BOSTON—The New England College of Optometry (NECO) announced that online eyewear pioneer Zenni Eyewear will provide three, $25,000 scholarships to NECO students. Zenni partnered with NECO to establish the Zenni Eye Care Access Scholarship to further both organizations' commitment to improving eye health in vulnerable communities. A scholarship of this nature will assist NECO students in their desire to provide eyecare for all and supports efforts to make eyecare accessible to patients in need, the College said in a statement.

“Many NECO students are motivated to increase equity in health care following their clinical training in Community Health Centers. Easing the financial burden for these students allows them to follow their passion for serving underserved populations,” said NECO president and CEO Howard Purcell, OD. “We are grateful for the contribution Zenni has made to NECO, our students, and communities of all economic backgrounds.”
Premilla Banwait, OD, FAAO, Zenni’s head of eye health programs, said, “Zenni is incredibly proud to partner with NECO to invest in the future of optometry. Improving vision and eye health disparities is a core pillar of our Zenni Impact program. We share with NECO a passion for accessible eyecare and are motivated to bring eye health to all families and communities everywhere, regardless of their zip code.”
Etienne Bingham and Mathis Mateus have been named as the first recipients of the Zenni Eye Care Access Scholarship.
Bingham joined the Advanced Standing International Program (ASIP) at NECO in May 2021 after he successfully completed his bachelor’s degree in Optometry at University of Johannesburg, South Africa in 2008 and received his optometric licensure to practice in South Africa and Namibia. Bingham chose to return to his home country of Namibia where the nearest treatment is often 450 miles from home and too many individuals go unnecessarily blind or are visually impaired due to their inability to afford and access surgery for conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma or uncorrected refractive errors.
After over a decade in practice, Bingham determined he would further his education, experience, and qualifications for a wider scope of practice to better serve remote populations in Northern Namibia by completing the ASIP at NECO to receive his Doctor of Optometry. Upon completion of his program, he will have served in clinics in rural Massachusetts, Minnesota, Vermont and Alaska to prepare him to treat a wide variety of patients and ocular conditions.
Mateus entered NECO in 2019 after receiving his Bachelor of Science in biology from Providence College in Providence, R.I. Mateus is interested in serving the eyecare needs of all people, regardless of ability to pay, and is especially passionate about making immigrant families comfortable in seeking care. His grandparents immigrated from Portugal when his father was 16 years old, and wouldn’t seek medical care unless one of their sons could go with them to interpret.
Mateus speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese. These language skills are very helpful when diagnosing and treating patients at Tallman Eye Associates, especially in Lawrence, Mass., where median income is the lowest of any municipality in the Massachusetts Commonwealth, and 42 percent of the population is Hispanic. Following his externships at Tallman Eye Associates, DotHouse Health, and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, Mateus has committed to join Tallman Eye Associates to address the needs of underserved populations.