Faculty Excellence

The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry’s Pediatric Optometry Service, in partnership with the UAB Department of Ophthalmology, and a pediatric optometrist have been recognized by the Pediatric Eye Disease Investigator Group (PEDIG), a collaborative network supported by the National Eye Institute and dedicated to facilitating multi-institutional clinical research in eye disorders that affect children.

Call is a graduate of UABSO who completed her residency in Geriatric and Low Vision Rehabilitative Optometry at the Birmingham Veterans Affairs. Upon the completion of her residency, she returned to the school as an assistant professor in the summer of 2016 and has continued as full-time faculty and a clinical attending in the Primary Care and Ocular Disease clinics.

The UAB Service Awards proudly honors employees who have made a significant career commitment to the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the School of Optometry.

Dr. Andrew Pucker has been named a Fellow of the Scleral Lens Education Society (SLS). Fellows of the Scleral Lens Education Society are comprised of optometrists, ophthalmologists, and Fellows of the Contact Lens Society of America who have proven themselves in the field of scleral lens fitting.

Dean Kelly Nichols elected as a Distinguished Fellow of the National Academies of Practice (NAP) in Optometry. A Distinguished Practitioner, Scholar or Policy Fellow within NAP is a very high honor that acknowledges her outstanding achievements. This honor also identifies Dean Nichols as a recognized leader in the optometry profession and indicates that colleagues in other Academies of NAP recognize her ability to help establish and lead her new Academy in the days to come.

Jianzhong Chen, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Alabama at BirminghamSchool of Optometry, along with co-author Kelly Nichols, O.D., MPH, Ph.D., FAAO, dean of the School of Optometry, has published a sensitive method facilitating dry eye disease studies in the Journal of Lipid Research. JLR is the most cited lipid journal in the world and is published by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Pate is a graduate of Pennsylvania College of Optometry who completed her residency at UABSO. Upon the completion of her residency, she then joined the UAB School of Optometry faculty in July 2005, where she currently is an Associate Professor in the Department of Optometry and Vision Science.

The Alabama Optometric Association (ALOA) has named Adam Gordon OD, MPH, FAAO, professor at the UAB School of Optometry, their Educator of the Year.

Gordon was honored as the recipient of the 2018 award at the ALOA’s fall meeting, held November 2-4 at the Hyatt Regency in Birmingham.

Dr. Kelly Nichols and Dr. Thomas Norton

The 20th Springer Award Honoree, Dr. Thomas Norton, professor emeritus, presented a lecture entitled "Toward Myopia Control: from animal models to children—the UAB connection" to students, faculty, and alumni on October 25th. In the lecture, Dr. Norton described research from his lab that began over three decades ago and is part of the foundation for the myopia treatments used today at the UAB School of Optometry.

Steven Pittler, Ph.D., FAAO, FARVO, director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry Vision Science Research Center, has been awarded an R01 grant to develop mouse model studies of autosomal recessive retinitis pigmentosa (arRP), a prevalent and progressive blinding disorder that currently has no treatment or preventive means.

Dr. Keshia Elder graduated from UABSO in 1998 with her Doctorate of Optometry and her Master of Science in Vision Science.  After graduation, Dr. Elder served five years in the Medical Service Corps in the United States Navy. She’s held several academic positions prior to rejoining the faculty at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry.  At the UAB School of Optometry, Dr. Elder teaches in the Clinical Management Course.  In addition, she is the Director of the Externship Program and the Primary Care Clinic Service Director.  Her research interests include the effect of various contact lens materials and corneal surgeries on dry eye syndrome and health disparities related to primary eye care.

For people with perfect vision or those who wear prescription glasses or contacts for everyday corrective use, it can be easy to overlook how essential sight is to a person’s daily life. Even a simple task like opening your eyes and walking forward can be taken for granted.

As Jennifer Kimmett experienced, blurred and distorted vision limited her ability to live a normal life — including the ability to go about her day with her eyes open.

At age 35, Kimmett underwent cataract surgery — the process of removing the clouded lens of the eye and replacing it with an artificial lens — due to iritis complications caused by her lupus diagnosis. When an uncorrectable astigmatism, an irregularly shaped curvature of the lens, developed in her right eye, her vision became debilitating.

After 35 years of service, Dr. Rod Fullard, associate professor, is retiring from the UAB School of Optometry.

“Dr. Fullard has been a leader in the school who has risen to the occasion numerous times,” said Dean Kelly Nichols. “His efforts have exemplified the true meaning of stewardship.”

During his tenure at UABSO, Dr. Fullard successfully led the school through its accreditation process twice. He served as chair of the School of Optometry's Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE) Self-Study Committee from 2016 to 2017 and 2007 to 2009. The ACOE is the accrediting body for schools and colleges of optometry. For his leadership with this process, he was awarded the Dean’s Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes exemplary leadership and service at Optometry. This special award is given only when the need arises.

Bailey is a 2016 graduate of UABSO who completed her residency in Binocular Vision and Pediatric Optometry at the Illinois College of Optometry/Illinois Eye Institute. She is one of the newest faculty members and was recently named assistant professor. Dr. Bailey provides care and instruction in both the general and pediatric clinics at UAB Eye Care.

Dr. Narayana Sthanam is retiring from the UAB School of Optometry following 33 years of service. For his longtime commitment to the school, his UABSO family says thank you.

He joined UAB as a junior research associate in Dr. Charles E. Bugg’s lab in 1985 and was appointed as a research assistant professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular genetics in 1990 after receiving an Alabama American Heart Association grant for two years to study Factor D that same year. Dr. Sthanam was appointed Assistant professor in UABSO’s Department of Optometry in 1993 after receiving his first NIH R29 grant to study Factor D. In 1998 he was promoted to associate professor and became a full professor in the school of optometry in 2008.

The Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama approved the appointment of Dr. Leo Semes as Professor Emeritus in the Department of Optometry and Vision Science.

“Dr. Semes is one of the most beloved individuals that UABSO has known. I can think of no greater honor to recognize all he’s done in the field as an educator, researcher, mentor and colleague,” said Dean Kelly Nichols.

Sam Pierce, Andrew Pucker, Hannah Greenfield, Mark Swanson

At the upcoming American Optometric Association conference, to be held June 20-24, in Denver, the UABSO family has a lot to be proud of, as Dr. Sam Pierce (’89) will be sworn in as AOA president, Dr. Mark Swanson (’85) will be given the AOA Educator of the Year award, faculty member Dr. Andrew Pucker will receive the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry Rising Star Award and Dr. Hannah Greenfield (’18) will be recognized as the first American Optometric Student Association Student of the Year.  

Kelly Nichols and Jason Nichols headshots.

Kelly Nichols, O.D., MPH, Ph.D., professor and dean of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry, and Jason Nichols, O.D., MPH, Ph.D., professor and assistant vice president for Industry Research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, have both been internationally recognized in two articles published in the peer-reviewed journal The Ocular Surface for their contributions as authors on multiple publications in the study of dry eye disease research.

Andrew Pucker

A UAB School of Optometry faculty member recently received national recognition for his work in optometric education.

Andrew Pucker, OD, PhD, assistant professor at the School of Optometry, is the 2018 recipient of the Rising Star Award, given by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry, or ASCO.

Janene Sims, OD, PhD

As the new director of Community Eye Care (CEC), Janene Sims, OD, PhD, is excited about past growth of the UAB School of Optometry’s community outreach arm.

CEC, which provides comprehensive eye care and vision screenings for underinsured residents at locations throughout the Birmingham metro area, increased its presence at Western Health Center in Midfield, Alabama, from three days a week to four in 2017. And at the annual Gift of Sight event in December, free eye care and glasses were provided to 260 patients.

Now, Sims is looking forward to what is to come in 2018. Her work with CEC began when she was a student at the School of Optometry and continued when she joined the School as a part-time faculty member in 1997. Now, Sims is an associate professor at the School of Optometry, supervisor of its Residency in Family Practice Optometry and also serves as an advisor for the UAB chapter of the National Optometric Student Association.

Mark Swanson, O.D., (left) professor at the UAB School of Optometry, was named Educator of the Year by the Alabama Optometric Association.

The Alabama Optometric Association has named Mark Swanson, O.D., professor at the UAB School of Optometry, its Educator of the Year.

Swanson was honored as the recipient of the 2017 award at the ALOA’s annual convention, held Nov. 3-5 at the Hyatt Regency in Birmingham.

“It’s an honor to receive this award from my colleagues, former students and friends in the state association,” Swanson says. “I couldn’t have asked for a better group to work with through the years.”

Christine Curcio, Ph.D. (left) and Kelly K. Nichols, O.D., M.P.H., Ph.D.(right)

Age-related macular degeneration was the topic at the UAB School of Optometry’s annual Springer Lecture, presented by the 2017 Springer Award Honoree, Christine Curcio, Ph.D., professor at the UAB Department of Ophthalmology.

Curcio gave her lecture, entitled “Age-related macular degeneration discovery through histologically validated multimodal clinical imaging,” to School of Optometry faculty and students on Sept. 28 in Volker Hall on the UAB campus.

Michael Twa, O.D., Ph.D.

A faculty member at the UAB School of Optometry brought the topic of precision medicine to the 2017 American Academy of Optometry meeting, held Oct. 11-14 at McCormick Place in Chicago.

The 2017 Monroe J. Hirsch Symposium, organized by Michael Twa, O.D., Ph.D., associate dean for research and graduate studies at the School of Optometry, was held Thursday, Oct. 12 at the meeting and entitled "Precision Medicine and the Future of Healthcare."

Fourteen UAB School of Optometry faculty, six residents, one postdoctoral fellow and one graduate student are presenting at the 2017 American Academy of Optometry meeting, which is being held Oct. 11-14 in Chicago at McCormick Place. The presentations include research, lectures and workshops on a variety of optometry and vision science topics.

The annual Academy meeting includes nearly 300 hours of lectures and workshops, symposia and scientific lecture and poster presentations. It offers a wide variety of clinically relevant continuing education courses and cutting edge research in the clinical and vision sciences.

Two new faculty members have joined the UAB School of Optometry as clinical assistant professors.

Maggie Bailey, O.D., sees patients and works with students in Pediatrics, Primary Care and Community Eye Care at UAB Eye Care, which is the School of Optometry’s clinical operation.

Elizabeth Steele accepting Optometric Educator of the Year Award

When Elizabeth Steele, O.D., joined the UAB School of Optometry nearly 13 years ago as a faculty member, she did not know how much she would love teaching.

“It was one of those crazy little choices you make that shapes your entire life,” she said Wednesday, June 21, to attendees of the American Optometric Association’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Roderick Fullard receiving the Dean's Distinguished Service Award

After leading the UAB School of Optometry through its accreditation process for the second time, Roderick Fullard, BScOptom, Ph.D., associate professor, was awarded the Dean’s Distinguished Service Award.

He was presented the award, which recognizes exemplary leadership and service, at the School of Optometry's 44th Annual Convocation and Hooding Ceremony, held May 12 at the Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center on the UAB Campus.

Caroline Beesley Pate smiling

Caroline Beesley Pate, O.D., is the 2017 recipient of the UAB President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching for the School of Optometry.

Pate, an associate professor of Optometry and director of the School’s Residency Programs, was chosen for the award by the School’s awards committee, which is chaired by Candice Turner, O.D., clinical assistant professor of Optometry.

Elizabeth Steele smiling

The American Optometric Association has named Dr. Elizabeth Steele, Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs at the UAB School of Optometry, its Optometric Educator of the Year.

Steele will be honored as the recipient of the 2017 Optometric Educator Award for her “outstanding service on behalf of the profession, optometric education and the visual welfare of the public,” according to the AOA, which is recognized as one of the leading authorities in optometry.

The award will be presented at a ceremony on June 21 in Washington D.C. at the AOA’s 2017 Optometry’s Meeting.

Henry B Peters

Dr. Henry B. Peters, the first dean and faculty member of the UAB School of Optometry, has been posthumously inducted as the first optometrist into the Alabama Healthcare Hall of Fame.

A native of Oakland, California, Dr. Peters was working in private practice optometry with his father following his service with the United States Navy during World War II. While in private practice, Dr. Peters became active in optometric education and research and served on the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley in both the School of Optometry and School of Public Health.

Timothy Kraft

Dr. Timothy Kraft has been named the first Chair of the School of Optometry’s Department of Optometry and Vision Science.

An photo of Fleming and a photo of Semes.

UABSO congratulates two long-standing faculty members, Dr. Joe Fleming and Dr. Leo Semes, on their retirements. Their commitment and contributions to the School have been tremendous, and we wish them the very best.

Dr. Wendy Marsh-Tootle smiling and holding a painted sign decorated with handprints which reads "The Pediatric Eye Clinic was built by the vision of Dr. Wendy Marsh-Tootle and the hands she helped lift to heights they never expected to reach".

The UAB School of Optometry proudly recognizes Dr. Wendy Marsh-Tootle as the 2015 recipient of the American Academy of Optometry’s William Feinbloom Award.

Established in 1983, this award is presented to an individual who has made both distinguished and significant contributions to clinical excellence, and to the direct clinical advancement of visual and optometric service.