Less than 7 percent of ophthalmologists are underrepresented
minorities, compared with 30.7 percent of the U.S. population. But the
Minority Ophthalmology Mentoring (MOM) program has set its sights on
closing that gap.
By helping new and prospective medical students from underrepresented
minorities in medicine become more aware of opportunities in
ophthalmology, and more prepared to pursue eye care as a specialty, they
hope to increase the number of competitive minority ophthalmology
residency applicants. With that mission front and center, the program
was created as the result of a partnership between the American Academy
of Ophthalmology (AAO) and Association of University Professors of
After completing a two-year pilot, MOM officially welcomed its
inaugural class in 2018. This annual opportunity gives participants
exposure to specialized guidance in medical career planning and
networking with successful ophthalmology residents and practitioners. In
addition, participants benefit from a variety of educational resources,
including practical experience with surgical procedures as well as the
opportunity to learn more about how ophthalmologists impact community
health by preventing vision loss from diseases such as diabetes and
MOM welcomes applications from underrepresented minority students who
identify as black or African American, Hispanic or Latinx, or Native
American (American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian). The program
is designed for students approaching their first or second year of
medical school as well as college graduates entering their senior year. A
significant highlight of the MOM experience for participants is
attending AAO’s annual meeting. The deadline for the program is
typically June 15, and approximately 30 to 35 students are accepted. For
answers to questions, contact email@example.com.
Jane Aguirre is director of the MOM program and the AAO’s vice president for membership and alliances.
How did the MOM program get started? The idea came
from two African American ophthalmologists who are part of our
leadership at the American Academy of Ophthalmology. The disparity we
see in this medical field hasn’t changed in a number of years, and our
board recognized the need to do something about it. So we partnered with
the Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology and launched
our pilot program.
How does the program work, and what are participants asked to do?
Each student is matched with an ophthalmologist mentor, which we try to
do along the lines of gender, race, and ethnicity. It’s the
responsibility of each participant to remain in contact with their
mentor as they become better oriented to the profession and subject
matter. They’re also expected to attend our annual meeting, where we
have a chance to familiarize students with all facets of ophthalmology.
This is a high-tech specialty, and we give students exposure to some of
the latest advances, tools, and procedures. There’s also an opportunity
for hands-on experience. Of course, participants hear firsthand from
ophthalmologists and residents about what they love about the
Why is it important that students apply for the program as
they enter their first or second year in medical school — or even as a
college senior? Ophthalmology isn’t typically a rotation for
medical students — they may get a week or a couple of days, or it’s an
elective course. So students often don’t get exposed to the field until
later in medical school. But ophthalmology is an early residency match,
so students need to know about it early in their medical education.
Their Step 1 exam results (for the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination)
at the end of their second year are an important consideration for an
ophthalmology residency program. That’s why we need to reach them early
and help them prepare for a good Step 1 score.
Does the mentoring and support continue beyond the initial mentoring and annual event?
As they build their professional network, students remain in contact
with us, check in with their mentors, and continue to connect with their
peers in the program. We’ve also begun to identify a second mentor for
them at their own institutions, which can generate greater opportunities
to shadow, do research, and gain insights. It’s all about helping these
students get into an ophthalmology residency that’s right for them, and
then succeed as practitioners.
The nonprofit Technology Student Association (TSA) is dedicated
exclusively to middle school and high school students engaged in STEM.
More than 250,000 students from across the United States are members of
TSA, and its work is supported by educators, parents, and business
leaders who believe in the importance of technological literacy and STEM
TSA is widely known for helping members learn through competitive
events, leadership opportunities, intracurricular activities, and
community service. Its competitions take place at the state level and
culminate with the National TSA Conference hosted annually in a
different city. There are more than 60 middle and high school events
every year where members can apply STEM skills in innovative ways,
working individually or as teams.
The competitions encompass a diverse range of STEM categories,
including biotechnology design, career prep, digital photography,
dragster design, flight, medical technology, software development, and
video game design. Guided by the motto “learning to lead in a technical
world,” TSA hosts events structured to foster individual growth as well
as leadership skills.
TSA members come from more than 2,000 schools in 48 states, and 39
percent are from underrepresented groups. The organization reports that
100 percent of TSA members are likely to graduate from high school, with
approximately 75 percent pursuing a college education. In addition,
more than 2,500 teachers nationwide serve as TSA advisors.
AISES member Abigail Reigner, Comanche, is a high school senior
in Boyertown, Penn., who is enthusiastic about the positive influence of
TSA on her education and career ambitions.
Tell us about yourself and your background. I’ve
been very interested in technology and engineering since middle school.
TSA has been a part of my life since I was young. My dad is a middle
school TSA advisor, so I was involved with the organization long before I
joined as a member.
What skills have you developed as a TSA member? Is there an important accomplishment you can share?
TSA has taught me a variety of skills, such as CAD (computeraided
design), scriptwriting, and woodworking. They have events for everyone,
from artistic categories like 3-D animation to more technical fields,
like webmaster. One of my biggest accomplishments in TSA was being
elected the 2018–2019 Pennsylvania TSA president. I worked hard to
become president, and I am ecstatic to be giving back to the
organization that has taught me so much.
How has TSA influenced your educational and career path, and what will you do next?
One of my very first TSA projects was “Go Green Manufacturing,” where
my team and I designed and built our own stools. It was a pivotal
moment, and helped me realize that I want to be an engineer one day.
After graduating, I plan to attend a four-year college and pursue a
degree in civil engineering. Ultimately, I would like to earn my
master’s and PhD in engineering.
What else would you like to tell our readers about TSA?
TSA is a great club that promotes STEM skills and careers, much like
AISES. It is a unique way to spark young people’s interest in STEM
before college, and is a ton of fun. I would love to see many other
Native Americans benefit from this organization the way I have.
The Society of American Indian Government Employees (SAIGE) wants you
to know about its National Training Program’s Native Youth Track, an
annual opportunity for students to learn firsthand about careers with
the federal government. The program offers participants a forum for
meeting American Indian and Alaska Native federal employees and
developing an in-depth understanding of the positive role that Native
employees can play in their agencies.
SAIGE has designed its Youth Track to help Native American youth
realize their full potential by providing leadership in their
communities and schools, continuing their education to earn college
degrees, and ultimately seeking a career in the government sector. The
curriculum’s activities include leadership training, team-building
exercises, events with Native speakers, and a cultural reception. After
an initial series of information sessions, the Youth Track integrates
with the broader National Training Program to offer new opportunities
for education, mentorship, and networking. The culmination of the
program is a national career fair that includes recruiters from schools
and government agencies.
The Youth Track program fully funds applicants who are accepted. To
be eligible, Native students should be at least 18 years old and no more
than 25 years old as of June 1 of the year they are applying; enrolled
and in good standing at an accredited high school, college, or
university for the upcoming school year; and interested in earning a
professional degree and the possibility of pursuing a career with the
federal government. For more information, contact SAIGE Youth Program
Director JoAnn Brant at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SAIGE board member Lori Windle was instrumental in the
development of SAIGE as a federal employee and was the first chair of
the founding board of directors in 2002. She is Anishinaabe, and is a
citizen of the White Earth Nation enrolled in the Minnesota Chippewa
Tribe. The SAIGE vice-chair, Duane Matt, is a geologist with the
Division of Energy and Mineral Development. He’s a member of the
Confederated Salish Kootenai and Pend D’Oreille tribes located on the
Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana.
How did SAIGE get started, and what inspired the Youth Track? Windle:
In starting SAIGE, we wanted to increase the diversity of recruitment
and retention efforts to build a better federal workforce. We felt that
the more of us who were there, the better the decision-making would be
when it comes to tribes. Of course, a key part of that mission is
recruiting young people who are looking to expand their career options —
of which there are so many in federal service. The EPA (Environmental
Protection Agency) sponsored the first year of the Youth Track in 2005,
and our program director, JoAnn Brant from the EPA — who really helped
us get the program off the ground — continues to develop the program.
How have you seen the program help participants develop as students and individuals? Matt:
A number of our participants come from rather isolated places, and the
training allows them an opportunity to really come out of their shell
and discover new possibilities. We see them develop in a wide range of
areas, everything from interpersonal skills to public speaking. They
learn an amazing amount in just a few days.Windle: I would
add that although our participants are from a variety of backgrounds,
once they come together and engage in training activities and exercises,
they start to realize how much they have in common. Then they begin to
operate as a team and really support one another. Often, they stay
connected beyond the program, and some even come back the next year to
assist as student leaders.
What else would you say is distinct about the program? Matt:
One of the things that’s unique and valuable about the program is that
we rotate it among various Native communities across the country. The
travel alone can be an incredible learning experience for our youth
participants — a different location, climate, and culture every year.Windle:
Also, by changing locations, we expose our attendees to different
tribal communities and customs, which offers an additional layer of
educational benefit. We’ve hosted the event in a real diversity of
locations, including Tulsa, Green Bay, Scottsdale, Spokane, Denver, Fort
Lauderdale, Traverse City, and Mohegan Sun.
What else stands out for you about this opportunity? Windle:
This is an opportunity that can open doors. The power of peer support
can’t be underestimated; our participants pull together and cheer each
other on, whether they’re pushing to continue their education or
considering a job they may fear is out of reach. Meeting and interacting
with Native professionals can make a difference in students’ lives.
I’ve seen shy and introverted students come into their own, and people
uncertain about their future take big steps. Many participants establish
connections they may keep up for years; others leave with job leads or
even offers. I would add that federal employment doesn’t mean leaving
home for good. There are many federal agencies that serve Native
communities. We see people earn degrees and then serve their local
communities in meaningful ways. There are all kinds of possibilities,
and that’s what we hope participants will realize by experiencing this