Keshia S. Elder, OD, MS, FAAO, professor at the UAB School of Optometry (UABSO), was awarded the Millicent Knight Trailblazer Award at the 2022 National Optometric Association (NOA) Conference.

“It is an honor to receive this award named after such an inspiring optometrist! Dr. Knight is a shining example of how someone’s determination can lead them to achieve their dreams despite all the hurdles along the way. It is truly humbling to be bestowed with such an honor.”

A true trailblazer, Elder will become dean of the College of Optometry at the University of Missouri–St. Louis (UMSL) in September 2022—making her the first African American female in the nation to lead a school of optometry.

A South Carolina native, Elder began her optometry career in 1998 as assistant head optometrist at the Naval Medical Clinic in Annapolis, MD. She rose to head optometrist at practices within the United States Navy during a five-year stint in the Medical Service Corps.

Elder became UABSO’s first director of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in 2020. She is the externship director and completed the university’s Health Leadership Academy. During her tenure at UABSO, Elder has served as course director of Clinical Management of Vision Problems, Public Health Optometry II, and Contact Lenses II. She was an attending in UAB Eye Care’s Contact Lens and Primary Care Clinics as well.