This year, I had the absolute privilege of being part of the Optometry Australia student leadership program for 2021. Due to the volatile situation around Australia, the program was celebrated as a virtual fest where we received our certificates, hampers, and gifts to mark the end. Now, when I went into this program, my expectations were very simple.
My perception was that we would be spending the weeks learning more about Optometry and the industry and how to conduct ourselves on a day-to-day basis. However, what we learned as participants of this program was far greater than what I could perceive.
Throughout the weeks, I learnt some of the most valuable lessons about the importance of leadership and being an effective role model than what I may have ever learned during my course. Through facilitation and discussions, we were exposed to the realities of what it means to be an effective leader in the modern day, adapting to the various changes in technology and healthcare in the future and how we need to focus on reflection as a powerful tool to understand what type of leader we are and ways that we can work to improving ourselves towards the type of leader we aspire to become.
Here are three powerful lessons that I learnt about leadership and how it quite poetically relates to my career towards becoming an Optometrist.
1. Take one step back to take two steps forward
When we are so focussed on completing our courses and deadlines, we often forget to take a breath and understand the underlining lessons that we learn from this process. The value of adapting to ever changing situations, how to manage pressure in an effective manner, ensuring that our motivation and goals align with each other etc. The lesson I learned at the program was that sometimes, to become an effective leader that can inspire several people, we need to take responsibility in identifying when we need to reflect upon our actions and the processes in which we are acting in and look at ourselves to discover ways to improve on. Self-improvement in areas such as communication is such an integral component in patient centred care and often, we don’t realise the need to reflect upon how we interact and take the necessary course of action to improve that. Whether this be enhancing the etiquettes we use, our choice of words and vocabulary or even body language, we need to understand that this is a continually improving learning experience. It may take a bit of time but in the long term, this an investment we should be making for ourselves.
2. Being a health advocate, before being an Optometrist.
There is a quote by Simon Sinek where he states that: “A leader’s job is not to do the work for others, it’s to help others figure out how to do it themselves, to get things done, and to succeed beyond what they thought possible.” I learned that being an Optometrist or any healthcare professional means being an advocate. Patients exist in a complex socio-political sphere that is constantly changing and impacting their overall health. Social injustice brings about disproportionate issues in many demographics. Taking the approach that we are leaders in understanding these social determinants and constantly advocating for better ways to conduct practice in our clinics, better patient communication and consistently learning new material that will inadvertently help patients is an approach that we need to take, especially with the changes in healthcare in the near future. We must be better humans and advocates before we can become better professionals.
3. Adaptability is our greatest strength.
Staying on the Simon Sinek trend, as he was an individual we analysed quite deeply during the program, he stated that: “Leaders are the ones who have the courage to go first, to put themselves at personal risk to open a path for others to follow.”
What the last year or so has taught us is that the health sphere is unpredictable. There will be uncontrollable factors and issues that arise in rapidly changing dynamics that we will not be able to keep up with. Acknowledging this change and not giving into the inertia is a productive step that we need to practise as healthcare professionals. We are accountable for how we react to the different obstacles and changes on the road that we have. In every sense of the word, resilience is the strength that will allow us to continue making progress and grow as professionals and as human beings.
The landscape of healthcare is constantly changing, and it requires us to change with it. If I had to take one point from my experience in this program, it is that we need to focus on the fundamentals of leadership and how we can work to inspire the people around us. This is an interdependent ecosystem that we exist in, and we need to work together, adapt together and bounce back together to ensure sustainability and fulfilment in how we see our profession.
About the writer: Jahin Tanvir
Jahin Tanvir is a 20-year-old third-year Optometry student at the Univerisity of Canberra, policy adviser, keynote speaker, author, and multicultural youth advocate. With a penchant for being multifaceted, Jahin possesses a strong background in youth advocacy and healthcare in leading youth-led organisations.
In 2021, Jahin received the 2021 Young Canberra Citizen of the Year in Individual Community Service as well as recognition in the 7NEWs Young Achiever awards for NSW/ACT in the category of community service. Jahin is also a young media spokesperson trained by the Economic Media Centre as part of the Centre for Australian Progress, providing expert media comment on multicultural people's experiences in Australian communities.