by Satina Richardson

A professor dedicated to treating young patients and training future optometrists, Kristine Hopkins, OD, MSPH, FAAO, was named the 2021 Alabama Optometric Association (ALOA) Educator of the Year.

Hopkins joined the UAB School of Optometry faculty in the summer of 1998  working in pediatric clinical services and founded UAB Eye Care’s Vision Therapy Clinic. UAB Eye Care is the clinical arm of the school. She left to work in an Atlanta-area private practice in 2012. However, her love for teaching influenced a return to UAB in 2015.

“Prior to 1998, we didn’t provide vision therapy to our patients,” Hopkins said. “I joined the pediatric faculty and began developing this clinical service from the beginning. Over time, I learned how much I enjoyed working with students and teaching both in the classroom and the clinic. I knew I enjoyed working with pediatric patients but discovering how much I enjoyed teaching honestly came as a surprise to me.” 

Upon returning to the school, she took the helm as chief of vision therapy services and has remained in this role during most of her UAB career.

Young optometry patients are her specialty. While both children and adults participate in the vision therapy program, the highest percentage of patients are children. Her clinical responsibilities include treating young patients as an attending in UAB Eye Care’s Pediatric Clinic as well.

“Kids are honest and genuine,” she says. “They ask frank questions and share spontaneous songs, stories, and hugs. Being a positive part of their lives and getting to share time with them brings me great joy.” 

Hopkins’s responsibilities extend into other areas within the school. She is on the school’s leadership team, serving as associate dean of academic affairs. She is also the course director for Anomalies of Binocular Vision I and Anomalies of Binocular Vision II.

“The students here at UABSO are brilliant. They challenge me and keep me sharp. The students also teach me things they’ve learned from other smart members of our faculty. I love sharing my love for pediatrics and for binocular vision disorders with them.”   

Involved in research, she has been an investigator with the Pediatric Eye Disease Investigator Group (PEDIG) since 1998. PEDIG is an international network of pediatric optometrists and ophthalmologists supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) who have done over 20 clinical trials on the management of amblyopia ("lazy eye") and dozens of additional trials on the management of strabismus (eye turns). Hopkins is currently the study chair for a PEDIG esotropia trial. 

She has led two NIH-supported clinical trials of vision therapy in the treatment of convergence insufficiency. In addition to research on amblyopia, strabismus, convergence insufficiency and vision therapy, Hopkins has been involved in research related to myopia control, focusing disorders, and eye movements in children and in patients with schizophrenia.  

“Dr. Hopkins gives so much of herself to our students and young patients,” says Kelly Nichols, UAB School of Optometry dean. “Everyone who has the opportunity to experience her gifts as a leader, educator and clinician is fortunate. She changes lives for the better. This honor is well deserved.”