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. 

What year did you graduate from UABSO? And with what degree?

I received a PhD in physiological optics from UAB in 1982. My PhD advisor was Dr. Michael Loop. I had previously been awarded an OD from the University of California, Berkeley in 1979.

Describe your career path and indicate your current role.

I am currently a professor of biological and vision sciences at SUNY College of Optometry. In my current role, I teach courses on optics and monocular sensory processes as well as an elective course on personal financial planning. I teach because I enjoy helping students learn material that can be difficult to understand, yet rewarding to know and important for taking care of their patients. I am also co-chair for an upcoming regional accreditation visit.

I previously served as vice president for academic affairs at SUNY College of Optometry and Southern College of Optometry. For several years, I owned a private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Who/What influenced the direction of your career? 

Dean Henry Peters and Dr. Michael Loop encouraged and supported me throughout my graduate studies. Without their help, I am not sure I would have persevered. 

In what ways has your career path been rewarding or why this path a good fit for you? 

I am especially gratified by the opportunity to write textbooks that have been used by thousands of optometry students here in America and abroad. My first book, Visual Perception: A Clinical Orientation, was first published in 1994. The fifth edition came out in 2017. My other book, Geometrical and Visual Optics: A Clinical Introduction, is now in its third edition. McGraw-Hill publishes both books.

When I went to optometry school at Berkeley, many of the vision science and optics courses were not as clinically relevant as they could have been. Part of the reason was the lack of textbooks written specifically for optometry students. After graduating optometry school, practicing optometry, performing basic science research and teaching, I thought I could write these needed books. I like to write and organize information.


In what ways do you expect optometric education to change in the coming years?

I hope the clinical knowledge and skills that support clinical practice continue to drive optometric curriculum development and content.  

What do you see as the career trajectory of optometry and vision science students? 

One of optometry’s strengths is the variety of career paths that are available. In my career, I have been able to practice optometry, teach optometry students, perform basic-science research, serve as a dean and write optometry textbooks. Few careers offer such diverse opportunities.

Schwartz's Recent Honors:

  • Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching (SUNY College of Optometry, 2017)
  • President’s Merit Award in Excellence (SUNY College of Optometry, 2016)
  • Michael G. Harris Award for Excellence in Optometric Education (American Optometric Foundation) (2015)
  • Optometric Educator of the Year Award, New York State Optometric Association (2015)