by Caleb Jones

UAB School of Optometry alumnus Walter Jackson, OD, has been named National Optometric Association Student of the Year. The Class of 2021 graduate--who also currently serves as the national president of the National Optometric Student Association (NOSA)--has also received the Dr. Marvin R. Poston Leadership Award. The honor recognizes outstanding optometry students and members of NOSA. All award recipients chosen embody the entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to diversity of Poston, a founding member of Vision Service Plan (VSP).

“Being named NOA Student of the Year is a great honor,” Jackson said. “This award means that my servitude to the NOA, my community, and to the optometry profession has been acknowledged by those whom I can now call my colleagues. Although one does not serve for awards, it is still a breath of fresh air to get noticed for the work and time you put in to try to better the schools of optometry and the profession.”

Those acquainted with Jackson at the School of Optometry say that early on he exhibited leadership potential.

Janene Sims, OD, PhD, NOSA Advisor at UAB School of Optometry said, “I knew he was a natural leader since the day I interviewed the former college football player from Georgia Southern University. He knew he wanted to be an optometrist, so he stopped playing football after he suffered a few concussions and began working as a technician for a local optometrist.  He saved some brain cells for UAB School of Optometry, where he excelled academically throughout his four years.”

The experience he got working as a technician meant that when he was a first-year student, he wasn’t afraid to hit the ground running, participate, and help organize community screenings for NOSA. As a member of NOSA, Jackson has served in multiple roles in the organization both locally and nationally. His tenure ranges from first year representative of the local chapter in 2017-18, to his current post as the national president of the organization.

Jackson’s impressive track record doesn’t end there. During optometry school he served in leadership roles in multiple student organizations, served as the National NOA/NOSA Liaison, NOSA national vice president, and he helped to initiate and organize the NOA Mentor program, which matched underrepresented minority students from all optometry schools with optometrist of color.

Jackson is currently completing a residency in Vision Rehabilitation with emphasis in Low Vision Rehabilitation and Ocular Disease at the Birmingham Veterans Affairs Medical Center, where he will spend six months of the program providing direct patient care to a geriatric population (ocular disease and primary care) and six months providing low vision rehabilitation services to inpatients and outpatients in the Blind Rehabilitation Center.

Jackson will gain clinical experience in geriatric and rehabilitative optometry that goes beyond the general optometric four-year curriculum and will result in advanced competencies in eye, vision, health, and rehabilitation care.

“As I complete my residency, I look forward to learning and developing into a doctor who can better serve and manage my future patients,” Jackson said.

“I haven’t laid concrete plans on what I am going to do after residency, however, I would like to step into a career opportunity where I can continue to provide vision care to the underserved and minority communities.”