OWL’s 2022 DEI Year in Review | OWL Cary, NC | OWL

OWL’s 2022 DEI Year in Review

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The Key Takeaways From Our Conversations with Ophthalmic World Leaders

We had the honor to conduct nine interviews with OWL sponsors and contributors to discuss their perspectives, approaches, programs, successes, and reflections regarding all things related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. We were more than impressed and overjoyed by these discussions because if 2022 held this much growth and development, then 2023 only promises more success, connection, and ophthalmic innovation. We’ve included our main takeaways from these discussions and know that our OWL members will gain invaluable insight and ideas they can implement in their organizations.

BVI Medical has a wonderful approach with its “One BVI” philosophy that absorbs the best practices and cultures throughout its many acquisitions to create a greater, cohesive culture to ensure engagement, participation, and success. This approach creates a holistic environment of belonging and not one that’s just “ticking boxes.”

Michael Rivers, MD, Director of Ophthalmology at ModMed, discussed an activity that really took people out of their comfort zones while allowing them to learn about new perspectives comfortably. ModMed hosted a session with a psychologist entitled “Black Faces in White Spaces” to go beyond an educational experience but give real lived experiences. It was an incredible panel with a diverse group of attendees that was as fascinating as it was heartening. These kinds of events truly have the potential to hit the “switch” and give those eye-opening moments that develop understanding and empathy.

Dompé highlighted their focus on four key areas:

  • Raising awareness and encouraging dialogue. “It’s about being willing to take part in difficult conversations.”
  • Placing importance on cultural experiences and moments. They added Juneteenth to their calendar before it became a federal holiday and also celebrated Black History Month with a team dinner at a local Black-owned restaurant.
  • Outreach and retaining diverse talent through employee-driven initiatives, such as book clubs, they have an affinity group for Black employees, and in true Italian spirit, coffee chats.
  • Being conscious about partnering with others who are equally committed.

Bernie Iliakis, President of CorneaGen, always felt they were doing “well” regarding DEI, but the massive social unrest in the wake of the George Floyd tragedy made him self-reflect. They dove internally, were introspective, and asked themselves, “Doing well, says who?”

They became more intentional about their efforts, enlisting a consultant and clocking over 2,000 hours of continued education for every part of their organization. They also instituted a paid internship geared towards the local high schools and colleges. Additionally, they’ve funded corneal transplants for patients on their waitlist who were from underprivileged communities and struggled to access care.

Dr. Sally Tucker, Vice President of Europe at Ora, stated they put addressing inequality at the core of everything they do, especially the clinical trials. To do so, they partnered with patient advocacy groups to address inequality and break down barriers to access.

Since their work is centered around the patients, they want to serve them the best way possible and to do that, they must understand them better. They engaged with the patients to understand their concerns, address fears and misconceptions, and, more importantly, provide security, comfort, and assurance that they didn’t “feel like some guinea pigs.”

Lexitas also placed significant emphasis on clinical trials and their design and implementation to ensure excellent treatment for diverse populations. They focused on their details to make the trail information relatable, easy to understand, and straightforward, creating significant buy-in and engagement from patients. They found that this detail-oriented approach produced the best outcomes for diverse communities.

Jeannette Bankes, President & GM of Global Surgical Franchise at Alcon, highlighted high care and consideration for talent development, mentorship, and advocacy. She heart-warmingly discussed her many mentors throughout her career and her commitment to “pay it forward” by reaching out to mentor those within the organization and anyone who needs it within the industry, wanting to “see people succeed” and create more diverse leadership within Ophthalmology. The beautiful approach reduces the ever-present competitiveness and focuses on the long-term vision by elevating the industry and its members as a whole.

EyeCare Partners President of the Ophthalmology Division, Kari Holloway, keeps it simple and successful by focusing on small wins and creating a laser focus around one or two projects versus ten at once. They highlight celebrating each other’s differences while also working to enrich the communities in which they are actively living and working.

David Acheson, Senior Vice President of Commercial for North America for Apellis Pharmaceuticals, discussed that to be successful, they needed to be intentional and thoughtful about inclusion, taking into account outreach and recruitment strategies. He stated they didn’t have a developed hiring process at first, but they’ve designed and maintained a system where their DEI lens is front and center through every part of the process. They’ve even contacted other organizations for ideas on how to best recruit and tap into the incredibly diverse talent pool.

These interviews were eye-opening and heartwarming, and we are excited about what is to come in 2023. We hope our OWL members will take some of these insights and pieces of advice and be inspired to create their own strategies for the year ahead. You can watch all of our interviews on our website here: https://www.owlsite.org/owl-champions/inside-the-owl-studio/

One main takeaway from our “Inside the OWL Studio” series is that we have to be intentional and sincere and remember that only through diversity, inclusion, and focusing on belonging can we create the best products and services and ensure the best outcomes for the communities we serve.


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