Professional Unity

by Rick Cornett, Executive Director

What a phenomenal journey it has been serving the optometric profession the past 16 years. Reflecting on the 43 years I’ve spent in healthcare, the privilege of being a spokesperson for optometry and primary care is a highlight. Certain aspects of my tenure as your executive director stand out. Most experiences have been positive but, as in human nature, the negative ones seem to demand the most energy.

One unexpected and unnecessary problem for organized optometry is the lack of professional unity. The optometric family has much to be united over, starting with making each patient as good as they can be visually. But numerous other issues continually distract from this basic core mission. You can fill in the blank as to those distracting issues. Our focus should always be “the profession to be emulated.”

An historical example of unity comes to mind. in The Sound of Laughter by Bernard Cerf he relates a story about an event Ed Sullivan staged for returning WWII wounded veterans which took place at Halloran General Hospital on Staten Island. Comedian Jimmy Durante who was popular with the GIs agreed to do a short song even though he had a bad cold and had another commitment. The veterans were eager for the show. Durante did his number and was greeted with thunderous applause. He returned to the stage for an encore with additional songs, and the event was said to be the greatest entertainment night for wounded veterans. Sullivan later asked Durante why he had stayed when he had other pressing commitments. Durante said he looked through the stage curtains and two young lieutenants in the center front row who had each lost an arm and were applauding their two remaining hands together. “When I saw that, Ed, I made up my mind that my next commitment wasn’t as important, and my cold wasn’t important either.”

Unity. Working together. Common goals. For optometry it seems to this executive director that the goal is to make sure each patient can see as good as possible. That takes commitment from the patient, the primary eye care doctor, those of us who work for you including your professional organizations, and any other groups that agree with this simple philosophy. Let’s focus on professional unity that is patient – and optometry – centered. Although the concept may be simple, too many other agendas seem to get in the way. Let’s eliminate the distractions and move on with a common agenda of “unity” at a time when it is needed more than ever.

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