THE ENTERTAINING SIDE OF OPTOMETRY
“LEADERSHIP IS SIMPLY the ability of an individual to coalesce the efforts of other individuals toward achieving common goals,” said Frederick W. Smith, founder, chairman, president and CEO of FedEx. “It boils down to looking after your people and ensuring that, from top to bottom, everyone feels part of the team.”
While Mr. Smith wasn’t talking about the fine leadership of the AOA, this quote certainly applies to those who have served and those recently elected to represent the 44,000 doctors of optometry, optometric professionals and optometry students.
If you have ever witnessed an AOA leadership meeting, including countless committees and volunteers, you know that those who give of their time and experience to serve the profession deserve to be recognized and appreciated by all practicing optometrists and their patients.
And so this month, I introduce you to the latest leaders of this 122-year-old indispensable organization. As has been the case with the AOA leaders who came before them, these folks will continue to learn about, organize and fight for what is best for our patients and the profession. So, without further ado, meet Samuel Pierce, AOA president, William Reynolds, AOA vice president, and Barbara Horn, AOA president-elect. Why not FedEx them a congratulations?
Jack Schaeffer, O.D., F.A.A.O.,
AOA LEADERS WEIGH IN . . .
SAMUEL PIERCE, O.D., WILLIAM REYNOLDS, O.D., AND BARBARA HORN, O.D.
Q: WHY ARE YOU INVOLVED IN THE AOA?
SP: Without the AOA and our state associations, I truly believe we would still be practicing 1950s optometry. I want to do all I can to make sure we continue to move forward.
WR: I first got involved with the Kentucky Optometric Association. Once involved, it was very important to me to be a part of moving the profession forward, and I wanted to be involved on both a national and state level.
BH: In my first week of optometry school, our practice management educator asked us to present on any topic of our choosing. I chose “the alphabet soup of optometry:” AOA, AOSA, AAO, ASCO and ARBO, among many others (those are just the As). I realized that while all within the alphabet soup are critical to the functioning of optometry, only the AOA safeguards, advances and continues to represent and protect us all. Because of that realization, in week one of optometry school, I was forever devoted to the AOA.
Q: WHY SHOULD AN OPTOMETRIST JOIN THE AOA?
SP: The AOA and our state associations are doing the work to promote and move the profession forward.
WR: The AOA is the only organization that advocates for optometrists and our patients. There are only 44,000 optometrists nationwide; if we do not all participate, we are not a large enough group to be effective.
BH: By becoming a member, you are supporting your own livelihood! AOA’s mission is centered on improving the quality and availability of eye and vision health care.
Q: WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST CHERISHED MOMENT AS AN AOA OFFICER?
SP: Seeing children’s vision as an essential benefit, along with the passage of the Harkin Amendment.
WR: As an AOA board member, we serve as liaisons to different affiliates. When I was in Wisconsin, the O.D. of the year was Dr. Marilyn Heinke. She received her license the day after the Japanese surrendered in World War II and was still practicing and involved in the association. Presenting that award was a very special moment.
BH: “I asked you how you were able to do, what I considered, everything and do it so well. Your answer helped propel my career. You told me, ‘You make time for what’s important to you,’ That seems simple but, to me, at that time, it was highly impactful. Thank you again!” Receiving messages like these, years after an initial conversation, is priceless!
Q: WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION DOCTORS HAVE ABOUT THE AOA?
SP: That the leadership is “out of touch” with the average practitioner. This is absolutely not the case. I, as well as the majority of the board, see patients almost every day and deal with access issues, reimbursement issues and all the other issues most doctors of optometry deal with daily.
WR: That many doctors view it as more of a club rather than an association that works tirelessly to promote and advocate for the profession.
BH: Doctors may underestimate the extent to which AOA advocates for the profession and serves optometrists in meeting the eye care needs of the public. The details of what the AOA does 24/7/365 for our patients and the profession are overwhelming and impressive!
Q: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A NEW PRACTITIONER (OTHER THAN TO JOIN THE AOA)?
SP: Strike a healthy balance between your professional, home and social life.
WR: Practice to the fullest extent of your licenses regardless of where you practice. Full-scope optometry is our future and if you do not utilize these privileges, you will be left out. BH: Find an area of optometry you enjoy, and volunteer your time in a local, state or national committee. Finding others passionate about the same topics is beneficial to the new practitioner, the committee working on those specific goals, the patients and the profession overall.
Q: WHO ARE THE MEMBERS OF YOUR FAMILY, AND WHAT DO YOU DO FOR FUN?
SP: My wife, Kim, and I have two daughters, Juliana and Emily. Both just finished college and are starting their own careers. And we have two dogs.
WR: My wife Ann, grown sons, Will and Patrick, and my golden retriever Cal. My idea of the perfect time is for us all to escape to our lake house for the weekend.
BH: My daughter Brooke is 14, and my son Mick is 11. We love walking and running on the beach and spending time at our pools. South Carolina has been good to us! My favorite letting-off-steam or sports activity is rollerblading.
Q: WHAT PERSON, LIVING OR DEAD, WOULD YOU LIKE TO HEAR SPEAK AND WHY?
SP: Benjamin Franklin because of all the things he was involved in, not the least of which was creating bifocal spectacles.
WR: I would have loved to hear John F. Kennedy speak. He seemed to have the ability to motivate people to work for a cause bigger than themselves and for the betterment of everyone and their country.
BH: My mom. She is my rock and always has been.
Q: WHAT QUESTION WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE ASKED THAT NO JOURNALIST HAS EVER ASKED YOU? WHAT IS YOUR ANSWER?
SP: ”Can you hold your nose and blow air out your lower punctas?” Why, yes. Yes I can. (According to Duke-Elder, only 5% of the population are nasolacrimal whistlers.)
WR: “Why didn’t you end up making millions of dollars in the NBA?” My response would have nothing to do with my lack of talent, but simply, “I love optometry too much to do anything else.”
BH: “Who would I like to acknowledge for their efforts?”… My mom, an amazing and supportive woman!
Q: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE, BOOK, BAND AND ADULT BEVERAGE?
SP: Movie: “Forrest Gump;” Book: A Painted House; Band: Mumford & Sons; Adult Beverage: Good bourbon with a large cube or sphere.
WR: Movie: I enjoy action/adventure movies for pure escapism; Book: I used to enjoy historical dramas, but since I became an AOA board member, I am more into emails. Band: Bob Seger/Tom Petty; Adult Beverage: Is there anything but fine Kentucky bourbon?
BH: Movie: The TV version of “The Shawshank Redemption;” Book: Outlander; Band: Sugarland/Jennifer Nettles; Adult Beverage: Amaretto on the rocks with fresh-squeezed lime.