Inspiration: The theme of this year’s SOLutioN conference. What is SOLutioN? Some say that it’s a private practioner’s Disneyland where anything is possible and imagination runs wild, others recognize it as a celebration for the future of independent optometry. In reality, it’s both. The Student Optometric Leadership Network (SOLN) is a national platform which unifies leaders in private practice and business management organizations from each optometry school. The annual SOLN conference invites a select group of student leaders for a 4 day course of leadership training. The attendees leave the conference equipped with skills to improve the private practice clubs at their school and inspiration to enhance the future of independent optometry.
SOLN was founded in 2011 by a modest group of students who wanted to propagate the excitement of private practice optometry within their schools. Now, the attendees consist of one returning member and one new member from each individual optometry school in North America. Having experienced the infectious energy at SOLN, returning members count down the hours to the conference like a clock on NYE. New members, who have only heard tales about this incredible journey, look forward to immersing themselves in this creative environment.
Annual Conference & Preston Cup Award
The organization hosted its 5th conference in Denver, Colorado where each club prepared to share the highs and lows of their year. The creative space at SOLN requires no patents, in fact, stealing ideas is encouraged! One of the hot topics at the roundtable was how to increase membership and participation. Schools shared different marketing tactics and membership incentives for leaders to bring back to their own clubs. Traditionally, in recognition of the club who has made the largest improvement over the year, SOLN members vote on the recipient of the Preston Cup Award. The Preston Cup honors the memory of a beloved founding member, Preston Smith. Preston was a 4th year student from the Oklahoma College of Optometry at Northeastern State University, who was an inspiration to private practice optometry. This year the contenders for the cup included defending champions Illinois College of Optometry, University of Waterloo College of Optometry, and UC Berkeley School of Optometry. Each club delivered impressive presentations about advances that their club made in the past year which included social media presence, fundraising, and integrating students into private practices. Charles Phillipy, c/o 2017 at NSU says, “It’s amazing to be in a group of people who are so motivated to advance private practice optometry. I like the smaller size of this conference because it makes it unique in that you can get to know every attendee on a personal level.”
Based on their impressive strides which included a membership increase to 88 members in their first year, the proud recipients of the 2016 Preston Cup were University of Waterloo College of Optometry. Jaclyn Chang (Co-Founder/Co-President, c/o 2018) says, “I was pleasantly surprised to find out that we were this year’s winner of the Preston Cup. Courtney and I founded the club in early 2015 and we spent the last year trying to catch up to everyone else. It’s an amazing feeling to get this recognition from our fellow leaders who have accomplished so much in their own clubs over the past year. I am truly humbled and honoured to have been part of SOLutioN.”
Mentorship & Industry Partnership
Amongst the leaders from each school at the conference are practicing ODs who have invested in SOLN since it first began and inspired students to think outside the phoropter. When asked about their motivation to take time away from their practices to attend the annual conferences, Dr. Dave Kading and Dr. Mile Brujic of Optometric Insights shared, “The SOLutioN conference provides a place for all of the leaders of the private practice clubs to come together and share in the camaraderie, exchange of information, and most importantly relationship building that comes from a group focused on accelerating success in private practice. This is truly an example of a passionate, well run group that is improving the profession by arming students with the tools they need to succeed. We were honored to be a part of the conference!”
Support from doctors and partners in the industry allow SOLN to improve the program from year to year. If you are a member of your private practice club, you can support SOLN by conveying our purpose to the local ODs in your county. SOLN is always looking to expand its network to more students, speakers, and industry supporters.
Get Involved Today!
Attendees arrive at SOLN hoping for an exciting conference, but what they leave with is so much more. The intimate size of the group allows students to foster friendships and relationships for years to come. SOLN leaders reunite at other national conferences to bounce ideas for their clubs and share experiences. This group becomes a family in a matter of four days. Any member who has attended this conference can vouch for the caliber of creativity in this group of like-minded individuals. The journey does not stop there, however! SOLN alumni constantly stay in touch with current members giving advice, visiting the booth at conferences, and even serving at speakers at individual private practice clubs. The booth is great way to inform students about the opportunities within their private practice clubs. We invite employers, industry supporters, and alumni to our booth and connect them with the members of SOLN.
The purpose of SOLN is to unify leaders in private practice optometry so they can inspire their colleagues about the profession. As a student, being involved in your local private practice club can connect you with other student leaders and ODs across the country. The clubs are constantly looking for motivated individuals to carry on their membership at SOLN. So, take a break from that retina book and attend a private practice club meeting today! While the layers of the retina may not change, the future of optometry can and you don’t want to miss it.