Explore UAB

by Nathan Anderson

Ellen Antwi-Adjei, OD, MPH, Vision Science Graduate Program (VSGP) student, has been awarded a $25,000 fellowship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW). She is the recipient of an AAUW International Doctoral Degree Fellowship, marking the first time a UAB School of Optometry student has received this honor. 

“My first reaction was ‘Thank you, God! I won.’ I laughed and told my family, ‘Behold, the freshest Fellow of AAUW International Doctoral Degree,”’ Antwi-Adjei said. “To be the first from UABSO to receive this honor makes me feel extremely elated and makes me proud to be a Blazer.”

AAUW is one of the world’s largest sources of funding for graduate women. These prestigious awards are highly selective and provide recipients with financial support to assist in achieving academic and professional goals. To win this fellowship, applicants need to not be a permanent U.S. resident and must intend to return to their country of origin to continue their research. 

Antwi-Adjei is from Ghana, West Africa, and plans to return home to conduct vision science research and teach vision science. Her hope is to work alongside other institutions, like UAB optometry to help develop the research and clinical capacities of optometry in Ghana.

“Optometry and vision science in Ghana are still new and needs more hands on deck to achieve its purpose,” Antwi-Adjei said. “I believe my strong academic track record, great research aptitude and the ability to excel in my field of study will help me achieve this goal.”

Prior to joining the Vision Science Graduate Program, Antwi-Adjei was an optometrist who worked in Ghana’s rural and urban areas. Many of the patients she saw had advanced cases of eye conditions, such as cataracts, glaucoma, and more with refractive errors.

“My interest in public health, eye care accessibility, and research led me to accept an offer from the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Fund to join an MPH program in South Africa,” Antwi-Adjei said. “After the completion of this degree, I went back to Ghana as a lecturer to teach optometry students, conduct research and render eye care services to different communities.”

She is grateful to AAUW for the opportunities presented to her and believes that the faculty at UABSO helped prepare her for her future success. 

“I am grateful to everyone for igniting a fire within me that pushes me to excellence, and the need to contribute meaningfully to my field of vision science,” Antwi-Adjei said. “To all the administrative staff, faculty members, and colleagues at VSGP/ UABSO/Callahan Eye Hospital, UAB, this success is ours!  I would like to extend my sincerest appreciation to my husband, family, friends and all mentors who have been supporting me throughout my life. This journey is very challenging but when the shoulders of such giants are available to stand on, you see a brighter tomorrow.