“CAVU for Optometry”
Chairman Munson, members of the Board of Trustees, SCCO Faculty, Staff and Administrators, AOA President Kehoe, Professor DeLucas, Fellow Deans/Presidents, Delegates, Distinguished Guests, Family and Friends:
It is an honor to stand before you on this day to formally assume the duties and responsibilities as the Seventh President of the Southern California College of Optometry. This is a day of celebration—certainly for the College and me as I accept this position—but in a larger sense, a day of celebration for the profession as well. Inaugural ceremonies like these, both here and at our sister schools, reaffirm the profession’s commitment to excellence in optometric education. They remind us to have an appreciation for a sense of “institutional tradition” that has, in just a little over 100 years, become the underpinning of the profession. As we celebrate the inauguration of our Seventh President, we also celebrate the contributions of Presidents Marshall and William Ketchum, Ernest Hutchinson, Vierling Kersey, Richard Hopping and Lesley Walls; as well as those who served capably as Deans and Acting Deans throughout our history. Without their extraordinary vision, and the teamwork they inspired, we would not stand today as a world leader in optometric education.
I thank each of you for attending our celebration—particularly those of you who have come great distances to be with us. I’d like to take a moment of personal privilege to acknowledge a few individuals who are important to my life and have helped shape the destiny that places me here today.
First I want to introduce my family: My wife, Dr. Carol Alexander, who gave up her practice so that we could begin a new adventure together; my parents, Nelson and Betty Alexander who travelled from Ohio to be here today (On May 12th they will have been married 69 years) and my daughter, Lindsay McKitrick who is an optician, married to David and the wonderful mother of 2 children. My son Nicholas, his wife Jenna and their 2 children could not be here today.
I think you will agree that anyone who achieves something worthwhile has had a mentor who inspires to excellence. I have had two such mentors in the profession and one is here today. I call Dr. Arol Augsburger my “optometric big brother” as he has served as a role model for me as I strove to meld scholarly achievement and clinical care into a career with purpose. Dr. Ruth Morris, of Toledo Ohio, who could not be with us, took me into her office as a student and instilled in me a passion for the profession that continues to grow each day.
I also wish to recognize AOA President Kehoe and AOA President-Elect Brooks—we have been through a lot together and I appreciate your being here. I offer my special thanks to Professor Lawrence DeLucas who, despite a demanding schedule, made time to deliver an inspiring address today. And, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge SCCO Past Presidents Dr. Richard Hopping and Dr. Lesley Walls who, each in their own way, have been tremendous role models for me over the years. I am very happy you are here today.
From the time of Charles Prentice, who first charged a fee for an eye examination in the late 1800’s; to the first optometry licensing law in Minnesota in 1901; to the present day when all 50 states now authorize optometrists to use pharmaceuticals to treat disease; Optometry has pursued a path of continuous development of the profession. The successes of our profession have been impressive; but were not easy. Optometry now represents the primary entry point into the healthcare system for all eye and vision problems; but this did not occur without hard work and sacrifice by generations of optometric leaders. And, while we may expect an occasional challenge to our profession, I say to you that the future of Optometry has never been brighter. The world-wide demographics of an aging population with an ever increasing need for eye and vision care is well documented; North American optometric programs train the finest optometrists in the world; optometric researchers are making important contributions to the fundamental understanding of the processes of vision; and, organized optometry – the AOA and its affiliates – has positioned our profession as a national resource as our country prepares for healthcare reform in the next decade. Optometry is consistently ranked in national polls among the top ten careers for the next decade. And, other academic institutions have recognized the bright future of optometry as 3 new colleges of optometry joined the profession over the past year.
As some of you know, I am a pilot. We aviators have a term for where Optometry finds itself today and that term is C-A-V-U –Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited. “CAVU” represents the ideal conditions for flight—no clouds; and clear for as far as the eye can see. Pilots love CAVU conditions because there are no limitations— no storms, no ice, and no turbulence. The only limits to reaching a destination are those imposed by the pilot and his machine. At this precise moment, it is truly “CAVU” for Optometry; and I, for one, envy these young student optometrists here today who are at the beginning of what will surely be, an exciting optometric journey.
When you consider all that has been accomplished by our profession in just a little over 100 years, it is hard to imagine where Optometry will find itself at the end of this century. How will we remediate refractive error? What will be the role of genomics and the science of proteins? Will there be a drop containing nano-bots that will target disease vectors or mechanically reshape the cornea? What will be the scope of optometric practice? And, how will optometry define its role in the healthcare system of the future?
If we approach the challenges of the next few decades with the confidence and self-assurance of the pilot taking off in CAVU conditions, our profession will flourish as optometrists continue to improve lives with better vision.
But, how does the weather look for SCCO? I submit to you that it is “CAVU” for the Southern California College of Optometry as well.
Being named the President of a college of optometry is a signal honor for any optometric leader. It is particularly so at SCCO because our program began at nearly the same time as optometry was first recognized as a profession. Prior to the founding of SCCO in 1904, Minnesota had become the first state to license optometrists in 1901 with North Dakota and California following closely in 1903. While Optometry secured professional status in the early 20th century, over 60 schools of “Optometry” were struggling to create the proper path to a learned profession—sorting out the curriculum; deciding how long the program should be. Of those early schools, only 3 remain—SCCO, The Illinois College of Optometry and the New England College of Optometry—and we are proud to share that heritage with those institutions. From the College’s early, fledgling starts; through the courtship with University affiliation; to the LACO years; and with the move that created the spectacular campus here today; the development of SCCO has placed us on the doorstep of true world excellence.
After 105 years, we have perfected the art of selecting, educating and training optometrists of the future—there is no finer optometric education in the world. The key to this success lies with outstanding faculty, facilitated by able administrators and excellent staff. But to be a true world leader in optometric education, SCCO must be much more. Let me outline for you my vision for the future of our institution.
First, critical to the transformation of a program to a “new place,” is the development of a global vision for that institution. What does the SCCO Family see as the role of the College in the future? What external changes may we expect that will necessitate programmatic change to ensure SCCO’s preeminence as a world leader in optometric education? What additional programs or objectives will be required to maintain the institutional momentum of excellence?
This summer, we will embark on a “visioning” process that will lead us to a dynamic, new strategic plan for the College. We will engage the entire SCCO Community, as well as outside “futurists,” as we develop our sense of a “preferred future” for our College.
Second, the contributions of SCCO to research and scholarly activity over the last one hundred years—while meaningful— need to become more significant. The foundation to a robust program of research and scholarly activity is a solid graduate program. For SCCO, that means a program leading to a Masters Degree, and ultimately a Doctor of Philosophy in Vision Science. Together, with the faculty guiding the process to develop a model, we have already made significant progress toward graduate education at SCCO.
Third, a rich clinical experience is fundamental to our primary mission of training new optometrists. We are so proud of the Eye Care Center that offers modern facilities for our doctors to care for all eye and vision problems; but we must continue to expand the opportunities for our student doctors to see more patients and experience diverse types of eye and vision conditions. As the profession of optometry seeks to expand its role in areas like vision rehabilitation and community-based care, the College will develop our services in these areas by collaborating with community clinics, hospitals and government agencies. Additionally, a campus-based, multidisciplinary clinic or surgical center would enhance student interactions with other health care professionals.
Fourth, I believe that optometry schools should be a valuable resource to alumni as they face the complicated and challenging issues of practice development and administration. We need to do much more than just provide continuing education required for re-licensure; we need to offer programs to help optometrists grow their practices. Successful graduates bring great credit to the quality of their SCCO experience; and we can help with that success. Starting this summer, in collaboration with Cal State Fullerton’s College of Business and Economics, SCCO will initiate a 5-session “mini-MBA” program where optometrists can learn more about how to run their practices. If successful, we expect that this program will grow into a true MBA in Optometric Management that will prepare optometrists for the role of CEO of private practices, large clinics and hospitals.
And we need to look beyond optometry. What sort of collaborations can SCCO forge with other disciplines? Can our campus become home to additional programs that compliment what we do? I believe we must explore programs like vision rehabilitation, audiology, or even nursing where we might find a fit that takes us from a College of Optometry to a Health Care University. It’s just a thought….but when it’s CAVU….the sky is the limit.
As we gather here today to celebrate this important moment for our College, surrounded by expert faculty, skilled staff, able administrators, dedicated trustees, and supportive alumni and friends; I declare to you that my personal mission is to guide our team to a new plateau of excellence in optometric education. With the forecast for ceiling and visibility unlimited, and with the help of every SCCO Family member, I know our journey will be a success.