Cultural Competence



The Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) and its member institutions have embraced the concepts of diversity and multiculturalism in optometric education and in the profession. With generous financial support from Walmart, ASCO has been implementing a multi-year project focusing on cultural competence.

The goal is to assist the schools and colleges of optometry in the preparation of a diverse pool of optometric clinicians who will be clinically ready to address the vision and eye care needs of a multicultural and global community.


In June 2008, the ASCO Guidelines for Culturally Competent Eye and Vision Care were approved by the ASCO Board of Directors. This document is an adaptation of best practices from schools, colleges, organizations and associations of the health professions. A condensed summary presentation of the Guidelines is available as both a PowerPoint presentation and as a basic document. Members of the faculty, staff and student bodies of the schools and colleges of optometry can use these as an introduction to the content of the Guidelines and in developing presentations on cultural competency in optometry.

ASCO conducted a Cultural Competence Curriculum Training Workshop in Fort Lauderdale, FL in May 2009. The training was designed for ASCO Chief Academic Officers or their designees. Members of the ASCO Cultural Competence and Diversity Task Forces also participated. This workshop featured didactic and experiential activities designed to help develop and refine plans to integrate cultural competent content into optometry coursework in order to ensure students become culturally competent providers.

ASCO’s focus on cultural competence continued in late 2010 with a special  emphasis on guidelines for curriculum implantation at the institutional level. In addition, other areas such as cultural competency training for staff and others in the clinical setting were addressed. The Cultural Competency Curriculum Guidelines Subcommittee of the ASCO Diversity and Cultural Competency Committee has worked to ensure that the guidelines are implemented at ASCO’s member schools and colleges so that faculty, staff and students are better prepared to effectively deliver culturally competent health care and positively impact the quality of care the profession delivers within the context of an increasingly diverse society.

In late 2012, the Subcommittee rolled out its on-site Cultural Competency Guidelines Implementation Workshops beginning with a competitive application process. Interested institutions were considered for a fully-funded, on-campus workshop designed to address institution-specific needs in implementing the ASCO Guidelines for Culturally Competent Eye and Vision Care. The workshops featured a variety of exercises on attitudes, knowledge and skills as well as illustrative case studies designed to provide additional understanding and growth, all with the goal of helping each institution with its own unique challenges of achieving cultural competence.


In 2014 the Diversity and Cultural Competency Committee launched the ASCO Cultural Competency Case Study Competition for Students and Residents. This effort provided a monetary incentive for students and residents to submit useful case studies in cultural competency that could be utilized during on-site cultural competency curriculum guidelines implementation workshops as well as by all optometric educators. The competition has produced three winning case studies to date. They are:


Resident Chelsia Leong from Pacific University, College of Optometry, “Cultural Competency with the Navajo Nation”

Student Fatima Elkabti from University of California – Berkeley, School of Optometry, “At Home for an Hour: Competent Healthcare for the Homeless”


Student Sylvester Nguyen from Nova Southeastern University, College of Optometry, “White coats, Windsor ties, and Western Medicine: A case analysis demonstrating a cultural approach to barriers formed between doctor and patient by reasons beyond what our charts can tell us”

Case Studies in Cultural Competency

This downloadable, useful resource tool for optometric educators contains the winning and best case studies from two year’s worth of entries to the ASCO Cultural Case Study Competition for Students and Residents. For those wanting to incorporate cultural competency into their teaching this is a must. The examples describe patient-based encounters in detail and how cultural competency played a role. They offer details regarding patient-centered attitude, knowledge and skills as well as the dilemma or circumstance pertaining to cultural awareness/competency and how the situation was handled, and what was learned from it.


For individuals wishing to learn more about cultural competency in optometric education, the following are links recommended by the ASCO Diversity and Cultural Competency Committee:

Written Materials (available free of charge)

ASCO Diversity and Cultural Competency Committee, “Case Studies in Cultural Competency” [2016]

ASCO Diversity and Cultural Competency Committee, “Optometric Education Number 43 Volume 1 (Fall 2017): Diversity and Cultural and Linguistic Competence

Chu, Gary and Goode, Tawara “Cultural and Linguistic Competence,” In:  Hatch SW, et al.  Optometric Care in the Public Health Community.

National CLAS Standards

The 2000 National Standards on Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (National CLAS Standards) from The Office of Minority Health, featured in ASCO’s Guidelines for Culturally Competent Eye and Vision Care, have been updated. The 2016 National CLAS Standards are available here.

Toward Culturally Competent Care Curriculum

Toward Culturally Competent Care Curriculum is a UCSF curriculum to aid educators in teaching clinicians the attitudes, knowledge and skills needed to provide culturally competent care. To order a copy, please contact Indria Cooper at Link to curriculum:

Visual Materials (free or available for purchase)

Through a Different Lens: Exploring Cultural and Linguistic Competence in Eye Care (A Four-Part Series) [2009]

Includes a DVD and Facilitators Guide. Contact the department of Community Collaborations at the New England College of Optometry at

Communicating Effectively Through an Interpreter (Barriers to Communication): An Instructional Video for Health Care Providers [2005]

From the Cross Cultural Health Care Program ( Available at:

Cultural Diversity in Eye Care: Key Practice Techniques for Creating Bonds with Culturally Diverse Patients [2007]

Contact Vannary Mak at the Vision Care Institute, LLC at or register at and click on the E-Learning tab for a free podcast.

Infusing Cultural and Linguistic Competence into Health Promotion Training [2005]

National Center for Cultural Competence (NCCC), developed in collaboration with the National Sudden and Unexpected Infant/Child Death & Pregnancy Loss Resource Center (Close-Up Productions, Inc.)

Chapters 1-6 of the program are available on YouTube.

For more information about ASCO’s diversity and cultural competency efforts, contact Carol Brubaker, Manager of Professional Affairs at