Update: This story was updated at 4:50 p.m. 10/1/18 to include information about the termination of the Nova/NVI agreement.
Update: This story was updated at 2:45 p.m. 10/1/18 to clarify how Nova faculty and students were informed of the NVI gift and college name change.
Editor’s note: This is a developing story. Check back for updates as the story continues to unfold.
Nova Southeastern University (Nova) College of Optometry and National Vision (NVI) mutually ended their philanthropic agreement. All terms under the agreement, including the renaming of the College of Optometry, have been terminated.
“Although our organizations share many core values—particularly for serving our larger communities—we have come to realize that the issues associated with corporate philanthropy in the health sciences are still too nascent,” says George L. Hanbury II, PhD, Nova’s president and CEO.
“This topic deserves further thought and consideration over time from the broader academic, professional, philanthropic, and alumni communities,” he says. “To that end, the CEO of National Vision and I have mutually agreed to end this philanthropic partnership. We greatly appreciate National Vision’s well-intended philanthropic gift and partnership, and look forward to continuing to explore meaningful collaborations between our two organizations in the future.”
Early last week, Nova Southeastern University (Nova) College of Optometry announced that it accepted a donation from National Vision, Inc. (NVI) that included naming rights for the College of Optometry.
The school will be renamed Nova Southeastern University National Vision College of Optometry for an initial term of 10 years. Nova has planned a naming ceremony for the College of Optometry on Oct. 9.
NVI is the parent company of optical retailers America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses, Eyeglass World, Vista Optical, and Walmart Vision Center.
ODs quickly spread word of the College of Optometry’s name change via social media, expressing shock and anger.
A Facebook group opposing the name change was created to organize ODs who are against the renaming. Nova 2007 alumnus Brandon Cornish, OD, who practices in Fort Lauderdale, FL, started the page.
Dr. Cornish scheduled a town hall meeting for “open dialogue” Tuesday night at the Old Davie School Historical Museum in Davie, FL. In a posting about the meeting on the group Facebook page, Dr. Cornish says he invited Nova administrators to attend.
An online petition was launched to stop the name change. At publication time, the petition included more than 2,500 names.
Outrage is not limited to Nova alumni; ODs around the country are unhappy with Nova administration’s actions, and students at Nova and other optometry schools are protesting.
Concern over NVI
Much of the anger over the name change stems from the participation of NVI.
“The nature of this company is different,” says Alan Kabat, OD, FAAO, professor at Salus University and in the past an associate professor at Nova. “It’s in competition with private practice, which is traditionally what optometry has been about and that’s why people are so upset.”
For example, America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses advertises two pairs of eyeglasses for $69.95 with a free eye exam
Says Nova 2012 graduate Ernesto Cepero, OD: “It’s not the changing of the name, it’s the corporation Nova chose. NVI does not employ a single OD in the state of Florida. The company hired an ophthalmologist in order to hire the ODs they need for their opticals.”
Dr. Cepero practices in Coral Gables, FL.
Says Kim Reed, OD, FAAO: “This model of eye care flies in the face of all of that optometry has accomplished when often the professional fees for the OD are so low.”
Dr. Reed is director of medical affairs ophthalmology at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and previously was a professor at Nova.
Vincent Sorgentoni, OD, Nova 2011 graduate who practices in Las Vegas, says many ODs think NVI’s business practices are not favorable to optometrists’ professional services and products.
“NVI’s marketing ploys feature two pairs of glasses for $69 with a free exam,” he says. “That tells me the company doesn’t value optometry’s services.”
He says that the company’s marketing practices blurs the lines between charity and undervaluing professional services.
“I have a hard time seeing free eye exams and two pairs of glasses for $69 as the same values as Nova,” says Dr. Cornish.
Richardson, TX, OD Ed Maker says he’s furious and it’s not even his school.
“I think it’s wrong that a corporation that is not friendly to ODs has a school named after it,” he says. “Will there be an America’s Best in there? Name an auditorium, name a floor, but don’t change the name of the school.”
Dr. Cornish is adamant that the objection to NVI’s gift is not an attack on corporate optometry.
“I do believe that corporate optometry has its place and that it’s a necessity for our profession in that it does allow students a way to get into the market and serve the underserved,” he says. “But its place is not in academia.”