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.

Q: Why are you interested in providing community service to the Birmingham community and UAB?
A: As a graduate of the UAB School of Optometry, I was taught the importance of promoting eye health and regularly scheduled eye exams to patients in various communities. I have always been service-oriented. I like helping others.

Q: What kind of impact does CEC have on the community?
A: CEC screenings are able to detect vision and ocular health problems. After meeting patients at a screening, many want to schedule an appointment when I am in clinic. We also provide screenings for high blood pressure, and we have detected several stroke-level BPs and made the appropriate immediate referral. Once, Felton Perry, OD, who served as CEC director until 2017, told an uninsured patient to go to the emergency room. He later received a note from one of the ER doctors that said the patient would have had a stroke had he not gone to the ER.

Q: Through the work you’ve done for CEC and student volunteer organizations, you are leading students in community service. Why is this an important part of their optometric education?
A: The National Optometric Student Association, or NOSA, is a service organization dedicated to providing the delivery of effective and adequate eye care to the minority and underserved communities. In addition, NOSA creatively markets the field of optometry in an effort to increase recruitment and retention of underrepresented minorities into the profession. As faculty adviser for NOSA, I encourage students to go into the community to provide vision screenings at health fairs and local organizations and provide information for middle school, high school and college students interested in health careers.

Q: Are there any plans for CEC growth or expansion?
A: We increased our presence at Western Health Center by one-half day in fall 2017. The demands of the clinic may require additional days in the future. I am looking forward to growth.

Q: Is there anything about you that your students or other faculty may not know?
A: Many people know I like to sing. Some may not now I grew up on a farm and that I know how to drive a John Deere tractor.