Meet the LEO founding board: Dr Karen Carrasquillo


Karen Carrasquillo, OD, PhD, sat down with Optometry Times®' assistant managing editor Emily Kaiser to talk about her role on the founding board of Latinos en Optometry (LEO).

Karen Carrasquillo, OD, PhD, sat down with Optometry Times®' assistant managing editor Emily Kaiser to talk about her role on the founding board of Latinos en Optometry (LEO).

Founded by Diana Canto-Sims, OD, LEO has 5 goals:

  1. Increase the number of Latino students in optometry schools
  2. Provide resources and communication for Latinos in optometry
  3. Provide resources and communication for the eye care community who serve the Latino community
  4. Be a conduit between the Latino community and the eye care industry
  5. Provide CE to all optometry

The founding board of Latinos En Optometry includes Diana Canto-Sims, OD, CEO, Founder and Stylist of La Vida Eyewear and Co-Owner of Buena Vista Optical in Chicago, IL; Lawrence Chavez, Founder & CEO of EveryDay Contacts; Howard Purcell, OD, President and CEO of the New England College of Optometry; Hector Santiago, OD, PhD, Professor and Director of Research Activities at Inter American University of Puerto Rico School of Optometry; Glenda Aleman Moheeputh, OD, Founder and CEO of OK Love Myopia Control Experts; Karen Carrasquillo, OD, PhD, Senior Vice President Clinical and Professional Affairs at BostonSight; Diana Shechtman, OD, Fellow at the American Academy of Optometry and Optometric Retinal Society; and Lina Arango, OD, who currently works as an Independent Doctor with LTA Vision corporation.

Video transcript

Editor's note: This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Q: What does LEO represent to you?

A: o LEO really means a lot to me at a personal level. Aside from being an optometrist, I am originally from Puerto Rico, and LEO is a group that was just founded recently—within the past year—with the intent of raising awareness and the passion and love that we all have for optometry, but do so in the Latino community.

As a Latina myself, this speaks volumes to me, and it's very close and dear to my heart, because it is a group of like-minded individuals—that on a volunteer basis—we want to see a broader representation of Latinos within the optometry community.

We would like to spread the word and just educate about the great career that optometry is [and] the impact that as clinicians we can have when we have Latino optometrists serving the Latino community, just that cultural sensibility and sensitivity as well. The fact that, you know, you can understand that demographic that you're serving, in the end, it calls out to what we all love to do.

And we all join this profession, really and truly, with the ultimate goal of helping our patients and providing a better impact for our patients. And LEO's mindset—the initiative behind LEO—is to bring more Latinos into the field so that ultimate, really, even more patients can benefit and we can help serve more of our own communities, aside from obviously, the community at large in general.

Q: Why is LEO such an important organization for the eye care community?

A: Like many other educational institutions or organizations, I think what we're hoping to do is give a little bit of focus into the Latino community. And it is undeniable that—despite the fact that the Latino community, when it comes to the population in the United States is actually growing—we do not have as much representation when it comes to who are the caregivers who are the clinicians behind.

Obviously, every clinician will do a great job for all the patients that they see, but we believe that if we increase the number of optometrist that are of Latino descent, that will inherently turn into a much better outcome for patients. And I believe that that is at the heart of what LEO is trying to do.

I have experienced this myself, as a clinician, I have been blessed with witnessing the impact I can have with my patients. But the times that I have been able to serve patients of Latino descent, first of all, that they can actually communicate in their mother tongue with me that nothing is really lost in translation, that I actually really understand their idiosyncrasies, that I actually understand what are some of the genetic or hereditary things that push Latinos into more one side of the other and the spectrum of eyecare. I think it it turns into a much better outcome for the patient. Because, first of all, the patient can also relate to you as a clinician, and I have witnessed this myself.

All of my patients are special, but those and those instances where I've been able to help one of these particular patients that are of Latino descent, and they may be struggling with the language, there may be a little bit afraid to ask a question because they don't feel like they can communicate properly...those have really touched me. And I believe I've had a blessing and I would—it is my hope, and it is my wish, that more of me become a reality; that more Latinos go into this field [and] that we can better serve this growing patient population in the United States.

Q: There's something really special about removing the language barrier.

A: Yes. You know, it goes both ways. I often teach fellows that it's not just how you communicate to the patient, but there's a very important aspect in clinical care, which is the art of listening. And sometimes a patient can even try to convey what their problem is, and they might not be able to communicate properly with you.

So it's not just the clinician to the patient, but the patient to the clinician. And even with the translation services, it's not always the same, as we know. But beyond the language barrier is this cultural sensibilities [and] sensitivities where, from a cultural point of view, it could be religious, it could be just cultural, you can really connect better with them. And yes, I think in the end, it results even in a much better compliance. I've noticed and witnessed with my own patients.

So when they approached me to join this organization, I was very honored, obviously, to begin with, but I was also very excited. Because to me, I'm hoping that this is a turning point, and that more and more people, [that] we galvanize, and we come together to raise awareness. And, again, as I said, at least personally, for me, is ultimately to have a better impact with patients.

Q: You're a busy individual. What made you decide to be on the founding board of Latinos en Optometry?

A: I believe it's because of a mission.

It was something that, you know, like me, every every board member is actually very busy and engaged in in various aspects of the either industry or education, etc. But I believe we answer the call, because we all saw and I—speaking for myself, that this is—it is a very important mission. And what better than you being able to give back?

I mean, for me, as I see myself in my journey, I said, "I did it," and there were not many of me when I was studying, and I didn't necessarily have a mentor. But how wonderful would it be to realize all the blessings that we have? And you know, what you might others refer to as success, I may refer to it as blessings—and to be able to give back.

And one of the aspects of LEO is also not just raise awareness, but also provide some mentorship to some of the upcoming students. It is an opportunity to give back. And giving back, it sort of cycles. If you give back then the other person gives a little bit more of themselves, and you increase the impact in general.

Even though yes, we're all busy, and I'm very busy, it was difficult to pass; it was very difficult to say "no," and I'm very happy that I said, "yes." I'm just hopeful that we can create the impact that we are all seeking to.

Q: What has been the most exciting thing that LEO has done since it's began, and what are you most looking forward to?

A: Well, you know, we just recently so this started over the last year and like every new organization, we've been meeting regularly, having board meetings, and really defining what the vision and the mission and the scope, etc. So it's an organization that is growing, for sure.

But what's been most exciting recently is that we had a launch at Vision Expo East and it was a very warm and welcoming reception by the attendees at Vision Expo East. And when we share this initiative with our colleagues and some people in industry, like having Optometry Times now taking the time out of your busy schedule to shed a spotlight on LEO, I mean, that's very exciting to me.

I can feel that momentum growing. And it's all about raising awareness so that we can actually have the impact and get to our goal and mission. So, the fact that that launch went really well, and now having this interview with Optometry Times, I'm very excited about the future. And we're starting to plan our first events, and so I think the best is yet to come.

Q: Is there anything else you'd like to be sure we touch on?

A: No, I just to say that to Optometry Times, to the industry in general, to you in particular, thank you for being so gracious with your time and for having the interest to learn more. and also to share about LEO and Latinos en Optometry.

But I would say to the industry that listens to this series of interviews, and as they learn more about LEO, I would encourage them to really learn more about LEO and I would invite them to become a sponsor and sponsor this great initiative and sponsor the next generation of clinicians and hopefully we can grow the representations of Latinos in optometry.

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