Alumni

by Caleb Jones

Former UAB School of Optometry (UABSO) resident Chandra Mickles, OD, MS, FAAO, FSLS, has been appointed to the newly created role of North America Professional Education Lead, Myopia, at Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Vision.

Mickles will work to further strengthen J&J Vision’s education efforts to empower and train professionals about myopia, as well as create new ways of engaging customers through leadership and science. Mickles will be joining a motivated team of innovators and advocates who are all working to better understand myopia while partnering to find solutions. In this role, she will work closely with eye care professionals (ECPs)

Minh Duong, OD, of Primary Eyecare and Optical of Meridian, has been named the 2021 James Brownlee Optometrist of the Year by the Mississippi Optometric Association (MOA). The association presents the award annually to recognize significant contributions to the profession of optometry and to the public. He was also named a finalist for the 2021 Optometrist Community Service Award.

Gussie Branch, OD, class of 2016, was named the 2021 Young Optometrist of the Year by the Alabama Optometric Association (ALOA). 

by Caleb Jones

The UAB School of Optometry Alumni Association named Rob Pate, OD, class of 2007, 2021 Alumnus of the Year.

“UABSO has produced and is home to a myriad of exceptional graduates that are doing and have done some incredible things,” Pate said. “To be recognized alongside them is a tremendous blessing.”

by Caleb Jones

The UAB School of Optometry Alumni Association named Brandon Runyon, OD, class of 2013, the 2021 Young Alumnus of the Year.

“I'm very shocked and honored to have been nominated and selected for this award,” Runyon said. “It's humbling to know that my colleagues felt my achievements to be worthy of this kind of recognition. I've always had a desire to push myself to the limits of my knowledge, embrace and effect change, and accept new challenges when the opportunities are presented in the interest of personal and professional growth.

by Lieutenant Matt Schaffner, OD
UAB School of Optometry Class of 2019

Each year, the UAB School of Optometry has several graduates who choose to serve as military optometrists. Lieutenant Matt Schaffner, OD, was kind enough to share his journey to becoming a military optometrist and provide a glimpse into a day in his life as an optometrist in the United States Navy. His wife and classmate, Ginny Carroll Schaffner, OD, is an optometrist in San Diego, CA. 

Drs. Shad Wheatley and Warren Gwynn

Shad Wheatley, OD, and Warren Gwynn, OD, have won a UAB Excellence in Business Top 25 Award given by the UAB National Alumni Society. The two graduated from the UAB School of Optometry in 2002 and 2014, respectively, and are owners of Eye Care on the Ridge.

Paul Batson, OD, class of 1998, has been named the 2020 Alumnus of the Year by the UAB School of Optometry Alumni Association. In addition to being an alumnus, he has been a part-time faculty member in ocular disease for nearly two decades.

Tommy Pinkston, OD, class of 2012, has been named the 2020 Young Alumnus of the Year by the UAB School of Optometry Alumni Association. 

In recognition of the year 2020 and the significance of 20/20 in the field of optometry, the UAB School of Optometry is recognizing alumni whose careers have impacted communities, set precedents, or moved the profession forward in some way. With this in mind, meet Jim Marbourg, OD.

by Satina Richardson
 
Lakesha Story, OD, and Latesha Story-Walker, OD, are twin sisters from West Shawmut, AL, a community of fewer than 10,000 not far from Columbus, GA. Story and Story-Walker are the owners of Doublevision Eye Care in Valley, AL, and will soon open a second location in Columbus, GA.

by Satina Richardson

On November 7, 2020, Day Eye Care celebrated an epic milestone—100 years of providing eye and vision care. It was on this day in 1920 that Frances J. Day, Sr., OD, received his reciprocity license in Alabama allowing him to open the optometry practice.

Howard Day, OD, UABSO class of 1987, is Frances Day’s grandson. He shared that obtaining the license wasn’t easy. However, during the 1920s Birmingham was booming.

In recognition of the year 2020 and the significance of 20/20 in the field of optometry, the UAB School of Optometry is recognizing alumni whose careers have impacted communities, set precedents, or moved the profession forward in some way. With this in mind, meet Brandon Runyon, OD. 

In July 2019, he became the Chinle Service Unit’s Chief of Optometry.  Since then, he has continued to serve as the residency program coordinator in addition to supervising and coordinating eye care services for approximately 37,000 Native Americans (predominantly Navajo) between the hospital clinic and two satellite outpatient optometry clinics. He would have never guessed this is where he would be now. Practicing the full scope of optometric practice has been very rewarding, affording him the opportunity to encounter and manage some very challenging and/or uncommon conditions that would otherwise be seen in a specialist’s office.

In recognition of the year 2020 and the significance of 20/20 in the field of optometry, the UAB School of Optometry is recognizing alumni whose careers have impacted communities, set precedents, or moved the profession forward in some way. With this in mind, meet C. T. (Tommy) Crooks III, OD.

In recognition of the year 2020 and the significance of 20/20 in the field of optometry, the UAB School of Optometry is recognizing alumni whose careers have impacted communities, set precedents, or moved the profession forward in some way. With this in mind, meet Ian Benjamin Gaddie, OD, FAAO. 

In recognition of the year 2020 and the significance of 20/20 in the field of optometry, the UAB School of Optometry is recognizing alumni whose careers have impacted communities, set precedents, or moved the profession forward in some way. With this in mind, meet Wendy Marsh-Tootle, OD, MS, FAAO.  

In recognition of the year 2020 and the significance of 20/20 in the field of optometry, the UAB School of Optometry is recognizing alumni whose careers have impacted communities, set precedents or moved the profession forward in some way. With this in mind, meet Mary Jean Sanspree, PhD, retired UAB School of Optometry faculty member. Sanspree served as director and associate scientist of education and outreach in vision research at the school. She was part of a team that saw a need for eye care in Alabama’s Black Belt. After being awarded multiple grants to initiate a longitudinal study about eye health in our Black Belt counties, outreach to the Black Belt that continues today through Community Eye Care (CEC) began.  

 
UABSO Family:
 
This time in our society has proven to be challenging for us all and I wanted to take this time to let you know we are thinking about you, your families, and your practices. I also want to provide an update about how the COVID-19 outbreak has affected daily operations at the UAB School Optometry. Because this is an unprecedented situation, the school is experiencing frequent changes and disruptions that affect our students, faculty, and staff. Having said that, we are a family, and while small, UABSO is mightier than ever!
 

In recognition of the year 2020 and the significance of 20/20 in the field of optometry, the UAB School of Optometry is recognizing alumni whose careers have impacted communities, set precedents or moved the profession forward in some way. With this in mind, meet Steven Schwartz, OD, PhD, SUNY College of Optometry professor. He has written textbooks that have been used by thousands of optometry students here in America and abroad. His first book, Visual Perception: A Clinical Orientation, was first published in 1994. The fifth edition came out in 2017. His other book, Geometrical and Visual Optics: A Clinical Introduction, is now in its third edition. 

In recognition of the year 2020 and the significance of 20/20 in the field of optometry, the UAB School of Optometry is recognizing alumni whose careers have impacted communities, set precedents or moved the profession forward in some way. With this in mind, meet Paula Newsome, OD, MS, FAAO, FAARM, CHC. She opened the first optometry practice owned by an African-American female in the state of North Carolina.

In recognition of the year 2020 and the significance of 20/20 in the field of optometry, the UAB School of Optometry is recognizing alumni whose careers have impacted communities, set precedents or moved the profession forward in some way. With this in mind, meet Woody Thigpen, OD. Through his work in Cambodia, he has helped improve the vision of more than 28,000 Cambodians in various villages.

By Tyra Rocker

Johndra McNeely, OD, has been named the 2019 Young Alumnus of the Year by the UAB School of Optometry Alumni Association. This is the inaugural year for the award.

By Tyra Rocker

Gerald Simon, OD, class of 1985, has received the Alumnus of the Year award presented by the UAB School of Optometry Alumni Association. The award was granted to those who have displayed great achievements in their community, profession and school.

By Rasika (Khatu) Whitesell, OD, Class of 2013

Currently, I am practicing in Wilmington, NC, with Myeyedr. I have two small boys, ages 2.5 years and 9 months old. Also, I recently completed the NC Optometry leadership program and served as secretary of my local optometry society in 2016-2017. I have loved getting involved with the leadership side of optometry and look forward to becoming more involved in the future.

I graduated from the UAB School of Optometry in 2013, but it seems like just yesterday that I was walking the halls of the Henry B. Peters Building cramming for my next exam. There are so many things I have learned after graduation that one cannot put into words until you experience it for yourself. I will be sharing some tips with you on what I have learned after graduation. 

Dr. Rob Pate is the husband of Dana Pate and father of 5 kids, Claire, Ellie, Jenna, James and John. He practices optometry at Basden Eye Care in Auburn, AL. He is the Immediate Past President of the Alabama Optometric Association, Legislative Committee Co-chair, SECO Board of Trustees, Auburn Community Church Elder and UABSO Alumni Association Board of Directors. Dr. Pate also enjoys participating in Auburn athletics. He is the Auburn University Athletics Team Optometrist, Columnist and host a Radio Show discussing Auburn athletics. He is also a member of Auburn Football Lettermen Club Board of Directors, Auburn Parks and Recreation and Football Board of Directors.

By Tyra Rocker

Andrew May, OD, and Barrett Martin, OD, of Johnson Optometric Associates (JOA) add a little flair to their clinic and the optometry business by making and sharing parody music videos on YouTube.

Degree Awarded: O.D.

Graduation Year: 2016

Update: I purchased an established private practice in Albertville, Alabama in August 2017 from Dr. Randall Hoerth, who has since retired. We have a diverse patient base that allows me to see all ages, manage a variety of eye disease, co-manage with specialists as well as fit specialty contacts. In the spring of this year I added a partner, Dr. Katie Greer (UABSO '17) and opened a second office in Guntersville on July 2nd.

Monica Kennedy, OD, started wearing glasses when she was in middle school and the ride home with her first pair of glasses was the beginning of a life-changing experience. She could see the leaves on the trees and blades of grass on the ground that were no longer meshes of green.

Dr. Micah Kinney is the 30th Aerospace optometrist for the U.S. Navy and currently assigned as the Aerospace/Research Optometrist at the Naval Medical Research Unit Dayton, Dayton, OH. In this position, he works with DoD aviation communities to enhance performance, understand visual needs, determine vision standards, and protect warfighter vision.

The American Optometrist Association awarded Benjamin P. Casella, OD, an alumnus of the UAB School of Optometry, the 2019 Optometrist of the Year Award at the Optometry’s Meeting in St. Louis.

On Tuesday, May 7th, the UABSO Alumni Association hosted a panel discussion for fourth year students entitled, “We don’t know what we don’t know.” The panel consisted of recent graduates, and provided practical advice about the transition from being a student to becoming a practicing optometrist.

For alumni of the University of Alabama at Birmingham schools of MedicineDentistry and Optometry, the commitment to Alabama is significant, and it continues to make a tremendous impact on significant health needs in the state.

Your Story

What is your hometown? Clarkesville, GA

When did you graduate from UAB School of Optometry? 1983

Your career in Optometry

Name of your employer(s)/Practice and title, including location. I have a Private Practice, Jenkins Vision Care, in Athens, GA.

Why did you choose a career in Optometry? I chose optometry to be in a health profession that involved a significant amount of math (optics).

Where do you hope to see your optometric career in 5 years? I hope to still be practicing in 5 years, but to be within another 5 years of walking away from practice ( or maybe still practice a day or two per week).

Which optometric issues concern you the most? I am concerned about the corporate influence upon optometry and hope that private, independent optometry can remain a viable option for future O.D.'s.

Your Story

What is your hometown? 

Greenville, Alabama

When did you graduate from UABSO?

2008

What would you say is your greatest accomplishment outside of the field of Optometry?

I would have to say that convincing my wife, Sarah Ellen, to marry me is my greatest accomplishment outside the field of Optometry.

Your Story

What is your hometown?

My hometown is Henderson, Kentucky.

When did you graduate from UAB School of Optometry?

I am in the UABSO Class of 2008.

What would you say is your greatest accomplishment outside of the field of Optometry?

Easy!  Convincing (or was it duping?) Kim, the prettiest girl I’ve ever met, to marry me. Sixteen years and three kids later, I’ve still got the wool pulled over her eyes!

Officers were sworn in at the annual Alumni Association Open Business Meeting, which took place at the Alabama Optometric Association’s fall conference.

Incoming President Caleb Gardner said that this year the officers are looking forward to returning the Alumni Association to the purpose listed in the bylaws, in which they will support the UAB School of Optometry in recruiting, financially and by continuing to foster a fraternal spirit among alumni. 

The UAB School of Optometry Alumni Association named Fred Wallace, O.D., Alumnus of the Year at the annual Alumni Association Open Business Meeting, which took place at the Alabama Optometric Association conference.

Your Story

What is your hometown?
My hometown is Birmingham, AL.

When did you graduate from UAB School of Optometry?
I am in the UABSO Class of 2012.

What would you say is your greatest accomplishment outside of the field of Optometry?
My greatest accomplishment are my three amazing children, Edith (11), Maddie (7) and Sam (6).

What is your hometown?

Gallion, Alabama, which is in rural Marengo County, the “suburb” of Demopolis, Alabama.

When did you graduate from UAB School of Optometry?
May 18, 2009 (a date I’ll never forget)

What would you say is your greatest accomplishment outside of the field of Optometry?
Completing the Mercedes Half Marathon (13.1 miles of “fun”)

Sam Pierce headshot.

What is your hometown?
Opp, Alabama

When did you graduate from UAB School of Optometry?
1988

What would you say is your greatest accomplishment outside of the field of Optometry?
I was the first member of my family to get a college degree, and I was also the first one in my family to live most of my life outside the county where I was born.

Zachary McCarty awarding Douglas Clark a plaque for alumnus of the year

The UAB School of Optometry Alumni Association named Douglas Clark, O.D., its alumnus of the year at the annual Continuing Education and Alumni Weekend, held Aug. 18-20 on the UAB campus.

Clark, who graduated from the School of Optometry in 1982, was named the alumnus of the year based on his service to the School of Optometry, to the profession and to his community. Each year, the board members of the Alumni Association select a member as the alum of the year based on these criteria.

The UAB School of Optometry Alumni Association inducted new officers, and scholarships were awarded to students at the annual Continuing Education and Alumni Weekend, held Aug. 18-20 on the UAB campus.

As an optometrist in Greenville, South Carolina, Johndra McNeely, O.D., has organized several vision screenings for the Hispanic population in her community. Altogether, she helped to provide care for more than 140 patients, including some with advanced glaucoma that otherwise might have gone untreated.

Kate Oliver smiling

A recent graduate of the UAB School of Optometry was named a recipient of the 2017 Johnson & Johnson Vision Award of Excellence in Contact Lens Patient Care.

Kate Oliver, O.D., received the award, which is presented by the American Optometric Foundation, for her demonstration of excellent knowledge of the contact lens field and her skillful and professional care of contact lens patients during her optometric education.

Lynn Hammonds standing and smiling

An alumna of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry has been elected president of SECO International, a globally-recognized association for optometry.

Dr. Lynn Hammonds, who graduated from the School in 1991, is the second woman to be elected president of SECO International. The first was elected in 1933. Hammonds was elected president at SECO 2017, which was held in Atlanta, Georgia, where SECO International is headquartered.