Dr. Marvin R. Poston Leadership Award Presented to Exemplary Optometry Students

Five awardees honored for service to community and optometry profession


RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif. – VSP Vision and the National Optometric Association (NOA) are proud to recognize five students with the 2022 Dr. Marvin R. Poston Leadership Award. Named after the trailblazing optometrist, the award is presented annually to current National Optometric Student Association (NOSA) members who uphold Dr. Poston’s commitment to leadership, service and diversity. The recipients were recently honored during the NOA convention and each deserving student received a $4,000 scholarship.

“I'm deeply grateful to VSP Vision for its recognition and support of our future African American optometrists,” said Marlene Bell, the daughter of Dr. Poston. “The Dr. Marvin R. Poston Leadership Award recognizes who Dr. Poston was as a leader in the profession. Likewise, the award recognizes our future African American optometrists who have excelled academically and as student leaders. Each year, our students continue to amaze me, and I couldn't be more honored to present these awards in his name.”

The 2022 Dr. Marvin R. Poston Leadership Award Recipients

  • Babirekere Bakama, Class of 2025, Inter American University of Puerto Rico School of Optometry
  • Ade Owolewa, Class of 2024, New England College of Optometry
  • Brittany Martin, Class of 2023, University of Alabama School of Optometry 
  • Alexis Abernathy, Class of 2023, Illinois College of Optometry
  • Chinelo Onyeador, OD, Class of 2022, Kentucky College of Optometry and NOSA Executive Board President

“It's an honor to be selected as a Dr. Marvin R. Poston Leadership Award recipient,” said Martin. “It is my heart's desire to be an advocate for not only the field of optometry but also African Americans who aspire to be an optometrist. I look forward to following in the footsteps of Dr. Poston and practicing in a private practice setting serving underserved individuals in rural areas.”

In a career that spanned more than 60 years, Dr. Poston’s (1914-2002) achievements include becoming the first Black American admitted to the University of California, Berkeley, School of Optometry, and the first Black American licensed to practice on the West Coast.

Dr. Poston was named Optometrist of the Year by the American Optometric Association in 1961 and the California Optometric Association bestowed the same honor in 1972. It was the first time either association recognized a Black American with optometrist of the year laurels. As the only Black American who co-founded VSP Vision in 1955, then named California Vision Services, Dr. Poston was a champion for eye care and eye health and was elected president in 1963.

In 2019, the Dr. Marvin R. Poston Foundation, NOA and VSP Vision established the Visioning the Future mentorship program, a strategy designed to identify African and Black American students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and foster their professional and career advancement in the field of optometry. Last summer, Dr. Poston was posthumously inducted into the National Optometry Hall of Fame and earlier this month, his legacy and passion for philanthropic work was commemorated by VSP Vision with an honorarium reception.

“Each of these students’ leadership and service to the optometry profession exemplifies the values of the Dr. Marvin R. Poston Foundation, NOA and VSP Vision,” said Jarrett Johnson, OD, MPH, VSP Vision board member and tenured NOA member. “I applaud these individuals who are the next generation of optometrists that will lead the industry with their compassion and ingenuity.”

Learn more about VSP Vision’s ongoing commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity

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About VSP Vision
At VSP Vision, our purpose is to empower human potential through sight. As the first and only national not-for-profit vision benefits company, this is what drives everything we do. For nearly 70 years, VSP has been the leader in health-focused vision care. Every day, the people that power our complementary businesses (VSP® Vision Care, Marchon Eyewear, Inc., Visionworks®, Eyefinity®, Eyeconic®, VSP Optics, and VSP Ventures) work together to create a world where everyone can bring their best vision to life. That means providing affordable access to eye care and eyewear for more than 80 million members through a network of more than 41,000 doctors. And, it means expanding access to vision care to those disadvantaged by income, distance, or disaster. Through VSP Eyes of Hope®, more than 3.6 million people in need have received no-cost eye care and eyewear. Learn more about how we’re reinvesting in greater vision, health, and opportunities for all at vspvision.com.

About the National Optometric Association 
The National Optometric Association (NOA) was founded in 1969 in Richmond, Virginia, as a not-for-profit corporation. The NOA has been a leader in the cause of improving the quality and accessibility of eye care in minority and other historically underserved communities. Our mission of “advancing the visual health of minority populations,” through recruitment of minority students into schools and colleges of optometry, providing scholarships, and mentoring is a shared priority and commitment with VSP Vision and the Dr. Marvin R. Poston Foundation. The development of the Visioning the Future Mentorship Program continues Dr. Poston’s legacy of helping the next generation of minority optometrists.