The goal of this program is to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in the field of ophthalmology and to gear those who are in ophthalmology residencies toward a career in academic medicine. Recognizing that a successful academic career also requires mentorship and training, this renewal seeks to expand the program to include professional development for junior faculty. This program is done under the auspices of the The National Medical Association (NMA), which is the United States'oldest and largest organization representing African-American physicians and health professionals. Founded in 1885, the NMA is the collective voice of more than 25,000 African-American physicians and their patients. The NMA holds an annual convention targeted to clinical practitioners, academic researchers, and professionals interested in reaching a large population of minority physicians. At the convention,the NMA Ophthalmology Section holds its own meeting: an opening-day symposium highlighting cross-sectional issues, followed by sub-specialty scientific sessions. During the symposium, up to fifteen medical students and up to fifteen ophthalmology residents and fellows participate in the Rabb-Venable program for Excellence in Ophthalmology and present their original research (nominees having been chosen earlier in the year by the scientific committee). Abstracts are judged on the following characteristics: Originality, significance, study design, preparation/content, and audience appropriateness. Abstracts can be in any ophthalmologic subspecialty and should emphasize the latest developments in understanding, diagnosing, preventing and treating the many sight-threatening diseases that affect minority patients and the general population. The R13 grant covers travel and supports professional development programs for the Rabb-Venable participants while at the meeting. All participants receive speaker training and attend a NIIH/NEI seminar with Dr. Neeraj Agarwal, who speaks on grant opportunities and provides general information and education about the institute. In addition, the R13 grant supports travel for the winner in the resident category to attend ARVO the following year. In an attempt to get more underrepresented minority students interested in medicine (specifically ophthalmology), a pipeline program in the city where the NMA annual meeting is held on a given year will support the meeting attendance of a group of high school students to give them exposure to and pique their interest in medicine.
Approximately 1% of the practicing ophthalmologists in the US are,under represented minorities. Increasing the number of minority practitioners would improved access to eye care in underserved communities as these physicians are more likely to practice in these communities than majority physicians. Recruiting more underrepresented minority medical students to the field of ophthalmology and supporting those already in residency programs will help decrease health disparities in the US.