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The UAB School of Optometry’s (UABSO) chapter of the National Optometric Student Association (NOSA) has won the 2022 President’s Diversity Champion award given by UAB's Office of the President and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Established in 2006, the annual award recognizes employees, students and organizations that have helped create a more culturally diverse, inclusive university community through their achievements.

“We are so honored to receive this award,” said Darian Travis, UABSO NOSA president. “We are so proud that UABSO NOSA was chosen.”

NOSA is an international service organization comprised of more than 1,000 optometry students who are dedicated to increasing access to eyecare for minority and under-served communities, as well as recruiting members of these communities to the optometric profession.

 “As a minority student myself, I think it is important to highlight optometry as a career option,” said Felix Duarte, UAB NOSA vice president. “It’s not something that is on the first list of options when minority students may be thinking about what to do in the future, but it is important that there is representation because patients and communities need to see their doctors represent them.

UAB NOSA includes more than 50 members, with every ethnicity in the school represented. They participate in many health and career fairs, monthly vision screenings at various orphanages and shelters, diverse optometry initiatives, pre-optometry club activities and more. NOSA is an annual contributor to the Gift of Sight event and strives to make a difference at UAB and in the community.

According to Dr. Janine Sims, the faculty advisor for UAB NOSA, their mission from day one has been to go into underrepresented communities, make them aware of what a special profession optometry is and to let them know about the common eye disorders and problems that affect people.

“It’s such important work,” Sims said. “I think it just encourages the [UABSO] interns and students to do more and say ‘hey, they recognized us this time, but we want to do even more. We want to make things even better.’ So, I think [the award] is just going to be motivation for future students.”

Watch an interview with Dr. Sims and NOSA here.