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Tuesday / May 21.
HomeminewsMargaret Lam Appointed OA National President in Historic Move

Margaret Lam Appointed OA National President in Historic Move

Optometrist Dr Margaret Lam has been appointed as the 40th National President of Optometry Australia (OA). Dr Lam is only the third woman to be appointed President since the association was established 103 years ago.

In an historical first, Dr Lam heads a full female leadership team with Vice President Fiona Moore and Treasurer Tori Halsey.

Ultimately, our goal is to create an enduring profession, and to create an enduring organisation in Optometry Australia that supports it

Margaret, aged four, with her father.

For Dr Lam, optometry is the “vehicle” she uses “to give back to others” both in the community and from the profession.

“I find a lot of satisfaction in helping others,” Dr Lam explained. “I feel fortunate that our field of optometry is a field where I can prevent my patients from losing their sight, or restore my patient’s vision or quality of life.

“We are primary eye care practitioners that detect life-or sight-threatening conditions. Optometry is the vehicle that I utilise to give back to others. I really enjoy helping both colleagues in my profession, as well as my patients,” she said.

Dr Lam brings diverse experience in optometry to the national board, having worked as an employee and an independent practice owner, as a locum, in large corporate multinational companies, as an industry advisor, as an adjunct senior lecturer, as a speaker and writer, as a state director for Optometry NSW/ACT, as the National President of the Cornea and Contact Lens Society of Australia, and most recently, as Head of Optometry Services for George & Matilda Eyecare.

She says it’s this experience that helps her understand what different optometrists might need.

Giving Back

“I initially decided to stand for election in Optometry Australia for NSW/ACT seven years ago because I wanted to make a difference in optometry, in improving collaborative care with ophthalmology, general practitioners and allied health care,” she said. “I also wanted to build strong networks of collegiality amongst eyecare professionals in our field, to be a voice for advocacy to government bodies and key stakeholders, and to encourage the further development of our profession to broaden our scope of care.”

Dr Lam served as a state director for Optometry NSW/ACT before being elected as a national director for Optometry Australia, NSW/ACT, and National Vice President in 2019.

Joining George & Matilda

In 2017, Dr Lam, who owned three practices in Sydney, made the decision to join George & Matilda Eyecare (G&M).

Dr Lam’s humble Facebook election poster, featured here with her daughter Tilly, 22 September 2015.

“I wanted my independent practices to have the security to continue to grow in an ever-unpredictable optometry environment. I feel that I have been fortunate to have incredible support from my family, friends, and my work family, to help me balance my commitments to work and family as well as to helping the profession. I joined pre-COVID, and I am certain that my practices would not have been able to weather the financial storm as well as they did without the support of G&M. Becoming part of G&M was one of the best strategic decisions I have made, I feel supported in a large independent optometry community that really helps support its practitioners and their businesses to grow.

Indeed, Dr Lam credits G&M founder and chief executive officer, Chris Beer, as being one of many key friends and mentors in her life.

“Chris has been a close personal mentor and friend, in encouraging and supporting me in achieving many of my goals.

“In G&M, one of our values is to inspire. Specifically, our internal mission is to create an environment and organisation that our optometry partners are proud of, and inspired to be a part of. I often joke that Chris is ‘a brother from another mother’. Chris supports all of the team at George & Matilda with this same approach, and he pushes us to develop our grit, our strength of character, perseverance and patience for building our small wins into achieving our long-term goals.”

Personally, and professionally, she says family has been her ultimate motivation to succeed.

“At 16, my grandfather took a massive risk and left China because of the Chinese civil war, feeling as though he had no choice for survival except to escape to Vietnam. He made the difficult decision to leave his mother behind. Unfortunately, he was never able to return in time to ever see his Mum alive.

“My parents then faced similar fears during the Vietnam war, which led them to risk their lives, taking a rickety boat into the unknown for survival, and ending up in Sydney, Australia.

“Growing up in tough conditions, my parents worked incredibly hard running their business to provide for their four children. I was never pushed to do well at school, I was driven by a sense of deep indebtedness that my parents and grandparents risked their lives, just so I could have a life, and inspired me to push myself to be grateful and to make the most out of my life. It inspires me to be grateful for my family and the life we’re very fortunate to have.”

The Future

As National President of OA, Dr Lam says her goals are to contribute to the association’s Strategic Plan for 2021-2024 – the blueprint for projects and goals that OA will concentrate on delivering; to evolve and sustain the sector and the organisation; and support the Optometry 2040 journey.

“Our goal is to lead members and the profession through market and sector evolution, to lead with an influential voice, and engage by encouraging further evolution of scope of practice. I want to continue to increase public awareness in the role of optometry in eye health in Australia to deliver primary eyecare – that is, when a patient has an eye problem, they think immediately of seeing their optometrist as their primary eyecare practitioner; our work closely supporting ophthalmologists, general practitioners, and allied health care professionals to elevate levels of all patient care.

“Ultimately, our goal is to create an enduring profession, and to create an enduring organisation in Optometry Australia that supports it. I see many incredible challenges ahead in this role and I am incredibly excited to be assisting to build that future.”