UABArchives PetersHB 2Photo Credit: UAB Archives
Dr. Henry B. Peters, the first dean and faculty member of the UAB School of Optometry, has been posthumously inducted as the first optometrist into the Alabama Healthcare Hall of Fame. 

A native of Oakland, California, Dr. Peters was working in private practice optometry with his father following his service with the United States Navy during World War II. While in private practice, Dr. Peters became active in optometric education and research and served on the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley in both the School of Optometry and School of Public Health.

In 1969, he was recruited to Birmingham where he was named founding dean of the UAB School of Optometry – the first optometry school to be associated with an academic medical center. Within only two months, Dr. Peters admitted the first class of students to the doctor of optometry program. His deanship also came with the responsibility of securing funding for the construction of a new physical home for the School. With the support of individuals and organizations from throughout the region, along with state and federal grant support, a six-story building was constructed and in August of 1975, UABSO students and faculty moved into what is now named the Henry B. Peters Building.

Under Dr. Peters' leadership UABSO became an integral piece of the UAB campus, and the school began to gain national recognition for its unique curriculum, renowned clinical and research faculty, and the high standards of excellence across its optometry, vision science, and optometry residency programs.

Through great strides of cooperation between optometry and other disciplines across the UAB campus, Dr. Peters worked closely with UAB physicians and basic health faculty to develop a high-quality basic science curriculum for optometry students. He worked extensively with the Veteran’s Administration to enhance the role of optometry in healthcare and established the first optometry education and clinical training program affiliated with a VA Hospital. Also realizing the importance of research, Dr. Peters established the state of Alabama’s first and only graduate program in vision science. 

“Dr. Peters is truly one of optometry’s leading pioneers, and it is most fitting that he has been chosen to represent our profession among this list of great health care leaders,” said Kelly K. Nichols, OD, MPH, PhD, Dean, UAB School of Optometry.  “His contributions to optometric education, clinical practice, and vision research have significantly impacted the role our profession holds in the healthcare landscape today.”  

Following his 17-year tenure as dean of the School of Optometry, Dr. Peters served as the founding director of the UAB Research Foundation. He authored over 100 articles, papers, and editorials, and brought tremendous recognition to Alabama through his leadership in the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO), National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO), American Medical Association, American Academy of Optometry, both the American and Alabama Optometric Associations, and the National Health Council.

“Dr. Peters’ greatest legacy, perhaps, is the more than 1,500 graduates of UAB’s Doctor of Optometry program who provide vision and eye care throughout Alabama, the southeast, and beyond,” said Dr. John F. Amos, Dean and Professor Emeritus, UAB School of Optometry.  “Dr. Peters had a profound influence on our profession and his impact on eye and vision care will continue for many decades to come.”