by Janene Sims, OD, PhD, FAAO

For Women’s History Month we would like to recognize three female optometrists who were pioneers of the profession in the state of Alabama. All three of these women were business owners. Two were graduates of the UAB School of Optometry, while the other completed her degree at the Indiana University School of Optometry. Who are these accomplished women?

 

Dr. Catherine Amos

C_AMOS.jpgDr. Catherine Amos was the first female to graduate from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry (UABSO) in 1974. Seven years after graduating, she became the first female president of the Alabama Optometric Association. She also served as the first female president of the UABSO Alumni Association in 1985.

She and her husband, Dean John Amos, established three endowed scholarships for UABSO students: the Clark F. Amos Endowed Optometry Presidential Scholarship (2005), the Drs. John and Catherine Amos Endowed Scholarship (2007), and the Dr. Catherine S. Amos Endowed Optometry Scholarship (2020). This year, the couple again made history by creating the School’s first Endowed Faculty Scholar Fund.
The work for this mother, wife, and business owner doesn’t stop there. She is the president-elect for the UAB National Alumni Society Board. The “firsts” of Dr. Catherine Amos helped to pave the way for many female optometrists in the state of Alabama.
                           
 
 

Dr. Cheryl Cheatham Wilson

Cheryl Cheatham photoDr. Cheryl Cheatham Wilson (1955-2006) was a native of the Pratt City area of Birmingham. After obtaining her bachelor's in biology from UAB, she completed her OD in 1981. After graduation, she opened a solo practice in Pratt City that later moved to Ensley and Homewood (Advanced Eye Care). During her 25 years in optometric practice, Dr. Cheatham was a mentor, employer, and externship preceptor for many UABSO students. After years of precepting, Dr. Cheatham became the first African-American female faculty member at UABSO and served on the externship and admissions committees. In 2001, she was the first African-American president of the UABSO Alumni Association.

In the community, Dr. Cheatham served as musician, choir director, and Sunday school teacher for First Missionary Baptist Church of Pratt City. This mother of three was an avid sports fan, and you could often find her cheering at the Lady Buccaneers basketball games. She departed far too young, but her influence on the profession inspired other women to pursue, teach, and open their own practice.

 
 
 

Dr. Juanakee Adams

J AdamsA graduate of Dillard University, Dr. Juanakee Adams, was the youngest person to receive early admission to the Indiana University School of Optometry.  

After receiving her OD degree, Dr. Adams became the State of Alabama’s first licensed African American Female Optometrist in 1980. She founded Adams Eye Care, PC, in 1981. In addition to caring for the eye health and wellness of her patients, Dr. Adams is a mentor, inspirational speaker, and ordained minister. Because of her mentorship, Dr. Adams is considered an “honorary” UABSO graduate by many National Optometric Student Association (NOSA) members and alumni.  

In 2020, her practice was damaged when a peaceful protest ended, and violence erupted in downtown Birmingham. The damage resulted in the shutdown of her office for about a week. Although she thought of retiring after 40-plus years in practice, that tragedy helped propel her to new heights. She was inspired to write, and has published two books in the past two years. In The ABC’s of Effective LivingDr. Adams encourages us to “Open your eyes and see something you have never seen...Never lose sight of what really matters in Life, Love, Light and Laughter. Be clear and stay calm and find the sweet spot of your vision.”  

Drs. Amos, Cheatham, and Adams—we celebrate your efforts in the optometric profession and honor the strides you made for advancing women in optometry!