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Alumni Awards for 2020!

Cherished traditions continued at Berkeley Optometry this year, honoring the past and adapting for the current public health environment. Among those traditions was the recognition of outstanding community members through the annual awards program of the Alumna of the Year, the Michael G. Harris Distinguished Service Award, and the Mert Flom Teaching Award.

Alumna of the Year

The 2020 Alumna of the Year is Kelly Nichols, OD ‘95. The Alumna of the Year (AOY) award is presented to one graduate who has made significant contributions to the profession as a whole, and Dr. Nichols embodies that value. As Dean of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry, Dr. Nichols leads over 200 OD, PhD, and Resident scholars in their professional degree pursuits. Prior to her decanal appointment in 2014, she co-founded and served as Executive Director of the Ocular Surface Institute at University of Houston, College of Optometry while teaching on faculty. She currently serves as a medical adviser to the Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation, has served extensively on the executive board and for the Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society and on each of the steering committees (DEWS, DEWS II, Contact Lens Discomfort, and MGD workshops), and is a founding member of the Ocular Surface Society of Optometry. A leading expert in dry eye disease, Dr. Nicholas is or has been on the editorial boards of the journals Optometry and Vision Science, and The Ocular Surface, and is extensively published. In addition to her Berkeley OD, she completed a residency in ocular disease at Omni Eye Specialists of Colorado, and earned her MPH in biostatistics and PhD in vision science at The Ohio State University. Congratulations Dean Nichols for your achievements in the classroom, clinic, lab, and fields of optometry and vision science!

Michael G. Harris Service Award

The Michael G. Harris Service Award recognizes a graduate for outstanding service to the school community. For his long standing leadership of the Bay Area Optometric Council’s Mentorship Program, the 2020 award winner is Stephen Chun, OD ‘74. As many of our alumni know firsthand, Dr. Chun is a compassionate clinical faculty member, a Kaiser retiree, and the founding owner of Berkeley Optometric Group, a private practice located one mile from Minor Hall. Since 1982 Dr. Chun has taught on the Clinical Faculty, and his leadership has won awards including the California Optometrist of the Year (1993), and the Berkeley Optometry Alumnus of the Year Award (1994). Deeply dedicated to the student experience, and in particular empowering the next generation of optometric leaders among alumni doctor-mentors, and his aspiring-doctor-students, Dr. Chun has been an instrumental facilitator of the Mentorship Program since 2013. Students and alumni alike cite this specific program as the embodiment of optometry’s culture of giving. The shadowing opportunities, the direct one-to-one mentorship, the encouragement of a patient to consider applying to optometry schools, these gifts from doctors to aspiring-doctors have been present in the Berkeley Optometry culture for 97 years. In a recent survey of OD graduates of the last decade, 64% said their personal experience with an optometrist is the reason they decided to become an OD. With gratitude to all the volunteer participants past and present, the school is delighted to individually recognize Dr. Chun for making their involvement possible for the benefit of future Berkeley-trained optometrists. Congratulations Dr. Chun!

The Mert Flom Teaching Award

The Mert Flom Teaching Award was first presented by the OD Class of 1980 at their 25th Reunion, to Dr. Mert Flom himself. The class conceived of an award for the optometric educator who had the most profound impact on their 25-year career thus far, and a tradition was born. This year, the Class of 1995 selected Carl Jacobsen, OD ‘92. As shared by Class of 1995 representatives Drs. Terri Mark and Patrick Clark:

“Most of us remember Dr. Jacobsen as an energetic doctor fresh out of the VA. As he first demonstrated with us, he has mastered the socratic method of teaching. Many of us will recall Dr. Jacobsen’s establishment of medical management of optometry here at Berkeley Optometry. The school and profession were rapidly changing while Dr. Jacobsen put himself on call over the weekends. I suspect at this time he did not own as many motorcycles. He started the ocular disease clinic which now has cared for thousands of patients a year. He was one of our most down to earth clinic instructors. By treating us with patience and respect he taught us one of the most valuable skills that I learned as a clinician, and that was how to communicate effectively with patients, and so he continues to teach us at local society meetings and at Berkeley Optometry CE. Thank you Dr. Jacobsen for continuing to teach us in a straightforward, practical, easy-to-understand way.”

Congratulations to the 2020 Mert Flom Teaching Award Winner, Dr. Carl Jacobsen, from your colleagues and current students at Berkeley Optometry and throughout the profession!

Share Your Well-Wishes

While these awards are traditionally presented at Berkeley Optometry’s Reunion Weekend in October, the 2020 version included personal announcements from the Dean to the award winners. Share your well-wishes virtually via this Kudoboard, and we look forward to celebrating these remarkable community members in-person when we are able to gather safely. Congratulations again, Drs. Nichols, Chun, and Jacobsen!