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WesternU College of Optometry student awarded scholarship from Zenni Optical

by Rodney Tanaka

January 22, 2024

Read 1 mins

First-year College of Optometry student Emmanuel Nwagha received a 2023 Eye Care Access Scholarship from Zenni Optical.

Western University of Health Sciences College of Optometry student Emmanuel Nwagha received a 2023 Eye Care Access Scholarship from Zenni Optical. The scholarship program advances Zenni’s commitment to helping the world live better and see better by supporting the growth of the optometry profession in the U.S.

Students awarded the Zenni Eye Care Access Scholarship for the 2023-24 academic year are those currently enrolled in U.S. optometry schools. These individuals, with remarkable personal stories and diverse backgrounds from across the nation, are set to receive a $2,500 scholarship. Alongside the financial support, each awardee will have the opportunity to cultivate a network that plays a pivotal role in their professional development.

Zenni Optical’s commitment to help address the disparities in society is admirable and commendable, Nwagha said. Zenni is having a direct impact on future optometrists and their future patients, he said.

“(Receiving this scholarship) is very important to my journey as an optometry student. Being able to get a WesternU education and then going out into the world thereafter, I know part of what I achieve will be attributed somewhat as a direct result of this scholarship that has enabled me to achieve it,” Nwagha said. “Anything is possible. Now being recognized as a student ambassador for eye care access is something I consider to be very important and really remarkable because it could change my career and life trajectory.”

Emmanuel Nwagha exits the stage after donning his white coat as part of the College of Optometry’s White Coat Ceremony on Aug. 12, 2023 in Pomona, California. (Jeff Malet, WesternU)

Emmanuel’s tireless efforts in promoting access to eye care exemplify a commitment to a brighter, healthier future for individuals in need, said WesternU College of Optometry Founding Dean Elizabeth Hoppe, OD, MPH, DrPH.

“Emmanuel’s unwavering commitment to eye care not only reflects his passion but also points toward a promising future dedicated to serving the community and advancing vision care for all,” Hoppe said.

Now in its second year, the Zenni Eye Care Access Scholarship recognizes incoming students who want to provide eye care to communities in need everywhere. Vision care is often an overlooked part of health care, especially in underserved communities where individuals encounter barriers caused by cost and inadequate provider access. While the number of eye doctors remains relatively flat, the need continues to rise. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that demand for optometrists will expand 9% from 2022 to 2032.

“Zenni’s Eye Care Access Scholarship was created to help support first-year optometry students who have the desire to help communities in need, said Dr. Mori Goodyear, OD, ABOC, Ophthalmic/Optical Program Manager at Zenni Optical. “Emmanuel exemplifies the spirit of the scholarship in so many ways. At Zenni, we’re proud to recognize him for his current and future impact on his community.”

Nwagha, who grew up in Nigeria, first became interested in becoming a health professional when visiting the hospital where his father worked as an administrator. He saw the impact that doctors and nurses had on their patients’ lives and that influenced his decision to pursue a career in health care.

He graduated with an optometry degree from Imo State University in Owerri, Nigeria and then interned at a federal medical center where he treated patients with a high prevalence of eye conditions due to the climate conditions and other factors.

“In those rural communities, there were a lot of complicated vision issues due to economic problems preventing people from having access to eye care,” Nwagha said. “I devoted my time working for missions that were committed to delivering free health care to rural communities.”

Legislation affects the scope of practice for optometrists in different countries. In the U.S., optometrists’ scope of practice has broadened, and legislation allows optometrists to gain additional skills and utilize them in their practice.

“I came to the United States in 2019 because of my desire to improve my skills in this field, to acquire further education that would support my mission and my vision to deliver the best quality care for the patients I’m going to serve,” Nwagha said.

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