New SECO President Introduces Three Initiatives in Exclusive Vision Monday Interview

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ATLANTA—At 40 years old, Darby Chiasson, OD, became the youngest SECO International president ever when he took the position at the annual meeting held here Feb. 27-March 3. In this exclusive interview, he tells Vision Monday his three primary initiatives for 2013 and describes how one step on his path to the presidency was taking over as president of the Optometry Association of Louisiana 14 days before Hurricane Katrina.

VM: What are your initiatives as president of SECO?

Chiasson: London 2013 is definitely our biggest initiative. We see it as a great opportunity for both U.K. and U.S. optometry to move forward, to help SECO brand itself as an international meeting provider, not just in the U.S. but into London. That’s the biggest push that you’re going to see from this whole entire board, London 2013 and moving it beyond ’13, ’14, ’15 into the next level of a SECO in London, or the surrounding area.

Then the second initiative is in our education. We’re looking at doing more education where we provide outcome-based results, meaning that the person would go into the education with a certain knowledge, we would survey that and then re-survey that knowledge after they have gone through that education to see what kind of results they have gotten from being educated for two hours.

VM: What kind of techniques are you going to use to measure that?

Chiasson: A lot of surveys, a lot of data collection, and a lot of data analysis. We think we’ll be the first in optometry to do something like this, and we understand it’s being implemented in ophthalmology and other medical meetings. We’re looking at taking that to the next level in optometry to see if we can provide a basis for companies to understand and our attendees to understand what they’re learning and how it is impacting their practice and how it is affecting their patient care when they get home.

VM: Any other initiatives?

Chiasson: We’re also looking at better practice management issues and how we deal with our staff because we do a lot of staff education too. There’s a lot of opportunity to help doctors learn practice management issues and see if we can get a better program, almost like an MBA-type program. In optometry school there are some new business programs, but we learn science, we learn how to treat patients, we just don’t learn business.

When I started coming to SECO, I took at least six hours of practice management courses because I didn’t know how to run a business, and I had just opened one. We would like to help optometrists and their staffs move their practices to the next level. It’s better for everyone, better for the patient, better for optometry.

VM: What about your personal background, how did you get to where you are today?

Chiasson: I went to SCO. I’m from Louisiana, from a little town called Cut Off, La. Most people say it’s cut off from the rest of the world, but it’s 60 miles southwest of New Orleans, pretty much in the waters of Louisiana.

I went to LSU, then graduated from there and went to SCO in Memphis. I graduated in ’99 from SCO in Memphis and always felt that I wanted to be involved, so I immediately went onto the state optometry association as a chairman of our zone, and then worked up to the board and became the president of the Optometry Association of Louisiana 14 days before Hurricane Katrina!

We had our strategic planning meeting, and that was thrown out the window because Hurricane Katrina changed Louisiana forever. It became more of trying to get our association back together, trying to get our members up and running and out of the flood waters.

We provided help for people. We went as an association to AOA and asked for help. It wasn’t just us; it was Louisiana and Mississippi, because Mississippi got hit by Katrina pretty bad too. Both of us were seeing if there was anything that our profession could do to help these doctors. We formed an association that brought low-interest loans to doctors to help them rebuild their practices.

The biggest thing was not losing our doctors. Everything was about coming back. As an optometrist I can’t go to any state and practice. We helped suspend those laws for a while for special circumstances to let optometrists from Louisiana move out to another state for six months, a year, and then be able to come back. Luckily, out of all the doctors we had, we lost maybe four or five for good, and the rest came back.

From the president of the Optometry Association of Louisiana I then became the trustee for SECO for three years before I ran for the executive council board and moved my way up to president this year.