Dr. Savak (“Sev”) Teymoorian was interviewed by Bindu Manne, Board Member at OWL, in October 2018.
Bindu: How did you hear about OWL and what inspired you to become a Champion Member?
Sev: The first time I heard about OWL was a few years ago. Honestly, what initially drew my attention to it is the name, because owls are my favorite animals! I read more about the organization and saw that it stood for Ophthalmic Women Leaders. I’m a big fan of both empowering and maximizing talent that surrounds us, especially in our line of work. Naturally, I thought it was a great cause.
Time passed and I recognized the name had changed to Ophthalmic World Leaders with not only female but male members. I sincerely enjoyed the fact that diversity appreciation was a goal so I became an active member. Now that I have been a member for two years, I support the organization even more for two reasons: the first is just how genuine the approach is to enhance and spread the scope of our field through valuing diversity; and two the ability to add value to its members via networking through social events and talks.
I would certainly recommend everyone in the ophthalmic space, from practitioner to industry, to join and take part of this forward-thinking movement. I guess OWL’s mission is what I ask of my staff members routinely in the office – try to improve and better ourselves every day.
Bindu: You have recently launched a passion project, and we’re getting behind it because not only is it an essential book for ophthalmic practices, but because you start the book off with leadership and diversity – which happens to be key to our mission. Tell us more.
Sev: The two most common fears of graduating residents and fellows when they finish training is performing surgery alone and business activities related to both their work and personal lives. I am fortunate enough to have a business background from my combined MB/MBA training at UC Irvine (Paul Merage School of Business); but for most of us in this profession, there is no formal business training. I feel this is truly unfortunate, because in order to truly accomplish our united goal of taking care of patients, practitioners need to be able to keep the front door to their offices open – both ophthalmologists and optometrists.
Somewhere along the line it became accepted behavior that we don’t know anything about the businesses we run and instead leave it to others to perform the necessary activities, all with our hopes that it is done right. It’s not that we are unable to understand business, but rather never given the opportunity to learn. We certainly are capable to excel in this area; we just need the background. The example I give is that the first time we hear diabetic retinopathy with macular edema, we don’t know what that means. However, through proper training it becomes second nature. The same principles apply to learning business, such as balance sheets and brand equity. The successful eye care practitioner, along with their ancillary staff, need this knowledge to excel. Therefore, I thought it was my calling to take my unique background experience and create a text that provides the necessary information in a format that is similar to other textbooks we read.
As I have learned from the teaching of John Maxwell, everything rises and falls on leadership. The ophthalmic practice is no different. The ability to lead becomes essential to being successful. Some would argue that that being a doctor doesn’t mean being a leader. I would respond that if patients place their vision in your hands, then they consider you a leader! One of the important fundamental parts of leadership is creating the right culture. It is the culture that truly drives the rest of the practice. Achieving the best culture requires maximizing the resources around us, including human. All too often we dismiss the value that others can provide because we don’t perceive there to be worth in diversity. I believe that it is the appreciation of this diversity that take practices from ordinary to extraordinarily.
Through the process of empowering those around you, the organization creates additional value through resources it already had, but never utilized. This fosters a powerful culture where continual growth and improvement are stressed. Leaders in these types of organizations understand that the best leadership doesn’t mean that they have to do all the work; but rather if it is a matter of knowing your staff well enough to place them in positions where their natural diversity and skillset is best used for the success of the whole team.
Bindu: As you mentioned, OWL was originally called Ophthalmic Women Leaders – when there were so few women ophthalmologists, or industry leaders. Times have changed. Women are holding more executive positions, and 50% of incoming ophthalmologists are women. Has Glaucoma caught up to these statistics? Are you seeing more women on the podium and leading clinical trials?
Sev: We are all truly a work-in-progress from our personal to professional lives. As I have mentioned before, it is our duty to create the right culture in our profession which includes appreciating all diversity ranging from gender to ethnic backgrounds. I don’t think we are at our optimal levels, but I am excited to see more women taking on these roles. Now we are seeing the momentum growing for this change. Ultimately, this should lead us to our desired culture and goal – to improve the quality-of-life for our patients by bettering their visual capabilities.
Bindu: What can the ophthalmic community do to continue this momentum?
Sev: I think the most important thing we can do is to promote diversity. I am proud to be an OWL member where we continue our quest of getting better every day. With that said, we should continue our efforts as leaders and maximize the talent that exists around us. This means not only placing a value on diversity, but also following through on that with our actions. Great leaders both talk the talk and walk the walk.