UIW Dean Honored as Texas Optometrist of the Year

March 6, 2024

Dr. Sandra Fortenberry Recognized by Texas Optometric Association

San Antonio – March 6, 2024 – The University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) is proud to announce that Dr. Sandra Fortenberry, dean of the UIW Rosenberg School of Optometry (UIWRSO), has been named the 2024 Optometrist of the Year by the Texas Optometric Association.

Founded in 1900, The Texas Optometric Association (TOA) is the leading eye and vision care organization in the state. Their declared Mission: Doctors of Optometry working together to advance excellence in eyecare for every Texan. The Association’s Optometrist of the Year Award goes to recognizing outstanding service by an optometrist to the activities and projects of the TOA or to the ideals and purposes to which the Association is dedicated. The award is presented to an optometrist whose labors exemplify the best traditions of unselfish service and devotion to the work of the profession.

“I am humbled and honored to receive this award during the Texas Optometric Association annual Summit meeting and I am exceedingly grateful to be recognized for my work and my passion for optometry,” says Fortenberry.

Dr. Sandra Fortenberry/TOA Optometrist of the YearFortenberry has been a leader at the UIWRSO for fourteen years and is a member of the founding faculty. During her years, she has served in various roles including Director of Continuing Education, Director of Professional Relations and Assistant Dean for Professional Advancement. As a first-generation college student, she began her studies at Abilene Christian University and completed her Doctor of Optometry at the University of Houston College of Optometry, where she also completed a post-graduate residency in community-based family practice. Appointed as UIWRSO Dean in June 2022, Fortenberry became the first Hispanic Dean of an optometry school in the nation.

“It’s an incredible honor for me to receive recognition from my peers and colleagues for the work I do for my profession, my colleagues, my school and especially my students,” says Fortenberry. “I think educators in general do not get into academia for recognition or for pay. I hope the work I do is for the betterment of my profession and for RSO students and faculty. It’s a calling on my heart to serve optometry and UIWRSO.”

Dr. Ajay Patel/TOA Young Optometrist of the YearFortenberry was not the only member of the UIWRSO family to be recognized by the Texas Optometric Association this year. Dr. Ajay Patel, Class of 2013 who now practices in Plano, Texas, was named Young Optometrist of the Year. According to the TOA, this award is presented to a member optometrist who has rendered outstanding service in discharging the responsibilities of professional leadership on local, state, or national levels; who has demonstrated by action the highest regard for ethics and ideals of the TOA; whose action have reflected credit upon the profession of optometry and who is 40 years of age or younger. In addition, Dr. Kumar Patel, Class of 2014, was selected as President-Elect of the Texas Optometric Association.

“It is extremely fulfilling to see our alumni succeed in their profession and to be recognized by the TOA for their work and contributions,” concludes Fortenberry. “I was a faculty member when they were in school and I am so proud of these two alumni who are both colleagues and friends.”


MEDIA CONTACT: Michael Valdes, Media and Public Relations Manager, Office of Communications & Brand Marketing, (210) 829-6001, (210) 422-4052 or michael.valdes@uiwtx.edu

About UIW

With over 140 years of tradition, the University of the Incarnate Word is committed to educational excellence in a context of faith in Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God. UIW programs constitute a liberal education that fosters a well-grounded intellectual resilience, a disposition toward lifelong learning, and an acceptance of responsibility for the ethical consequences of our ideas and actions. Founded in 1881, UIW is the largest Catholic university in the state and the fourth largest private university in Texas. UIW students can choose from degrees offered at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels. The University is committed to graduating students with the lowest amount of debt load possible and to help them secure a career that lifts their lives, their families and their communities. With a beautiful main campus in the heart of San Antonio, in 2019, UIW purchased a 10-acre landmark property at 4119 Broadway which increased the footprint of the UIW Broadway Campus by 15%. The building is now known as Founders Hall.  UIW has locations throughout San Antonio, South and Central Texas, two campuses in Mexico and a European Study Center in Strasbourg, France.  UIW is a leader in international education, with over 146 “sister schools” in 45 countries and it is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution. The University is a member of the NCAA Division I Southland Conference and is proud to have 25 teams representing 14 different sports. UIW is a sponsored ministry of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word.