UAB students provide free vision services to medically underserved at UAB student-run clinic

For the first time, UAB School of Optometry students are now providing free vision services to patients at the Equal Access Birmingham clinic.
Written by: Satina Richardson
Media contact: Anna Jones

inside eabOptometry school students spend three out of their four years in school developing clinical skills through their curriculum. Students at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry, however, are going the extra mile and, for the first time, now see patients once per month at Equal Access Birmingham.

EAB is UAB’s student-run free clinic that provides continuity of care to uninsured or underinsured members of the Greater Birmingham community. Second-, third- and fourth-year UAB optometry students are now using their learned patient care skills to bring free vision services to patients at the EAB clinic.

Ginny Morgan, class of 2024, led the charge to get her fellow School of Optometry students involved in this voluntary opportunity. The idea piqued her interest when Elizabeth Steele, O.D., associate dean of Clinical Affairs, approached student leaders in the third-year class about the idea in fall of 2022.

“I’ve always had an interest in using the skills I’ve learned to provide care for those with limited access, and when this opportunity arose, I knew it would be a way for me to do so,” she said. “The biggest challenge to getting started was wading through the mountain of minutiae that comes with starting a new clinic — everything from supplies to charting, to scheduling had to be figured out from scratch while going through the rigorous curriculum of second and third year.”

The EAB also facilitates collaboration between School of Optometry and UAB Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine students. Andrew Rothstein, O.D., assistant professor and EAB faculty adviser, says this type of clinic experience stands out.

“I think the biggest benefit the students have gained is learning how optometry fits into an interdisciplinary setting and learning how to work with other health professions,” Rothstein said.

Optometrists are an important part of the comprehensive health care experience. Morgan explains that there are many systemic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, that affect the eye and can cause vision loss.

“As optometrists, we are the primary care doctors of the eye, and are therefore the best fit to establish and maintain connections with patients who may encounter complications as a result of these systemic diseases,” she said. “Working side by side with Heersink School of Medicine students is important to me because my goal as an optometrist is to work closely with other members of the health care system to provide the best comprehensive care for my patients.” 

Inaugural EAB Optometry board members are class of 2024 students Ginny Morgan, Erin Bishop, Hailey Dunlow, Hannah Morrison, Kelly Faulkner, Melissa Bogert, Minji Jang, Olivia Bittner, and Shelby Baham and class of 2025 student Parker Quinn. 

To schedule an appointment at EAB, call (205) 259-8836.