The year 2020 was marked by constant change due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Melendi Morton and Randle Tibbs proved to be exceptional during the most challenging time in the school’s history. For their efforts, the two were awarded the first-ever Dean’s Outstanding Staff Award at the 2021 Doctoral Convocation and Hooding Ceremony.

Without a “playbook” for how to operate a clinic during a global pandemic, and amid, a temporary closure at the pandemic’s start, mandatory budget cuts and staff shortages, Melendi Morton, clinic operations manager, never stopped working. 

“In her quiet and behind-the-scenes way, Melendi overcame numerous challenges to effectively navigate every situation,” Dean Kelly Nichols said. “The structure she provided, including her daily updates, was exactly what our clinic services team needed to weather this storm.”

 In response to daily unpredictable challenges, Morton cross-trained available staff, restructured schedules and took on responsibilities normally delegated to others. She also introduced new forms of patient communication that will continue being part of UAB Eye Care operations.

“I’m sharing this award with my team because it would have never worked without their commitment to the clinic and its success,” Morton said.

Randle Tibbs, optician supervisor, also received this award. Facing many of the same challenges as Morton, Tibbs single-handedly managed optical services until staff could return. He arrived early, and stayed late, day after day.

Challenges for optical brought opportunities for expansion and growth – but only because Tibbs was willing to take on additional responsibilities so that he could help others. 

Tibbs helped forge long-term relationships with the concussion clinic at Children’s of Alabama by helping get anti-fatigue glasses for epileptic youth. He patiently cares for UAB’s student athletes and coaches, and he has helped to provide glasses for patients in need at the school’s newest community clinics. 

“Every day my goal is to make each of our patients and our students feel special,” Tibbs said. “The work is challenging, and I am passionate about being of service to everyone I meet. I love what I do.”

A longtime member of the UAB School of Optometry family, he is wholeheartedly responsible for creating a positive learning experience for our students in optical.

“We are so grateful that he chose to return after many years working elsewhere,” Nichols said. “His leadership was needed during the pandemic and his contributions will have a lasting impact especially on our patients and students.”

Thanks to both recipients’ leadership and dedication, the clinic is well on its way to pre-COVID stability. Patients have been well cared for, and students and residents have had meaningful clinical learning experiences.