April 15, 2004
3 min read

Ophthalmic Women Leaders promotes industry networking

Group prepares for second meeting, panel discussion at ASCRS.

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When the organizing committee of Ophthalmic Women Leaders sent out an impromptu e-mail invitation for its inaugural meeting in November, no more than 50 women were expected to respond.

Instead, 200 women turned out to meet and greet some of the most prominent women leaders in the ophthalmic industry.

“There’s a need for this organization to exist,” said Marguerite B. McDonald, MD, who serves on the group’s advisory board. “I think it’s a great way for women to network and make friends and help each other with career development.”

Tamara Church, a newcomer in the ophthalmic industry when she joined Heidelberg Engineering, said the idea came to her after she witnessed the camaraderie among her male counterparts.

“The women seem not to be quite as connected,” she said. “So I just started thinking that it would be nice to have a vehicle to bring us all the opportunity to get together and know each other better, network and possibly even educate each other on what the various segments of industry do.”


With Jan Beiting, a freelance writer and editor, Jane Aguirre, publisher of EyeNet, and Dr. McDonald, Ms. Church founded Ophthalmic Women Leaders (OWL) as a way to connect women in the industry.

The current focus of the group, which targets women who attend most of the big ophthalmic meetings, is membership recruitment and sponsoring two events each year, according to Ms. Church. OWL events will coincide with the meetings of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery.

“We hope long term to be able to offer professional development programs and maybe mentoring and other things to help and support professional women in our industry,” she said.

International focus

OWL is also preparing to launch globally within the next year, according to Jaci Lindstrom, chairwoman of OWL’s International Relations Committee.

“In certain cultures, women may not exist in the executive ranks at all,” said Mrs. Lindstrom, executive director of the International Intraocular Implant Club. “I believe we’ll have a greater need internationally than in the U.S.”

The greatest challenge for the International Relations Committee has been recruitment, she said. OWL will try to increase its international presence at the meeting of the European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons and by targeting ophthalmic companies abroad, she added.

Next meeting

At ASCRS, OWL is hosting a panel discussion with its advisory board members: Elizabeth Dávila, CEO of Visx; J. Michelle Glossip, chief executive of Duckworth & Kent; Adrienne Graves, PhD, CEO of Santen; James V. Mazzo, president and CEO of Advanced Medical Optics; and Kate Tiedemann, president of Katena Products.

“These are extraordinarily talented [professionals], and it’s wonderful to have their advice on how to help the next generation develop their skills and rise to that level,” said Dr. McDonald, who will moderate the discussion.

In some ways, OWL dovetails with another group for women, Women in Ophthalmology, according to Dr. McDonald, who also serves on the advisory board of that group. She added that many of the issues that women face in the industry are different from those facing physicians.

“If you’re trying to work your way up in a huge company, that’s different than when you’re running your own small business or you are one of two or three business partners running a small business,” she said.

Ms. Church noted that another issue the group would like to address is how to balance career development with family. “I know a lot of women who I talk to … travel a lot for their jobs and find it really, really difficult to think about developing those other areas of their lives,” she said.

Industry takes note

OWL has already brought many of these issues to the attention of the major ophthalmic companies, according to Mrs. Lindstrom.

“This is creating a real awareness that women have power,” she said.

The demographics of ophthalmology are changing, she noted. In the future, the majority of ophthalmologists in the United States will be women, and on the industry side, women are increasingly making decisions about buying and selling products, she noted.

Mrs. Lindstrom pointed to the turnout at the first OWL meeting at AAO as testimony to the group’s import.

“What surprised us was the response; this struck a nerve,” she said. “And I think companies have taken notice.”

For Your Information:
  • Tamara Church can be reached at Heidelberg Engineering, 1499 Poinsettia Ave., Suite 160, Vista, CA 92081; 760-598-3770; fax: 760-598-3060; e-mail: tamara.church@heidelbergengineering.com.
  • Jaci Lindstrom can be reached at 2811 Westwood Road, Wayzata, MN 55391; 952-471-0839; fax: 952-471-7932; e-mail: lindstro@rconnect.com.
  • Marguerite B. McDonald, MD, can be reached at Southern Vision Institute, 2820 Napolean Ave., Suite 750, New Orleans, LA 70115; 504-896-1250; fax: 504-896-1251; e-mail: margueritemcdmd@aol.com.
  • For more information on Ophthalmic Women Leaders, e-mail owlbox@cox.net.