“True leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders” – Tom Peters. This quote perfectly describes our April Student in Focus, Andy Mackner. As the newly elected AOSA president, Andy Mackner has excelled in his leadership roles both in and out of optometry school. At Pacific University College of Optometry, Andy has served as the AOSA Trustee, AOA-PAC Local Liaison, and SVOSH trip leader, and recently was nominated Pacific VOSH AMIGO of the year. Nationally, throughout the last three years, Andy has been the AOSA Legislative Committee Chair, AOA-PAC National Liaison, and NBEO local liaison. However, you can only truly get to know Andy Mackner if you follow him to the small town of Pelican Rapids, MN. Back at home during breaks, Andy volunteers his time reading to his mother’s 3rd grade classroom, serving/clearing tables at his local church, and supporting the local community. Get to know your AOSA President better in the interview below:
Why is Leadership important to you?
For me, a leadership role is an opportunity to make a difference in an organization, but more importantly, the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. It is an opportunity to bring change and ignite a passion in others to find and fulfill their own leadership characteristics. I am constantly looking for ways I can grow as a leader, because I truly believe that the best leaders create other leaders. This is especially important in optometry because our profession depends on many strong leaders. I want to continue to expose and motivate our fellow classmates to find their passion, and bring that passion to organizations like the AOA, so together we can make an impact.
What inspired you to run for AOSA Trustee, and President?
Entering school, I knew that I wanted to be involved in the political side of the optometric profession (I debated between an optometric career and a law career). I ran for AOSA trustee because I saw the importance in what the AOA does for our profession, and I wanted to share that with my classmates. I saw involvement in the AOSA as an opportunity to make a difference in optometry students’ experiences while in school. Truly, I was excited about connecting my classmates with a way to get involved in leadership themselves, and joining their state affiliates when they graduated. As AOSA president, my platform involves four key areas: advocacy, student connection with state affiliate groups, access to student resources, and maintaining autonomy.
Why did you chose Pacific University for optometry school?
Pacific’s amazing community! I could feel that when I visited for my interview. They also offered many opportunities for leadership. They have a strong SVOSH (AMIGOS) program, and I knew at that time that I wanted to lead a trip to Tanzania. Pacific also provided me a diverse education with many well respected professors. Not to mention, the beautiful campus, and Oregon’s outdoor opportunities. I loved the towering pines, the idea of being able to visit the coast, explore Portland, snowboard, and hike, all within a one-hour drive!
What has been a great memory for you from optometry school so far?
There have been quite a few great memories so it is hard to choose just one, but two memories particularly stand out.
- The moment we finished our last day of clinic in Tanzania. Organizing that trip was a challenge, to say the least, and having everything fall into place so perfectly was humbling.
- When PUCO won the Spirit award at the Varilux Student Bowl my first year!
How has optometry school changed your life?
Well thankfully no gray hairs…yet.
What has been your greatest reward so far from optometry school?
Friendships. Optometry truly is a small profession, and I am grateful to get the opportunity to meet students and optometrists from all across the country.
Who is your mentor, and why?
My dad. One of the first lessons he ever taught me was “you have to work for everything in life, and nothing is handed to you.” I have taken this lesson with me through all areas of my life – from school work, to organizing the trip to Tanzania, to being involved in the AOSA. Generations before us worked hard to get the profession of optometry to where it is today, and now it is our turn to give back and to work hard to make sure that those rights are maintained. But I cannot forget my amazing mom. She taught me that life is all about relationships.
Tell us about why you started a VOSH trip to Tanzania, and how it has grown?
In 2013, I traveled to Tanzania with my alma mater Concordia College Moorhead for a May seminar doing ecology research. While on the trip, we spent a few days at the Maasai Lutheran Girls School in Monduli. On our last day, we got up before sunrise, and as we were leaving I noticed that most of the girls were already up and studying. At that time, I knew I wanted to go to optometry school and was aware of the relationship between vision and learning. It was then that I told myself I was going to return to make sure that vision was not preventing any of the girls from succeeding in school. The trip has grown more than I could have ever imagined. A lot of that can be attributed to our attending Dr. Craig Bowen. There is so much more wonderful information to share about the future of this project, but that would require an entire article in itself.
What’s your favorite part of the eye and why?
The retinal vasculature. Not only is it gorgeous to look at, but I find it fascinating that our fovea is avascular. Such an intricate design that makes our vision what it is!