conversations. This includes both open forum discussions in addition to speaker series with special guests. View a list of upcoming events. More diversity-related resources can be found in the following links: 


Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Resources

The DEI Committee has curated a listed of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Resources.

The C. S. O’Brien Eye Library hosts discussions on books, movies, lectures, and more that  feature stories about diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. All members of the Department of Ophthalmology are welcome to participate.

Diversity Visiting Student Scholarship

Diversity visiting scholarship graphic OphthalmologyDiversity Visiting Student Scholarship

We are pleased to announce the new Diversity Visiting Student Scholarship, which offers students from URiM backgrounds an opportunity to explore the field of ophthalmology. View more information on the scholarship.

Diversity Visiting Student Scholarship

We are pleased to announce the new Diversity Visiting Student Scholarship, which offers students from URiM backgrounds an opportunity to explore the field of ophthalmology.

Who is eligible?

Fourth year medical students who identify as URiM interested in completing a 4-week away rotation at the University of Iowa Department of Ophthalmology

  • From racial or ethnic groups underrepresented in medicine, including but not limited to Black/African American, Latinx, and Native American, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander
  • Preference is given to those who self-identify as a member of a racial or ethnic population that are underrepresented in ophthalmology relative to their numbers in the general population. We recognize that this definition is only a starting point and does not encompass the myriad of social, political, and economic disparities within medicine. Therefore, individuals who self-identify differently, such as those from economically disadvantaged background, first generation college graduates, etc., are also invited to apply and will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • Must have an up-to-date Visa

Scholarship details

$2,500 unrestricted stipend towards housing, travel, food, and other miscellaneous expenses

Four-week visiting ophthalmology rotation at the University of Iowa, with the opportunities to explore subspecialties such as Cornea and Neuro-ophthalmology, experience call with the current residents, as well as to volunteer at the Iowa City Free Medical Clinic.

Networking opportunities with faculty and current trainees at the University of Iowa

Why was this scholarship created?

In 2020-2021, only 6% of ophthalmology applicants came from URiM backgrounds, a statistic that has not changed significantly in the past three decades. Furthermore, more than 75% of medical students come from the top two household income quintiles according to the AAMC [1].

However, these statistics do not reflect the diverse racial, sexual and gender orientation, religious affiliation, and socioeconomic backgrounds that patients identify with, creating further barriers for minority patients to receive culturally sensitive and clinically competent care.  For example, black and Hispanic patients have an increased prevalence of age-specific blindness [2], and children from less affluent families have a higher incidence of undiagnosed amblyopia and strabismus [3].

Therefore, there is a need to promote diversity within physicians so that patients from all backgrounds can have equitable outcomes. Students from URiM backgrounds face barriers on a systematic level, with one significant barrier being financial [4]. Furthermore, not all medical schools have ophthalmology departments that students can rotate at, limiting their exposure to this specialty. Thus, this scholarship was envisioned to support URiM students in gaining exposure to the field of ophthalmology. 

Application Process:

Please submit your application based on instructions here. In your letter of interest, please tell us why you are interested in this opportunity and detail your commitment to improving ophthalmic care for underserved communities (300 words or less).

  1. AAMC Analysis in Brief. 2018 Oct; 18(5). Available at: https://www.aamc.org/media/9596/download
  2. The Eye Diseases Prevalence Research Group*. Causes and Prevalence of Visual Impairment Among Adults in the United States. Arch Ophthalmol. 2004;122(4):477–485. doi:10.1001/archopht.122.4.477
  3. Stein JD, Andrews C, Musch DC, Green C, Lee PP. Sight-Threatening Ocular Diseases Remain Underdiagnosed Among Children of Less Affluent Families. Health Aff (Millwood). 2016 Aug 1;35(8):1359-66. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2015.1007. PMID: 27503958
  4. Greysen SR, Chen C, Mullan F. A history of medical student debt: observations and implications for the future of medical education. Acad Med. 2011;86(7):840-845.