Nowakowski named dean of the UAB School of Optometry

Rod Nowakowski, an alumnus and 36-year veteran of the School of Optometry, has been selected as its fifth dean.

Rod W. Nowakowski, O.D., Ph.D., has been named dean of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry. Nowakowski, who has been serving as interim dean of the school since December 2009, was selected after a nationwide search.

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“We are fortunate to have a candidate in Rod Nowakowski, who throughout his 36 years on the UAB faculty, has proven himself as a tremendous clinician, researcher, educator and administrator,” said Eli Capilouto, Ph.D., UAB provost. “He has the passion, wisdom, commitment and courage to be an outstanding leader for the School of Optometry in the years to come.”

Nowakowski earned his doctor of optometry degree from UAB in 1975, as a member of one of the first classes of the newly established optometry school. Upon graduation, he joined the faculty as chief of the Low Vision Rehabilitation Service. He later became director of the Ocular Disease and Low Vision Service within the school.

In 2000, he was named chief of staff for UAB Eye Care, a leadership position responsible for all clinical activities of the school.

“My vision is that the School of Optometry becomes the preferred choice of faculty, staff and students for the 21st century, not as their first choice, but as their only choice due to our outstanding people, programs and accomplishments in research, education and patient care,” said Nowakowski. “We have a strong infrastructure to build on with two departments and four centers, as well as the recently completed research area in Volker Hall that will house researchers from our departments of Vision Sciences and Ophthalmology working side by side. I see this research enterprise serving as a springboard to closer clinical collaborations and training that will be enhanced by fully embracing all aspects of instructional technology.”

Nowakowski earned a doctoral degree in medical genetics in 1989 and is the local principal investigator for the National Ophthalmic Disease Genotyping Network. The network is compiling a repository of DNA from people with hereditary eye disease along with a database of their phenotypic characteristics that will allow genotype-phenotype comparisons and provide DNA for qualified researchers.

He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry, a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry and a member of the American Optometric Association, the Alabama Optometric Association and the American Society of Human Genetics.

The School of Optometry graduated its first class in 1973 and has awarded more than 1,200 Doctor of Optometry degrees since.  The school is traditionally one of the top recipients of outside research funding in the country.

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