By Satina Richardson

Our community and nation are confronting the ugly truth of our long legacy of systemic racial injustice after the tragic murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many others who have suffered and died due to prejudice and racial injustice in America. In response, the UAB School of Optometry has launched EyeCare4Justice.

The initiative is led by the school’s Diversity Committee. Janene Sims, OD, PhD, FAAO, associate professor and certified diversity trainer, helps lead this initiative.  

“The year is 2020, the year of Perfect Vision,” Sims said. “The cloud of injustice has blurred our sight for far too long. As faculty, staff, and students who strive to help others see things clearly, our vision is crystal clear.”

Optometry leadership has made the fight for social justice a shared responsibility and is committed to ensuring that the UABSO family lives actively and purposefully for integrity, respect, accountability, diversity and inclusiveness every day. Faculty, staff and students must do so in a way that builds trust as well as supports each other with transparency and honesty without judgment in ways that are consistent with the school’s shared values.

“Everyone must be an advocate for positive change now and in the future,” said Dean Kelly Nichols. “I am committed to championing diversity education for UABSO faculty, staff and students now more than ever. I am also committed to diversity and inclusion in every aspect of UABSO life including student, faculty, and staff recruitment, awards and scholarships, teaching and patient care.”

Like ​other units on campus and within the UA System, the UABSO Diversity Committee is devising a plan to support the cause of social justice. Step one was holding a moment of silence in recognition of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others.

The plan also calls for faculty, staff and students to participate in diversity and unconscious bias training. In-person workshops, open forums for dialogue, and a newly added “teachable moments” section in the weekly e-newsletter have also been implemented or are forthcoming.

“As part of UAB, an educational institution, we are not just forming the optometrist of the future, we are forming the citizens of the future,” said Claudio Busettini, associate professor and Diversity Committee chair. “EyeCare4Justice is a tool to start a process of discovery and self-awareness that we can all use, irrespective of what we are, to help make our society better.”