A President's Farewell
by Dr. Nhung Brandenburg
President’s Column – May 2018
As my presidency draws to a close in a couple months, it seems like just yesterday that I was just beginning my year. I chose as my theme “Honoring our Past, Shaping our Future” because it summarized the goals I wanted to achieve while serving as your President.
Honoring our Past…
The GOA has such a rich legacy of strong and dedicated leaders. Last summer, during Optometry’s Night of Celebration at Hilton Head, we had the opportunity to recognize several individuals who have contributed so much to our profession and organization. We were honored to have our former GOA Executive Director (and one of my mentors) as our special guest, who then presented her namesake Distinguished Service Award to Dr. Michael McQuaig for his indomitable spirit and unwavering dedication as he held our organization together through our darkest times in the 80’s. Also, in attendance that night were Chairman John Meadows, Representative Earl Ehrhart and Representative Dr. James Beverly – who fought for the passage of our injections / formulary elimination bill, as well as most of our legislation over the past 20 years. What a privilege it was for me to introduce Representative Ehrhart to the AOA Executive Council at Optometry’s Meeting where he was commended for his 30 years of dedicated service to our profession.
I am very grateful for all the Past Presidents who have served on my unofficial Presidents’ Council this year and in years past: Paul Ajamian, Ron Bannister, Glenda Brown, Judd Briggs, Joel Byars, Horace Deal, Kemp Jones, Tom Spetalnick, Stuart Tasman, John Whitlow and Maurice Zadeh. Their support, advice and guidance have been invaluable to me as I have faced some very difficult decisions this year. Nearly 30 GOA members came to SECO to welcome home Past President Dr. Ted McElroy as he completed his SECO term and to cheer on Dr. Paul Ajamian when he received the SECO President’s award.
We will continue to honor our past by reinvigorating the GOA Foundation with a new mission statement, purpose and goals. Going forward, the Foundation will focus on care (of the less fortunate), hope (student scholarships and grants) and honor (recognition of longstanding members, special service and a vehicle for retirement planning).
Shaping our Future…
The GOA Foundation Task Force was just one of several new task forces and committees that were formed this year as we sought ways to strengthen our association for the future. The Governance Task Force updated the language of our current bylaws to streamline our Trustees’ terms and areas of representation. Thanks to the efforts of our new Grassroots Committee, chaired by Doctors Darell Sorah and Gregg Russell, our one-on -one relationships with Legislators will be strengthened and expanded. Our new Audit Committee, consisting of Doctors Mehrdad Saadat, Jeanne Perrine and Judd Briggs, has examined every line item on our operating budget and will work to ensure fiscal responsibility with all GOA funds.
It was my hope that existing standing committees would be expanded to include more members who could be mentored, trained and perhaps one day, step up to lead. I would like to extend my deep appreciation to all the committee chairs and volunteers who have worked so tirelessly this year:
Dr. Melonie Clemmons, who not only served as Trustee at-large on the Board, but who oversaw the Corporate Committee. She helped us organize the first GOA corporate dinner in Athens, arranged for my Presidential visits to North Georgia and Walmart doctors and has been such an inspiration with all her great ideas and enthusiasm.
Dr. John Whitlow who has led the charge along with Bryan, Aubrey, Hannah and Jeremy for the passage of our injections bill and the codification of our bill with the appropriate language to prevent optometry’s restrictions on scope of practice.
Doctors Jon Forche, Sharon Berger Moscow and Melanie Peeler for their efforts to raise a tremendous amount of funds for our GOA PAC, money which was much needed in this election year to support legislators who advocate for our profession.
Dr. Stuart Tasman for diplomatically advocating for GOA members who have faced discrimination and unfair practices from insurers.
Dr. Maurice Zadeh for overseeing the Carrier Committee and keeping us updated on Medicare issues.
Doctors Paige Foster and Charlie Ficco for coordinating our excellent CE programs this year.
Dr. Rebecca Briggs Garnier and Dr. Jessica Hall-Finks for coordinating the fun and well-attended Young OD events.
Dr. Sarah Bassett for pairing mentors with new doctors entering GA with our Eye-to-Eye committee.
Dr. Jeff Hackleman who did an excellent job coordinating the GOA Leadership Program. Under his leadership, Doctors Ruchi Ghandi, Michael Do, Deena Woodhams, Jarod Griffis and Scott Moscow were well trained in all aspects of the GOA and will go on to continue serving and leading.
Doctors Tom Spetalnick and Nacondus Gamble for chairing the membership committee and helping with student outreach and efforts to keep members active and engaged.
Doctors Joe Rouw and Nadira Shadeed for coordinating our community health outreach, particularly the Special Olympics Opening Eyes Program.
The Board of Trustees for active participation in planning and carrying out our mission, goals and strategies.
Special thanks to the GOA Executive Committee who partnered with me on multiple new projects this year. Doctors Merhdad Saadat, Jeanne Perrine and Scott Emely represented Georgia well as we traveled to AOA’s House of Delegates, SGRC conference, and Presidents’ Council. GOA is well recognized nationwide for our strong membership and legislative initiatives. Doctors Nadine Forche and Ben Casella served tirelessly on their task forces. Our efforts to expand student outreach to surrounding optometry schools included special visits by Doctors Tom Spetalnick, Blake Hutto, Stuart Tasman and Stewart Thomas, along with myself to SCO, Nova, and UAB optometry schools. We are also working with students at the new optometry school in Kentucky to establish their Georgia Club.
After our strategic planning meeting last summer, the Board adopted a new mission statement: “Advancing eye and health care by supporting doctors of optometry “along with 5 main goals focused on membership support, advocacy, professional development, organizational strength and public awareness. We have changed the format of our Board meetings to make them more productive and task-oriented, allowing us to accomplish a great deal more this year.
At our fall conference, we launched our first-ever job fair which enabled employers to meet and connect with doctors seeking new positions. At our first GOA corporate dinner, I met with Energeyes President Dr. Naheed Ahmad and Immediate Past President Dr. Eric Botts (who was also GOA’s first corporate lecturer) to discuss ways that the 2 organizations can work together to engage our members to be more active in both organizations.
Plans are being finalized for several projects in the near future: a new sign will soon go up on the GOA office building, the GOA app has been approved by the Board of Trustees and is in development, to be launched soon. Our injections certification course will be held May 17-20 and will allow doctors of optometry to begin performing injections into the eyelid and subconjunctiva. We no longer have a drug formulary, nor are we constrained to drug classes. Optometrists in Georgia can now prescribe any medication for ocular disorders.
Our future is strong and bright, but we need your participation. With all of our privileges comes many responsibilities. I will continue to support the Board in any way I can as they continue to carry out our strategic plan. I will continue to volunteer for the AOA membership committee, give to GOA and AOA PAC and serve on the Women of Optometry Board and other service projects.
When I began my presidential year, I shared with you my story and how I became and remained involved with the GOA. I asked you then and I ask you now, what role will YOU play in GOA’s story going forward? How will YOU honor our past and help shape our future?
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your president this year. It has truly been my pleasure to lead not only this year, but to volunteer over the past 20 years alongside such wonderful colleagues.
Looking forward to our future,
Dr. Nhung Brandenburg