Sims receives 2021 UAB Community Service Award

UAB School of Optometry professor Janene Sims has been named the 2021 recipient of UAB’s Odessa Woolfolk Community Service Award.
Written by: Satina Richardson
Media contact: Brianna Hoge

janene simsJanene Sims, O.D., Ph.D.
(Photo by: Steve Wood)
Janene Sims, O.D., Ph.D., has been awarded the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s 2021 Odessa Woolfolk Community Service Award. The award recognizes a faculty member who has rendered outstanding service to the Birmingham community. 

Sims continuously serves the surrounding community and the state of Alabama in the areas of education, health care delivery, social services and human rights through her role as an associate professor in the UAB School of Optometry and director of Community Eye Care. 

“Serving others has always been a part of my life,” Sims said. “My parents taught us that no matter what you have, you can always bless someone else who is less fortunate.” 

As director of Community Eye Care, she oversees one of the critical first steps that optometry students take toward becoming health care providers in a clinical setting. Local caregiving opportunities are organized by the CEC team. Through her leadership, students have worked with the Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity Head Start and preschools, senior centers, area churches, schools and the Black Belt up to eight times annually — prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The Black Belt program delivers eye and vision care to rural communities where people would otherwise never receive treatment. Since the CEC began its Black Belt efforts, eye care has been provided to 3,000 patients.

Sims is also the organizer of Gift of Sight, the School of Optometry’s largest giving event of the year. Many of the patients are from homeless shelters, rehabilitation facilities and senior centers in the Birmingham metro area.  

Due to her persistence and creativity, the annual event took place in 2020 despite the pandemic. A total of 277 patients in need safely received care — more patients than in the previous year. 

In 2020, Sims created EyeCare4Justice, an initiative bringing attention to matters of injustice and inequality. She led a powerful moment of silence for the UAB School of Optometry community, inviting faculty, staff and students alike to participate. UAB School of Optometry Dean Kelly Nichols, O.D., Ph.D. says she is thrilled Sims was honored with the award.

“Dr. Sims has a heart for service,” Nichols said. “She works tirelessly as an educator, advisor, health care provider and advocate for justice and for the underserved every day.”