President's Calling - Oh No!

Published January 25, 2019

Dear Academy Membership,
If ever you want to see eyes roll and hear a distraught chorus of “oh no,” why not suggest that your practice or team or family do a strategic plan? It works every time. As a matter of fact, the Academy has avoided the whole specter of strategic planning for many years. However, this year, we are determined to take a look at our wonderful history, determine where we are and put a new strategic plan in place.
What is a strategic plan? Wikipedia states that “Strategic planning is an organization’s process of defining its strategy, or direction, and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue this strategy. It is a process whereby a group determines its most pressing problems, thinks to the future and prioritizes what is needed over the next five or so years.” What is interesting and exciting about the planning process is it gives people time to reflect on what was, describe what is and take a stab at what the future will be.
To set the stage for your Academy’s 2019 strategic planning, we asked a large number of Academy Fellows what they believe are the core values of the Academy and here is the list, somewhat in order:
  1. Lifelong learning and pursuit of knowledge
  2. Evidence-based practice
  3. High ethical standards
  4. High quality research
  5. Leadership
  6. Community
  7. Collegiality
  8. Service
Perhaps you can consider what your list would be. If there are concepts missing here, please email them to me.
Also as part of this strategic planning process, we asked the past presidents to attend a meeting just last weekend. I was the note taker and had the privilege of sitting in a room surrounded by stately and brilliant people with dedicated hearts. Each was asked to state the years of his or her presidency and to recall a memory of importance. As we went around the table, every past president sat forward in his or her executive chair, back straight, and spoke with pride of the years of service.
They were also asked to name the Academy’s stakeholders and not only describe what we provide for them now but also consider what we should be doing in the future. Under each of the stakeholders they suggested a BIG BET, a description of what we, as an Academy, should do to enhance their experience within the Academy. Interestingly, it was the students and residents who took the most time and energy from this auspicious group. They hoped we could identify those residents who could lead our Academy and the profession in the future. They acknowledged the 5 year window when we lose many of our Student Fellows to families, practice building and the paying off of student loans. The past presidents believe that we need to concentrate on bringing these young, enthusiastic people to the Academy during those tough years and help them become Fellows.
Of course there were many more topics of interest. The ones that energized me were:
  1. Formalizing associations between optometry and other disciplines such as cardiology, internal medicine, neurology and rheumatology. We considered symposia that included these groups.
  2. Working with industry to access their research and development departments to present at the annual meeting rather than concentrating solely on the marketing department.
  3. Helping doctors think ahead by creating a future eye care office within the exhibit hall.
Imagine how moved I was to spend time with these elders of our Academy. As a closing statement they were asked to give me direct advice about my time as president. The resounding feeling was that I should stay true to myself and to the core principles that the Academy was founded on, bringing science into the clinic.
And so begins the journey of moving the American Academy of Optometry into the future. Funny thing… there was no eye rolling at all.
Barbara Caffery, OD, PhD, FAAO