Founded in 1941, ASCO serves as a nonprofit association representing the interests of optometric education. Amos took the reins in 2007. “I actually came into the role because I’d gone through the chairs and then was elected to that position,” he said.
Amos’ plans for the coming year were developed in concert with ASCO’s strategic objectives:
- “First, we’re attempting to obtain some legislative support for greater funding of optometric education.”
- “My second one is to increase the applicant pool for the first professional degree program — the doctor of optometry program — as well as the optometric residency programs and the graduate program in vision science. Those are our three programs. We want to always make sure we have a robust applicant pool of well-qualified applicants, and the same is true for all of the programs throughout the country.”
- “We’re presenting some discussion topics of shared resources and best practices at each board of directors meeting, where we identify issues or topics and let somebody who has had experience with that get up and tell us how they’ve addressed the issue.”
- “The next is gaining a greater familiarity with international optometry, especially as it relates to the American model of optometric education. We’re not saying that the American model of optometric education is the only model, but we’re trying to ascertain to a greater degree how optometric education is presented or conducted around the world.
- “We’re trying to enhance communication between ASCO and its corporate sponsors,” which include several categories of sponsors, Amos said. “Most of them are the major ophthalmic companies that either produce equipment, pharmaceuticals or lenses,” including CIBA Vision, Vistakon, Viralux, Alcon Laboratories, Hoya Vision Care, Advanced Medical Optics, Transitions Optical, Allergan and Bausch & Lomb.
Of course, as interim dean and dean of the UAB School of Optometry since 2000, Amos knows the hard work that comes with a strategic plan.
His first goal achieved was the complete renovation of the primary teaching clinic, UAB Eye Care, located on the ground floor of the Henry B. Peters building on the UAB campus.
“We used to have Bradford pear trees that had grown to some height and kind of obscured the building, and we had a side entrance,” Amos said. In addition, University Boulevard is also Alabama Highway 149 and “happens to be about the third-busiest state highway in Alabama, so we didn’t have great visibility. The faculty began meeting to talk about this in 1998 and began developing a document that tried to lay out several points that we really wanted to see in the new facility, and one of those was an entrance that was on University Boulevard as opposed to a side entrance.”
He went on, “We were able to eventually raise the money; it was a $6 million project. We were fortunate to get some support from the university. We were able to use some funds, but we were able to also fundraise from our alumni, from corporate partners and actually from the community as well to come up with that total amount. … We rolled it out to our alumni in February of 2002, and then we began patient care in September of 2004.”
The 34,000-square-foot renovated facility houses five clinic modules. “It’s a wonderful new facility. It’s state of the art, all new equipment. We’re just extremely pleased with the outcome, and I think, of course, the faculty, staff and students are as well — as are the patients.”
The patient waiting area doubles as a space for meetings and continuing medical education. “We designed it so that there is a digital projector in the ceiling and a screen that drops down. You can then take the chairs and move them so they’re all facing one direction and use it on the weekends or evenings for large meeting presentations. It really turned out to work out very nice.”
He added, “That’s the benefit of doing some long-term planning where you get input from the faculty. It takes a while for these ideas to kind of become clear, particularly in a group discussion, but I think we got just about everything we wanted.”
Other School of Optometry accomplishments under Amos include:
- The construction of the Center for the Development of Functional Imaging, a two-story facility with a vertical functional MRI to study the visual systems of animals.
- The completion of the Center for Biophysical Sciences and Engineering.
- The renovation of the Clinical Eye Research Facility on the fourth floor of the Peters building.
“We’re also in the beginning stages of doing some planning on the renovation of the second and third floors of the Peters building,” he said.
Amos is working on an extensive curriculum revision for the doctor of optometry program. He also is trying to increase space for eye research laboratories “where we can work to put some of our scientists from our Department of Vision Sciences together with investigators from other departments on campus to have a critical mass or a cluster of people working in the same area, in this case retinal disease.”
Amos is very proud of the alumni from all of the School of Optometry programs. “Perhaps the one that is best known to the public is the doctor of optometry program because those are people who have established practices not only in the local community but really throughout the state. I think there are now optometrists in every county in Alabama except for three. The mandate is to go out and provide high-quality, accessible primary eye care, and we’ve done that not only in Alabama but we have many practitioners throughout the Southeast and actually around the United States.”
The working relationship between physicians and optometrists “is really an important issue because in the final analysis, it’s the quality of care delivered to the patient that’s the most important,” Amos said.
“I think that quality of care issue is best addressed when optometrists and ophthalmologists in particular, but not just ophthalmologists — that could apply to primary care physicians like internists, family practitioners and pediatricians — are operating at their highest level to provide the services they can provide and then make good referrals for those services they cannot provide or are not comfortable providing.”
He added, “This co-management model has worked out reasonably well around the country, and that’s certainly true here in Alabama. We’re right next door to the Department of Ophthalmology, and I’m glad to say we have a good working relationship with them.”
On the home front, Amos has a lot in common with his wife, who also is an optometrist. Catherine S. Amos, OD, who practices in Hoover, was the first female graduate of the UAB School of Optometry (1974). The Amoses have a grown son who lives in Vestavia Hills and a daughter who is a senior at the University of Georgia.
“My wife and I like to travel. We do a good bit of traveling, both nationally and internationally. I like to read and do projects around the house, and that really takes care of what little time I have.”
His favorite books are biographies (a recent selection is “Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.”).
He explained, “I find those most interesting, to see how other people have faced the challenges that I think sometimes we feel like we’re the only ones facing, but in fact everybody has them, and how they dealt with them.”
“Life is such an adventure,” he added. “Sometimes you lose sight of (this): It’s the journey that really counts.”