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Beth Steele, OD, FAAO, professor of optometry, met with her mentoring group to plan activities during the program launch

By Caleb Jones

The UAB School of Optometry (UABSO) recently kicked off its new Faculty-Student Mentoring and Social Program (FSMS), organized by assistant professor of optometry Andrew Pucker, OD, PhD, FAAO, FSLS. The program is intended to foster student relationships with faculty members and students from other optometry classes.

The FSMS program is organized by groups, each of which is centered around a certain activity such as hiking, scouting food trucks, exploring museums, and making crafts in the park. Each group consists of a faculty mentor, first and second year students, and third and fourth year students who serve as student mentors. Each group will meet at least three times a year to enjoy events related to their group’s theme.

“This program is a revamp of a similar program that needed to be revitalized,” Pucker said. “I strongly believe that professional students need a strong support system to be successful. I wanted to create a program that was appealing to both students and faculty, so UABSO students could more easily build their UAB family.”

Third year student Carver Cullen said that as a student mentor he looks forward to being able to relay valuable tips, tricks, and information to his mentees.

“Participating in this program will allow me to use the experiences from my first two years to help make life as an optometry student for newer students at a bit less stressful,” Cullen said.

“For me, engaging in activities outside of school is crucial for building dynamic relationships, and I feel that this program is a perfect way to do so. I hope to teach newer students that building relationships with fellow students and faculty lasts not only through optometry school, but for a lifetime.”

Pucker said that the ultimate goal of the program is for the optometry students to start building lifelong networks that will help them grow into amazing optometrists. He hopes that they can also have some fun along the way.

With this semester being the first that the entire UABSO student body has been able to be together in Henry Peters Building since March 2020, the program comes as a relief to students eager to connect with each other.

“I think it's super important to have a support system in just about every aspect of life because life is not meant to be done alone,” Cullen said. “Having a tight-knit group of colleagues that are embarking on the same journey makes life as a student and as a professional much more manageable.”