Member Spotlight: Joan Ploem Miller, OD
PECAA’s legacy has always been, and continues to be, building a collaborative community of independent eye care professionals committed to growing stronger together. With doctors all across the country, it can sometimes be difficult for members to find ways to connect with one another on an ongoing basis. With busy day-to-day operations that may not allow for time off to attend industry meetings or reunions, this is a challenge most optometrists know all too well.
So, when one of our Members, Dr. Joan Miller of Baseline Vision Clinic in Hillsboro, OR, decided to create her own online eye care support community geared towards female optometrists, we thought it would be a perfect opportunity to touch base and get her thoughts on how doctors can come together online to share ideas and insights, discuss issues and concerns, and build a digital support network.
What Led to the Decision to Create the OD Divas Facebook Group?
OD Divas, a growing Facebook community for female optometrists, opticians, technicians, and other eye care professionals, drew its inspiration from a not-so-typical source: Tesla cars.
Dr. Miller joined a Tesla car enthusiast group on Facebook to share ideas and photos and ask advice.
“I found when you post a question on a Facebook group, you invariably get responses like, ‘Oh, everyone knows that. That’s a stupid question,’ Dr. Miller explained. “People online make comments that are not always very kind.”
Then, Dr. Miller joined Tesla Divas, an all female Facebook group, and loved the supportive environment and camaraderie she encountered. That experience prompted her to create her own Facebook group to connect like-minded women in her field. To avoid negative nellies and ‘trolls’, Dr. Miller set up a clear group description with the intent being, “a positive community of support and encouragement” along with expectations of respect and professionalism, zero tolerance for discrimination, and 12 ground rules for posts (including what not to post).
“My experience at meetings is that we connect and say that we should all get together , but the follow through isn’t always there,” Dr. Miller says. Online groups are a way to keep bonds and relationships alive.
Dr. Miller notes that she finds helpful, practical advice from the group every day. “I can share a retina picture, ask for advice, and nobody’s going to say ‘everybody knows that, you should do this and that,'” she explains. “So we truly have a kind group, one that shares interesting things that are energizing.” “We have talked about the best makeup, what bras are most comfortable, what footwear.” Dr. Miller says. “There are things we discuss that aren’t going to connect to optometry, but we do ask things that pertain to our practices. We talk about all kinds of things!”
Positivity Leads to a Thriving Community
OD Divas, which started 5 months ago, now has more than 3,000 members – and counting. Acceptance to the private Facebook group is controlled by two other moderators besides Dr. Miller. While most members are from the United States and Canada, members also hail from far flung locales like India, Nigeria, the United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam.
For an effort that takes her about 5 minutes to an hour a week to administer, Dr. Miller says these offerings are a real payoff. “Now with a group of over 3,000 members, you have some real experts.” Among them is Barbara Horn, the president elect of the American Optometric Association, Dori Carlson, past president of the AOA, Deans of colleges of optometry, prominent researchers and optometric physicians in every mode of practice.
Activities Continue Offline
In addition, Dr. Miller says, the Facebook group has fulfilled her goal of creating it in the first place, to foster connections in the real world.
“We are starting to have local small events and are planning for bigger get-togethers,” Dr. Miller says. “Hoya, the second largest glasses manufacturer in the world, has budgeted to do an OD Divas wine and cheese event at the American Academy of Optometry meeting in December.”
“We are also working on other education opportunities like live streaming how to do simple eye procedures that many don’t have confidence doing.” she explains. “Things like dilate and irrigate the lacrimal canaliculus and lesion removal around the eye.”
“A lot of members of the group have said ‘this type of online community is what we want and need.'”