Women, leadership, and optometry

December 13, 2013

The role of women in optometry has long held an important place in my heart. Recently, I was invited to attend a Women in Optometry meeting at Vistakon’s The Vision Care Institute, the second event the company held. Vistakon gathered a group of women optometrists who have been in practice fewer than 10 years. Vistakon plans to hold more Women in Optometry seminars in 2014. If you have the opportunity, go!

 

The role of women in optometry has long held an important place in my heart. About 13 years ago, I was fortunate enough to be part of a fledgling women’s group called DIVA (Dedication, Innovation, Vision, and Achievement). It was led by Drs. Carol Billups, Jan Jurkus, and Julie Ryan. I remember a fabulous roundtable discussion held in Orlando at the American Academy of Optometry meeting. Sadly, DIVA went away after several years.

A few years later, I became part of another women’s group: Women of Vision. I have been lucky enough to have been part of the leadership of this group, and I’m proud of the events and connections this group has made, both in the past and under the current leadership of Dr. Louise Sclafani.

Recently, I was invited to attend a Women in Optometry meeting at Vistakon’s The Vision Care Institute, the second event the company held. Vistakon gathered a group of women optometrists who have been in practice fewer than 10 years. In addition to sessions on ocular comfort, astigmatism, UV, and Vistakon’s latest product TruEye, plus a walk through the manufacturing and research facilities, attendees had several opportunities to network and connect.

The daylong seminar kicked off with a very interesting workshop using DISC (dominance, influence, steady, and compliant) behavioral assessment. Did you know that if everyone on your staff has the same strength as you, then you all likely have the same weakness? And, in times of stress, your greatest strength can become your weakness. Fascinating stuff.

By far the best part of the day was the closing panel discussion of Vistakon’s Women’s Leadership Initiative. Moderated by Angela Deemer, Vistakon product manager, the panel consisted of Drs. Sheila Hickson-Curran, Charissa Lee, Cristina Schnider, Tina McCarty, and Linda Chous. Panelists shared how they got to where they are today and offered advice to attendees.

I scribbled down as much as I could of these pearls of wisdom. Here are some I’ll share with you:

“Allow yourself room for growth, both you and your practice. There are many opportunities to combine growth with seeing patients. Expect to do great things, and you will.”  -Linda Chous, OD

“Outsource everything you can.”  -Tina McCarty, OD

“Networking is more important than having a mentor. A mentor is just one person to help you.”  -Sheila Hickson-Curran, MCOptom

“Take a step out of your comfort zone. If you don’t, you won’t know your potential.”  -Charissa Lee, OD

“It always take someone else to help you, and you don’t know who that will be.”  -Cristina Schnider, OD

Above all, the panelists encouraged attendees to take on the mantle of leadership-in their local societies, their state associations, or even their churches or childrens’ schools. Those in leadership will gain a lot, and it provides good networking opportunities as well. And when you’re part of leadership, says Dr. Schnider, you have the responsibility to bring others in.

“You have the power to give the gift of leadership to others,” she said. “Let go, and invite someone in.”

Vistakon plans to hold more Women in Optometry seminars in 2014. If you have the opportunity, go!

My colleague Sheryl Stevenson at our sister publication Ophthalmology Times is very involved with Ophthalmic Women Leaders (OWL), a group I’ve not yet explored. For some time, I’ve wanted to attend a meeting and check out this group. Maybe 2014….ODT