Explore UAB

by Nathan Anderson

Jillian Ziemanski, OD, MS, PhD, FAAO, assistant professor, received the UAB 2023 President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. This honor recognizes full-time regular faculty members at the university who have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments in teaching. 

Her schoolwide reputation was described as an "inspiring, enthusiastic and motivating professor” by one of her nominators. “Her students benefit from her expertise not only in her wealth of disease knowledge but in her ability to convey that information clearly and succinctly,” another nominator wrote. 

Ziemanski explained that her interest in teaching grew as a student, beginning with a curiosity for optometry and evolving into a love of academia. 

“I knew when I was a third-year optometry student that I wanted to go into academia,” she said. “As an intern pursuing a combined OD/MS degree, I taught test preps, conducted research and provided clinical care. I fell in love with these aspects of academia and knew it was the only way I could do all three in one job. It was a no-brainer.”

Ziemanski joined the UAB School of Optometry as a half-time clinical assistant professor in 2014 while pursuing a PhD. After completing her PhD in 2020, she joined the faculty as a full-time assistant professor teaching the glaucoma course.

“It was the PhD that brought me to UABSO, but I was able to use my OD and residency training to contribute to the program,” Ziemanski said. “I felt compelled to give back and serve the profession by teaching the next generation and performing research to advance eye care.” 

As the head of the Dry Eye Relief Clinic, Ziemanski uses her knowledge as an optometrist and researcher to create new ways to make her courses more engaging for students. 

“Finding opportunities to mix my desire to create with my work obligations helps keep me motivated, and creative learning breaks the monotonous cycle of repetitive quizzes and exams that advanced students have to endure to prove their competence,” she said. “Creative learning can be used to encourage students to better engage with course material or broaden their reach of understanding through non-traditional means.”

Ziemanski hopes that she can continue stimulating students’ curiosity to continue learning and evaluating information to become excellent clinicians after graduation.

“I want students to develop an insatiable curiosity for ‘why?’” she said. “UAB is known for producing the next generation of leaders. Students who critically evaluate what we say, question us, look for the why and generally have that insatiable curiosity go on to become excellent clinicians and leaders in the profession.”