With Strong Regional Roots, SECO Branches Out Into Worldwide Education

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Former SECO president, Darby Chiasson, OD (l), passed the organization's leadership to new president, James Herman, OD, at the SECO 2014 event.

ATLANTA—Expanding on the "education destination" status it has built in the southeastern U.S. over the last nine decades, SECO International is working toward bringing educational opportunities to optometrists across the globe. After successfully hosting an event in England last year in conjunction with the U.K.'s Association of Optometrists (AOP), the two organizations are again partnering to bring the "London 2014 Education Destination" to England, Sept. 28 to 29, 2014.

Based on last year's demand, "London 2014" is moving to a larger location in central London, the Holiday Inn London-Bloomsbury. This year's event will focus on optometry as a specialist area with sessions targeted at therapeutics, prescribing rights and the contrasts between U.K. and U.S. patient care. COPE and CET continuing education credits will be available for U.S. and U.K. practitioners respectively.

As the "London 2014 Education Destination" approaches, Vision Monday met with SECO's new president, James Herman, OD, to discuss the organization's global expansion as well as other initiatives he plans to implement during his term.

Vision Monday: What initiatives do you have planned?

James Herman, OD: Our number one goal is always to provide the best education worldwide. We're always looking at ways to make what we do better, so we conducted clinical surveys at SECO to find out how we can better serve our attendees.

In addition, we have our partnership with the AOP in England, and we're looking to continue to grow that meeting. We had a wonderful meeting in 2013 and expect even better things in 2014. I would also like to enhance our relationship with our 12 associations. That's always been a personal goal of mine as long as I've been involved with SECO.

The optometric community may be unaware of our national and international influence. Many people would be surprised to find that although 57 percent of our attendees are from the Southeast, that means that 43 percent are not. This year, 49 states and 19 foreign countries were represented. One of my objectives is to let people know that this is not a regional meeting; this is a national, if not international, event that continues to grow in that fashion.

We've heard some people refer to us as a regional meeting, and certainly 90 years ago when we started we were. We are far beyond that now, and I think it's time that we let people know how international we really are.

I'm also looking to expand our exhibit hall and our relationships with industry, so that will be an emphasis for 2015.

VM: Will there be other meetings like the one in London?

JH: We're always talking. There's nothing planned at the moment, but there are other folks who've approached us. We want to do it, and we want to do it right. It is our mission to advance optometric education worldwide, so if the opportunity is there, we'll do it.

VM: SECO instituted one-on-one meetings this year. What exactly are they and how did they come about?

JH: Some other places have done them. This is SECO's first attempt, and by all measures it seems to have gone very well. Many of our vendors want an opportunity to network one-on-one with doctors or other buyers of ophthalmic equipment and services, so it gives them an opportunity outside of the normal environment of the exhibit hall to sit down and talk. It's appealing to both sides, and something I think will grow into the future.

VM:What's your professional background that brought you to become president of SECO?

JH: I have been president and have gone through the chairs of the West Virginia Optometric Association, now the West Virginia Association of Optometric Physicians. I did it twice. I just have a deep love for the profession of optometry and always wanted to do something. When I got an opportunity to be the West Virginia's representative on the board of trustees here in the year 2000, I fell in love with this organization, the people in it and what it means to optometry.