Expanding Representation
in Ophthalmology
Levi Garraway, M.D., Ph.D.
Christopher Brittain, MB BS BSc(Hons) MBA DIC MRCOphth
Jessica Chanza
Maria Vega Garces
Amari Johnson
Karla Murillo
Jennifer Pinal
Hector Sandoval
Mallory Suarez
Claire Ufongene

Genentech's Minority Ophthalmology Mentoring (MOM) program is paving the way for underrepresented medical students to enter the field.

When Christopher Brittain, MB BS BSc(Hons) MBA DIC MRCOphth, joined Genentech as a Senior Medical Director in 2016, he brought attention to a potentially harmful industry trend: very few ophthalmologists were from underrepresented groups.

Brittain knew that patients have better health outcomes when they share certain commonalities with their physician1. He also knew this meant that Black/African American patients seeking eye care might be negatively impacted by a lack of diversity among ophthalmologists. Glaucoma, for example, is five times higher in Black/African American patients than in White patients2, yet only 7% of practicing ophthalmologists in the U.S. come from underrepresented backgrounds3.

Brittain, who is now Vice President and Global Head of Ophthalmology, Product Development, decided to do something about this.

In 2020, Brittain collaborated with the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology to establish the Genentech chapter of the Minority Ophthalmology Mentoring (MOM) program. MOM is a national program that supports diverse medical students who are interested in ophthalmology and in their third or fourth year of school. This is the point when internships and research opportunities become vital pathways to future rotations, residencies and fellowships. For Brittain, it was the opportunity he'd been looking for to make a difference.

"We help students build their networks by putting them in touch with retinal specialists and connecting them with special research projects, which increases their odds of getting into an ophthalmology residency when they leave medical school," Brittain says.

Through MOM, students are paired with practicing ophthalmologists to help demystify the ophthalmology training process. In 2022, eight mentors from Genentech - including scientists and MDs - were able to support eight mentees from a pool of highly competitive applicants.

"Genentech is doing the work and asking the right questions to be strong allies for us," says Jennifer Pinal, a MOM participant mentored by Carlos Quezada Ruiz, M.D., Group Medical Director of Ophthalmology. "It's incredible to have exceptional mentors, many of whom share our backgrounds, take us under their wings and help us navigate the field. It opens new possibilities and instills confidence, which amplifies the experience of MOM."

Patients have better outcomes at sites where clinical studies are conducted because they can access innovative therapies and highly specialized disease expertise. When patients from underrepresented groups see physicians who look like them running these studies, this builds trust and strengthens the broader community.
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