Optometry Australia appoints Dr Margaret Lam as national president

Following Mr Murray Smith’s sudden resignation as national president, Optometry Australia (OA) has appointed Dr Margaret Lam as his replacement. She will now spearhead a trio of female optometrists in top leadership roles within the organisation.

Lam, a George & Matilda (G&M) Eyecare partner optometrist who was previously the OA deputy president, was promoted after a national board meeting on Tuesday 28 June. It came immediately after Smith resigned seven months into the job to focus on his family, health and wellbeing.

At the same meeting, Mrs Fiona Moore became deputy president and Ms Tori Halsey was re-appointed treasurer. Moore, with her husband Tom, are the owners of Moore Eyes, in Rockhampton with a sister practice in Yeppoon, both in central Queensland. Halsey is employed at Look of Australia, a Hobart-based independent practice.

While Lam is only the third female optometrist to be appointed president of Optometry Australia in the organisation’s 103-year history, never before has there been three women simultaneously in the roles of president, deputy president and treasurer.

Lam was humbled to lead an organisation in challenging times, when she has been impressed by initiatives in member support with both national and state organisations coming together, particularly during COVID.

“While we will always have challenges ahead, it is important that we continue to move in a direction towards unification of the national and state bodies to produce the best results possible for our members,” she said.

“I have seen the national board oversee these many challenges and responsibilities to lead this organisation, and the national board will always remain fiercely member focused to future proof our profession in all of our decision making.”

Lam joined the national board in late 2019 and has had a long history as a director on the board of Optometry NSW/ACT. She is also the national president of the Cornea and Contact Lens Society of Australia, bringing a combined 12 years of governance experience to her new national leadership position.

She also holds the role of head of optometry services with G&M, operating three practices within the network under theeyecarecompany banner. And she is Adjunct Senior Lecturer for the School of Optometry and Vision Science at UNSW.

Smith’s departure, and Lam’s subsequent election, opens a vacancy on the board with Optometry NSW/ACT. A replacement is yet to be announced.

“I am sure that you join with me in paying our respects to Murray and thanking him for his tremendous leadership of the national body both as president, deputy president and national director since 2018,” she said, adding that she was saddened by his resignation.

“Murray’s legacy in Victoria is also etched in history when, as president of Optometry Victoria, he steered the successful amalgamation of this division with Optometry South Australia.”

Female representation

Along with Moore and Halsey, Lam said they were proud to assume the three leadership roles in a sector that now supports 6,497 optometrists of which 57.6% are female and 42.4% male.

But having an increasingly feminised sector carries challenges, she said.

“In reality, it should not matter what gender you are in terms of your role or responsibilities. I stand against discrimination of any nature and I applaud Optometry Australia for having the courage to investigate its prevalence in our sector and its ongoing commitment to developing programs aimed at eliminating it,” Lam stated.

“The results of our recent #BreaktheBias survey highlighted that there are many in our sector who feel that there are not enough leadership positions in optometry as a result of gender. Fiona, Tori and I feel that our appointments stand in recognition of merit and leadership without discrimination. Within our board, and the five state divisional boards, 63% are female directors, so I am delighted we lead a progressive organisation.”

Unification agenda

Lam said during the past few years the national board has been keen to bring about unification of the federation with the goal of reducing duplication that now occurs across six organisations.

“The national board believes that transformation of our current operating model is critical to achieving consistent, quality services that are accessible to all members, irrespective of where you live,” she said.

“We also see it as essential to guiding the future direction of our profession as it will enable optometrists to have a strong, united and uniform approach to government, healthcare and sector advocacy.

“As highlighted by Murray, we are delighted that the state divisions have committed to structural reform and we look forward to working with them in the spirit of genuine consultation and collaboration so that together, we can continue to provide services that are of value to you, our members, and to the profession of optometry.”

She added: “Optometry Australia employs highly talented and skilled staff and we are fortunate to have staff that work exceptionally hard for our members. Every single one of our team performs vital and essential services, and I look forward to working with them more closely to lead our sector forward in the year ahead. Optometry Australia is committed to broadening the scope of practice to build the framework for optometrists to grow in the future.”

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