Front of UAB Eye Care building

The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry received accreditation for the next eight years by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education—the longest time period permitted by ACOE policies.

The School of Optometry was visited by the ACOE in April 2017 and received a final report in July 2017. The next on-site visit will occur in April 2025.

“While we are monitored via progress report annually, to have our next site visit in 2025—the longest allowable time under the ACOE rules, speaks to the quality and consistency of our program,” says Kelly K. Nichols, O.D., M.P.H., Ph.D, dean of the School of Optometry. “Our strength is in our people—faculty staff and students, and that was evident in the ACOE report.”

No recommendations were made for several of standards identified by the ACOE, including Curriculum, Research and Scholarship, and Clinical Management and Patient Care, meaning no suggested changes or required improvements were made in these areas.

John Laurent, O.D., Ph.D., associate dean of academic affairs, says that part of what sets the School apart in its curriculum is its tie to a strong graduate and research program. He also says that while the Curriculum standard received no recommendations, there are still plans to improve the process used for identifying and electing externship sites.

As leader of the Clinic Management and Patient Care standard, Elizabeth Steele, O.D., associate dean of clinical affairs, says that even though all requirements were met in the clinic, the work is never finished when it comes to better patient care and student learning.

“While the report was excellent news, the clinic leaders are continuously looking for ways to improve operations in patient care, student learning experiences and minimizing risk,” Steele says.

The School of Optometry’s research program is recognized as strong, productive and an important part of the school’s identity, says Michael Twa, O.D., Ph.D., associate dean of research. He says the accreditation indicates the school is on the right track and providing leadership for the profession.“Our program is one of the few schools of optometry embedded within a larger biomedical research institution and that brings unique resources and opportunities to us,” Twa says.

Roderick Fullard, BScOptom, Ph.D., associate professor, served as chair of the School’s ACOE Self-Study Committee, meaning he led the school in its efforts to prepare for the accreditation.

“Our school has long established a strong reputation,” he says. “We are continuing to do what we have done well for many years.”

Nichols says that in addition to the faculty, staff and students who make up the School, its alumni also contribute to the quality and reputation.

“This accreditation is as much about our alumni as it is about the School,” she says. “We are proud to carry on the tradition of excellence in teaching, research and service started by Henry Peters and manifested in our alumni almost 50 years ago.”

“We are small but mighty!” says Nichols. “This accreditation demonstrates that we are on the right path, the changes we have made together have strengthened our school, and we are poised to celebrate our 50th anniversary in 2019 as we plan and look towards our bright future.”