Leaders in Eye Health have a Common Vision

By Briar Sexton


The Insight Leaders Council of British Columbia held its inaugural event on July 12. Remarkably, it was the first time that the opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists of B.C. jointly organized and attended an event designed to facilitate inter-professional relationships and to promote excellence in eye care.

In the words of event coordinator Sheila Bissonnette, managing director of Summit Hill Strategies in Vancouver: “Why not Canada and why not B.C.? Why can’t we create a model of eye care that is recognized globally for its achievements?”

In addition to local eyecare professionals, the event attracted industry leaders from Alcon, Essilor and Vertical Bridge Corporate Consulting.

Held at the Vancouver Club, the evening featured a cocktail reception and two guest speakers. The first was Donovan Tildesley, three-time Paralympic medalist in swimming and the Canadian Paralympic flag bearer at the Beijing Paralympics. Blind since birth with Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis, Donovan delivered a strong message that you can achieve what you believe. He also provided a sobering reminder that even for a Paralympian who skis Black Diamond runs, one of his biggest achievements is full-time employment. Less than one-third of blind Canadians have adequate employment.

Melanie Ross, executive director of the British Columbia Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons, said, “A glimpse at Donovan’s life is such a reminder that my eyesight is a wonderful gift. It is humbling that someone who is particularly accomplished should consider full-time employment such a great achievement. To a person who has overcome more barriers than most of us can imagine, we put up a yet greater barrier because of our inability to believe in them as a whole person with skills and the ability to do the job.”

The second speaker was Dr. Kevin Gregory-Evans, a UBC professor and the Julia Levy B.C. Leadership Chair in Macular Research. He informed the crowd of some of the cutting-edge work being done in B.C. and expressed great confidence that vision scientists will eventually cure blindness.

By the end of the evening some participants were asking when the next event would be held. Kim McEachern, program director for the Opticians Association of Canada, said, “It was an inspiring evening with so many eye health professionals coming together to get acquainted. I hope to see more opportunities moving forward.”

Sheila Bissonnette hopes that the next event reaches an even larger audience. “Our committee feels we made a great start,” she said. “There is clearly an appetite for professional collaboration amongst all disciplines of eye health and we welcome all stakeholders who want to make their voices heard.”

The success of the inaugural Insight Leaders Council event and the passion for eye care among its participants demonstrates that British Columbia is taking steps toward becoming a forward-thinking leader in eye care. Why not B.C., indeed.