Tammy Than, OD, MS, FAAO: University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry (UABSO) – AOA Optometric Educator of the Year
Dr. Than says that she’s always been passionate about education as a chemistry, karate and Sunday school teacher during the time before she became an OD. In the beginning of her career, she endured a long commute—leaving her house at 4 a.m. on Monday morning and not returning until Friday night—for a position at her alma mater, Southern College of Optometry. She joined a private practice to be closer to home, but it wasn’t long before she was drawn back to teaching, this time at UABSO. She took another break from teaching and accepted a job at a VA clinic near her parents’ home, but eventually rejoined the UABSO faculty in 2008. “Teaching is my calling and is in my blood, and I keep coming back.”
Dr. Than is straightforward when she says that she is not an easy instructor. But the “tough love,” as she describes it, has taught her students many valuable lessons about the importance of being well-educated and professional.
Dr. Than currently works with second- and third-year students in the classroom and with fourth-year students in the clinic. “I spend 160 hours in class or lab with second-years, and it’s rewarding to get to know them and their abilities,” Dr. Than says. “I watch their transformation as they take what they learned in their classes and use it with patients. I feel lucky that I get to see that.”
Dr. Than says that the UABSO faculty continually evolves the program to engage students, integrating multimedia and new technology. “We change as the students change,” she says. “I don’t just teach them how to get through my class or pass the board but also how to provide good care to patients,” she says. “I tell my students that they will work hard in here, but I will work just as hard and meet them more than halfway. They realize when they get out that I did everything for the purpose of helping them
become better clinicians.”
Dr. Than is actively involved with the Alabama Optometric Association and American Academy of Optometry, and she has served as a UABSO associate dean for professional studies and on several UABSO committees. While the recognition was never her goal, Dr. Than says that “it’s incredibly meaningful to be recognized nationally by so many people whom I respect, who are fabulous instructors and in this for the same reason that I am.”