Greetings! My name is Casey Lind, and as part of my role on the OWL Executive Committee for Membership to give members exposure and updates on OWL members of particular interest, I am interviewing one of my favorite members and colleague, Grace Chang, MD, PhD. Grace currently works for Alcon R&D in Lake Forest, CA, as Therapeutic Unit Expert and additionally, actively conducts surgery at USC. As a strong female leader and recognized retina surgeon, Grace is breaking ground twofold: as a surgeon, moving into Industry in 2014, and in Industry, by maintaining and enhancing her surgical skills through her active surgical practice.
Grace has become both a work and personal friend of mine, collaborating on key projects, while navigating the surgical R&D world. I think I cinched the deal when I showed up to help her move in to her new home!
Casey: Grace, what motivated you to join OWL?
Grace: I feel OWL is a wonderful opportunity to connect with strong, talented, and wicked smart women, who are strivers and achievers, and who are leading the way in Ophthalmology.
Casey: You made a significant career change while in the midst of a stellar Retina practice at the University of Washington, in Seattle. What prompted you to pursue your career in Industry at Alcon, and what advice can you give other practicing professionals contemplating a similar career change?
Grace: What fundamentally motivates me is the desire to help as many people as I can. While I am able to treat quite a number of patients as a vitreoretinal surgeon, I realized that with my skillset (my background is in Electrical Engineering, Neuroscience and Chemistry), I might be able to improve the lives of considerably more people through industry–creating products that affect millions (or even billions?) of people. My research interests were already in medical devices, and I was lucky to have a very attractive opportunity come my way. In general, when contemplating a career change, I believe it’s important to be honest with yourself and to know your motivations well. When the going gets tough, you should be able to clearly answer, “Wait, why am I doing this again?”
Casey: We are in very challenging times for the business of ophthalmology, and you have responsibility for a very large breadth of surgical devices at Alcon. How are you managing and do you feel that you are succeeding in the eyes of your peers still in practice and now Alcon customers, in balancing the launch of innovative new products and supporting your R&D teams?
Grace: I feel very fortunate to be a member of a team of incredibly bright, knowledgeable and hardworking individuals. Any successes we have are due to the dedication and perseverance of many, and I’m excited to be a part of that. I’m eager to help create and develop innovative and useful products, to benefit our patients and customers.
Casey: The move to Southern California was definitely a big move for yourself and your husband. How is that working out for you?
Grace: 75 degrees and sunny–can’t complain!
Casey : Finally, you are a relatively new OWL member, joining in 2015. Can you explain to us what your OWL membership means to you and in particular your support of the local Orange County OWL Chapter. Is there any advice you’d like to give new OWL members?
Grace: Many thanks to you, Casey, for introducing me to this organization–I am delighted by the chance to learn from so many ground-breaking women leaders here, especially in the hotbed of medical device innovation that is Orange County. I’d like to help others realize their potential and become future leaders as well. I think sometimes it’s easy to feel all alone in your endeavors and struggles, but please realize you’re not: we’re all in this together!