|Why did you join the Board in the first place?
SJ: I was invited to attend a Board meeting by one of my colleagues. At the time I was looking to get more involved, but didn't know how. By attending the meeting, I was able to see firsthand how much "behind the scenes" activity the Board is involved in.
KB: I was invited to attend a Board meeting, at that meeting Dr. Dave Caban asked me to serve on a committee (and so I became the chair of the PR sub-committee). During the next "election cycle" I was asked to run for a director position.
AS: Even before my first day of optometry school, I knew I was entering a 'legislated profession'. I have seen time and again, during optometry school and in everyday practice, the importance of organized optometry in maintaining the ability to practice full scope optometry and get paid properly for it. This does not happen on it's own. I wanted to be active in making this profession continue to be what I love.
JB: I joined the NHOA board relatively early in my career as an optometrist since I wanted to interact with other optometrists and learn more about our profession. Optometry school teaches about being a good clinician. Being a successful optometrist involves also understanding legislation, business, and most importantly contributing to the optometry community in NH.
SH: I sat next to someone in the meeting just before an election, it was a past president, who asked if I had considered serving, I had but was timid, she encouraged me to run for an open board position. Then another volunteer who I had done a little committee work with also asked if I had considered it, I took it as a sign it was time. I have always been involved and know our organizations are only ever as good as those who are willing to volunteer and work together.
GL: I joined the Board after attending meetings for a couple of years as NHOA's newsletter editor. My first edition came out in January, 1994. By 1997, my name was among those listed on the front page as a Director because there was going to be a vacancy for the Nominations Committee, and I was attending the meetings anyway.
Why did you choose stay on the board?
SJ: The NHOA does so much good for optometry in the state of NH, and I appreciate playing a part in that. Additionally, I believe being on the Board gave my NHOA membership more value. I used to feel like a "nameless face" at meetings, sitting alone and occasionally making small talk. Since becoming involved I definitely feel more a part of the organization.
KB: As a new member of the Board I feel like I’m still learning what I want my role to be and I know I haven’t reached my full potential yet. I feel like there’s still a lot that I can do to support my chosen profession.
AS: The people I have gotten to work with are incredible. I have made strong friendships and rewarding professional networks. I've found mentors that have made me a better doctor and better business person as well. I am inspired by the commitment and hard work that I see from other people on the board, and it keeps me going.
JB: I plan on practicing optometry in NH for several years. Policy changes decided today will likely have a big impact on the way we can practice, earn a living and serve our patients in the future. I choose to remain on the board in order to have a voice in how today's policy changes are made.
SH: I quickly realized how much goes on that is easy to miss, how little nuances about optometry in NH are important to know for the health of individual practices, or for the health of our profession or both. It was interesting to be at meetings and hear these things, and I felt like it was easy to put in a little work and make a difference for everyone.
GL: I have chosen to stay because I want to remain "in the loop". Although "helping to shape the future of the profession" might sound a bit cliche, there's no better way to learn the “whys” and “hows” of the Association than to serve on its Board.
What have you personally/professionally gained from being on the board?
SJ: Personally I have gained friendships and a sense of pride from contributing to an organization that supports my profession. Professionally it's given me opportunities to network with many OD's from around the state.
KB: Personally, I have gained many friendships that I may not have developed by just attending the CE meetings. Professionally, I have been able to make connections with other ODs that aid in the referral process. I also feel like I’m “in the know” in terms of what’s going on with our legislative effort, TPC developments, national news, etc.
AS: The things I mentioned above - the relationships, friendships, networks, mentors. I learn things from other board members that I can take back and implement in my own practice. I feel proud of my contributions to the association and the profession. Because of my work on the board, I was in the right place at the right time to find and purchase the practice of my dreams. It doesn't get more rewarding than that!
JB: Interacting with other optometrists has taught me a lot about myself. It has also opened doors to discussions with other NH optometrists that otherwise would have been unknown to me.
SH: A lot of connections and friendships as well as some improvement to confidence and public speaking. I feel like I have a broader awareness of optometry and how our profession is evolving and the work that it takes to get us positive changes which provides me great respect for the leadership who are currently doing that work or who have done it before, and also respect for how my dues dollars are utilized and what a bargain membership is.
GL: (See number 2.)
What is the time commitment really like?
SJ: The time commitment is what you make of it. Minimally, you're expected to attend the Board meetings (around 7 a year). If you have lots of time to give, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities within the committee structure. If you don't have much time to offer, it is fine to choose one area that interests you (advocacy, membership, community outreach, etc.) and any volunteer work you can provide is greatly appreciated.
KB: You can be as involved as you want to be – you can be on one committee or multiple. You certainly need to make time to attend the Board meetings, regional meetings (in your area), and CE meetings.
AS: It varies. Some board members put in more time than others. Certainly the officers put in even more time. But so much of it is flexible to your schedule. There are the board meetings - 1 night 6-8 times throughout the year. You don't necessarily have to be physically present at every single one, but you are a more effective board member when you are able to attend. In addition to the board meetings is the committee work. Each board member is on a committee and is expected to actively contribute. But most of these contributions can be done on our own time, between patients, or an hour here, an hour there at home in the evenings. I never seem to have enough time to do all the things that I WANT to do for the association, but I'm able to find time for the things I most NEED to do - and still have plenty of time to focus on my patients, my office, my family, my personal life, etc, etc. It is easy to find the time to do the things you enjoy!
JB: As with anything else in life, you get out of it what you put into it. Given the return, I feel the time commitment has been very reasonable.
SH: It can be what you make of it, minimum I would say an hour a week, it would be fine to start with that. Maximum I ever regularly gave, even as president, was 4-6 hours per week.
GL: Like any other organization, the time commitment for Board members varies with the office held. And, generally, you get out of it what you put in. The eight directors serve on the various commiittees of the association, usually serving as chairs. As entry-level Board members, they can see where the Association needs input, and volunteer accordingly. I personally average one to two hours per week on various projects.
What do you do in your current role?
SJ: Currently I am co-chairing the committee that oversees the NHOA's community outreach project, Diabetes Eye Exam Initiative. I'm also a co-chair of the Meetings Committee.
KB: I’m chair of the public relations/information sub-committee, which is part of the Community Outreach committee. I send out press releases and work on our advertising campaign. I’m also a liaison to Medicaid.
AS: I do a lot with membership - welcoming new members, reaching out to students or non-members, trying to improve benefits of being members, etc. That is my primary committee focus. But I am also actively contributing to legislative efforts, third party activities, regional meeting planning, and annual/CE meeting planning also. That's a lot of areas that I am involved in, but I gradually got to that point as I worked my way up towards vice president. I was involved in much less, though still quite involved, in previous years. As Vice President, I also attend two national meetings per year at which we meet with state leaders from all across the country. Very interesting and rewarding work.
JB: As President-Elect, I am preparing to become President. I assist the current president and executive council, offering opinions and advice on issues as they come up. I have oversight of NHOA committees where the business of the NHOA is conducted. During this time I am making personal connections across the state, as well as at national meetings and generally learn about the issues facing the NHOA.
SH: I am trying to still be of help on the TPC and have been involved with the current legislative effort.
GL: I serve on the Effective Management committee, on the operations side. My biggest role is in elections and awards.
What are the Board meetings like and how often do they occur?
SJ: The Board meetings are held about every 6 weeks (with the exception of summer). An agenda is distributed about a week prior to the meeting. The meetings follow Robert's Rules of Order (which, as a relative newer board member, took some getting used to). The President is usually pretty good at keeping the meeting moving along. When the meeting ends the board members typically gather for some brief socializing.
AS: Come attend one and find out! Board meetings are open for members to attend. They are typically about 2 hrs on a week night, 6-8 times throughout the year. We discuss what each committee is working on, and new issues that develop, new ideas to enhance the association and the profession.
SH: Meetings are business like but informal, they are 4-6 times per year on a weekday evening, lasting approximately 2 hours. Anyone can observe, board members vote and give input as they see fit or as asked for by the president.
GL: Board meetings are held every 6-8 weeks, and usually last 2-3 hours.
If I join the Board as a director am I expected to be president or vice president eventually?
SJ: No. You can serve in any capacity you'd like.
KB: Only if you want to.
AS: Not at all. Some people have no desire to move up the ranks, yet still make very valuable contributions as a board member. Moving up the ranks does involve a greater time commitment and more active leadership, and that may not be suited for everyone.
JB: That is entirely up to you.
SH: No, you are expected to contribute in some way, at first be on a committee or two and help out, eventually maybe take leadership on a committee. If you stay on the board 3-4 years the expectation does build, but you could give up being a director and still be at meetings as a committee chair or for input as you like if you decide after seeing how things work for a few years that you don't want to go up through the chairs.
GL: This may well be the issue that prevents many from seriously considering running for a seat on the Board. Although serving as Director is the first rung on the proverbial ladder, and realizing that there's an expectation that you may do so, serving as an officer is a personal choice based on your comfort level. Of course, you cannot really anticipate your level of interest in higher office until you've served on the Board first. Don't let assumptions of the process prevent you from joining.
If you're not sure whether to proceed, feel free to join one of the NHOA's committees; there's always work to do. It's a great way to introduce yourself to other members who have a common interest and interact with those who have decided get more involved.
At the very least, involvement in our Association should begin with attending our regional meetings on a regular basis. Because legislators are usually invited to each of these, they're an easy opportunity to meet these important people.
I think I'd like to be president some day. What is the process and how long does it usually take?
SJ: I think Guy would be more qualified to answer this. :-) It's probably best to start out as a committee member or even a chair. Once you feel you have a pretty good grasp on how things function, you would run for Vice President. The following year you'd be President Elect, and then the year after that you'd be President. If the current President decides to hold onto their position another year, that could potentially delay things.
AS: The only true requirement for serving as president is that you have previously served as president-elect. So technically you could be president after only 1 year of involvement at the president-elect level. However, it is encouraged to serve on the board first and serve as vice president, prior to serving as president-elect. Following this path, you could do 1 year on the board, then vice president, then president-elect, then president.
JB: Great! The issues facing optometry are complex, multi-faceted and always evolving. If they were easy to solve, it would be done already. Working your way up the ranks is an important learning process and a great opportunity for professional growth. This may include a year or more on the board, then vice-president, president-elect and eventually president.
SH: Start with a year or two of committee activity, thereafter or at the same time become a director, after a couple of years for learning submit your name as a candidate for VP and then move on up. Each president has the option of running for a second year or being done after 1, so the time to be president can vary, but you can ask those ahead of you what their intents are, just understand they have every right to change their mind. Time really does go quickly.
GL: As I related above, the first step is to serve as a Director. This is a chance to learn the way the NHOA operates. Not so long ago, it was customary for Presidents to serve up to the limit set by the by-laws--two consecutive one-year terms. This meant that Directors would go on to serve two years as Vice-President, then two as President-Elect, and then President--a commitment of 5-7 years. More recently, it has become more fashionable for the President to serve a single term, cutting that commitment to 4 years.
Can I still run for a board position if I can't make it to many meetings?
SJ: You can, although meeting attendance is encouraged. You can always participate remotely, either via Skype or conference call.
AS: Yes. You should be willing and able to make it to some of the meetings. Meetings can also be attended remotely via Skype or conference call. You can also miss a few meetings entirely when necessary. Every effort should be made to attend as many meetings as possible, but not being able to attend them all should not stop you from running.
JB: Participation is most important for those sitting on the NHOA board. Attendance and participation may be closely related but are not exactly the same. With ongoing improvements in technology such as Skype and phone conferencing, physical attendance is less important than participation and willingness to move the ball forward. Challenges with physical attendance can now be easily be addressed and is no longer a valid excuse to avoid participation in your state association.
SH: You can, and with today's technology if you cannot physically be at a meeting you can still skype in or join in some form. You should try to make most meetings in one form or another but if you live a distance away I know the ED and others would welcome your participation remotely, it isn't so hard these days.
GL: You could run for office without a commitment to attend all of the meetings. The By-laws, however, require such a commitment when you take your oath of office. The NHOA members who elect you deserve and expect the members of the Board to do so, also. If you cannot commit the time for the Board, please consider serving on a committee.
Should I consider a board position even though I feel like I don't know anything?
SJ: Absolutely. I knew nothing when I started. It may seem overwhelming at first, but you pick things up quickly. The more "seasoned" board members are very willing to help you along.
KB: Yes! I’ve been involved with committee work and the Board for about two years and I’m still learning. The only requirement is the desire/willingness to help. Start by asking the committee chairs what their committees do and find one that sounds interesting and just jump in.
AS: Yes! We all need to start somewhere. You can volunteer to help on a committee without having to be on the board if you want another way to get involved. However, anywhere you volunteer, you will learn as you go. Having fresh new people involved brings new perspectives and new ideas which help move the profession forward. Being on the board or volunteering for a committee is a great way to learn more about your profession.
JB: Absolutely Yes. Willingness to participate and learn is all that is needed. You are a doctor, so we know you intelligent and know how to learn. What we need is greater participation, and less sitting on the sidelines. We need to learn about these issues together.
SH: Yes, I think if you are interested in helping our profession and have a bit of time and energy to give you will learn what you feel you don't know, no one comes into this with the full range of knowledge, that is why being on a committee or on the board for awhile is typical before someone runs for any office. We all need time to gain experience and understand the ins and outs of how the NHOA and AOA work.
GL: As a member, you already know something about NHOA, and this knowledge is enhanced with every Business Meeting during the CE sessions. "Giving back" is something we all want to do, and, as I've said since the time I was the editor of the NHOA newsletter and later, as President, "Membership has its benefits, and its responsibilities." An interest in serving the Association may well reveal a hidden talent that you've never tapped.