Lessons from an explorer, Lady Gaga and optometric leaders

What can optometrists learn about leadership from a 20th century explorer and a 21st century pop artist?

Plenty, it turns out. At the 2014 Presidents' Council meeting Jan. 16-18 in San Antonio, Texas, presenters shared leadership lessons from icons and insights on member engagement.AOA President Mitchell T. Munson, O.D. addresses conference attendees.

Try to find three to five things that could make yourself and your association better.

The meeting included the Presidents, Presidents-elect and executive directors of state optometric associations, the Armed Forces Optometric Society, and the American Optometric Student Association. To kick off the event, moderator Chris Wroten, O.D., past president of the Optometry Association of Louisiana, engaged the audience with the story of explorer Ernest Shackleton.

Shackleton, who led an expedition to Antarctica as World War I broke out, displayed keen leadership skills during this nearly 500-day tale of survival in harsh conditions. Despite failing to reach his goal, Shackleton remained optimistic, resilient and a great communicator, Dr. Wroten said.

Alaska President David Karpik, O.D. and President-Elect Steven Dobson, O.D. visit in an exam room at the Rosenberg School of Optometry.

"He never stopped learning and developing his own leadership skills," he said.

Lessons from a pop star

Dr. Wroten urged the nearly 190 attendees to lead like Shackleton did: "Be engaged. Try to find three to five things that could make yourself and your association better."

AFOS President Jeffrey Autrey, O.D., Executive Directors Anthony Borgognoni, O.D. and Gina Borgognoni visit with 2013 AOA Young Optometrist of the Year Sandra Fortenberry, O.D.

Most ODs wouldn't think of pop star Lady Gaga as an obvious role model. But associations can learn from how she engages her audience, advised Sheri Jacobs, CAE, president and CEO of Avenue M Group, a marketing agency in Bannockburn, Ill., which has numerous health associations among its clients.

With more than 40 million Twitter followers, Lady Gaga knows how to connect like-minded people with similar experiences and challenges, Jacobs said. An association isn't likely to reach such numbers, but the people involved certainly share experiences and challenges.

Getting to know who your members are is crucial, Jacobs stressed. Communications should be based on their needs, not the association's. Call them, email them, and "create one big interaction."

Conference attendees listening intently during a best practices breakout session.

Spreading the word about optometry

The AOA has developed a new communications plan designed to meet member needs in a shifting media environment, AOA president Mitchell T. Munson, O.D., told meeting participants. It has redesigned its website, launched a new weekly email and is preparing to publish a brand-new newsmagazine.

Conference presenter Theresa Jowell visits with Idaho Executive Director Randy Andregg, O.D.

Dr. Munson also underscored recent advocacy wins, including a Senate bill's inclusion of ODs as eligible participants in a new quality-improvement program. The program would replace Medicare's current physician payment formula.

In addition, meeting attendees learned about how the Sunshine Law affects educational grant writing from Theresa Jowell, director of grant management with Alcon, a Novartis company. Jowell cautioned against submitting applications that are too vague or general.

AOA Immediate Past President Ronald Hopping, O.D. visits with three current Rosenberg optometry students.

The meeting also featured policy breakout sessions on federal health reform, state legislation, and access and reimbursement issues. And attendees saw the clinic operated by the University of the Incarnate Word Rosenberg School of Optometry, at a reception hosted at the facility. Rosenberg students met and spoke one-on-one with meeting attendees, connecting future leaders in optometry with the current leaders participating in the meeting.

January 22, 2014

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