Clarity of Vision When Times Feel Dim and the Future Blurry: An Optometrist Responds

Center for Values-Driven Leadership Article, Care for people, Leadership, Rising to the Challenge

Jeanie Lucy is a Public Health Optometrist. She is also assistant professor and course director for epidemiology/public health/optometry at Midwestern University (MWU), where she is Chair of Optometry Continuing Education. We spoke to her recently about the how she and her team are not only maintaining a focus on values but leveraging those values for a brighter future.

People Before Profit

Q: Your optometry team has risen to the challenge by not only stepping forward in this pandemic but going above and beyond to serve local and national communities.  What has been the key to that energy and success?

A: There are many contributing factors, yet the biggest key to our success has been putting people over profits. Our ability to remain the strong, cohesive unit that we are has been bolstered by support from the larger whole that we are a part of. From both the department and university levels, there is a strong commitment to the organization’s individuals—a commitment to avoid layoffs, furloughs, and salary cuts. Our president and board of directors are steadfast in allowing annual raises and increased paid time-off to accommodate those who need it.

Not every organization feels it is in a position to do this. But the ones that do recognize that a continued, unwavering investment in its people, in whatever ways are possible for that organization, allows those individuals to have a larger and positive impact in the world. When that is in place, then that organization has undoubtedly contributed to the greater good of the world.

This pandemic has caused the world to pause. With that pause have come myriad challenges, including information overload, new norms, job insecurity, stress, and for some, a solitary and painful death. Like so many others, each member of my team has been touched by these challenges. Amid the impact of all of these things, my team—like so many others in the health profession—is holding strong and upholding others. So much of this is possible because our organization has dedicated itself to investing in its people to not only overcome this current crisis but also contribute to a stronger and larger future.

Shared Responsibility & Mutual Trust

Q: What are some of the ways that medical teams like yours, who are not directly involved in COVID-19 work, are supporting efforts of those who are directly involved? 

A: Our teams are phenomenal. I say that because when this pandemic struck, those teams immediately joined in to shift into higher gears. Their belief in shared responsibility and mutual trust really shines through.

Some medical teams who are non-essential workers at MWU are working from home but also volunteering their services in places such as COVID-19 testing sites, local food pantries, and hotels that house essential workers who are directly involved in COVID-19 work. I am always so proud of the extraordinary standards of our teams. They truly live above the common elements of life to make a difference in the world. And they are grateful to be able to fill that role.

You need that in times like these. One of our student doctors is a member of the Army National Guard.  She was called into active duty by the State of Arizona to respond to the growing crisis of COVID-19 in the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Nation is an area of over 27,000 miles of land with a population of 175,000 people living in remote homesteads or isolated villages where running water and electricity are scarce. The Navajo Nation was hit hard by this pandemic, with limited hospital beds, ventilators, and necessary supplies. When the Navajo Nation president called for help, our student doctor of Osteopathic Medicine was grateful for the opportunity to step up to help deliver supplies.

Living in to Discomfort, Growth, & Values

Q: Healthy vision is your area of expertise.  You are also a values-driven leader.  Figuratively speaking, what core values are most effective/helpful/needed during a challenge like this to envision a better world on the other side of it? 

A: I believe that growth always comes with a level of discomfort. That discomfort often pushes us to reflect on our core values. My true north is doing what is right for people first. I will take care of the public’s health and my professional students by any means necessary and at the highest level of ethical and professional standards. This may be telemedicine or online teaching.

Each of us has a true north.  This is why values-drive leadership is so important. Everything we do as human beings touches another’s life. As we watch the world change, we change with it.  By drawing from our values, we can do it in a way that will allow us to build trust and leverage a new and better norm.


Prior to joining the College of Optometry at Midwestern, Jeanie was President and CEO of three primary care public health practices in Chicago and adjoining suburbs and has worked in hospital-based optometry as a staff member at Advocate Trinity Hospital Department of Ophthalmic Surgery. She specializes in early detection, treatment and prevention of glaucoma and public health interdisciplinary medicine and education.

Jeanie Lucy earned her Bachelor of Science in Visual Science from the Illinois College of Optometry. She received a Masters in Public Health from the University of Illinois at Chicago and her Doctor of Optometry degree from the Illinois College of Optometry. In her spare time, Jeanie enjoys traveling with her family, interior design, and board games.

This interview was compiled by Dr. Joanna Beth Tweedy, a graduate of the Center for Values-Driven Leadership and serves as the Center’s executive writing coach. She is the founding editor and host of Quiddity international journal and broadcast (NPR IL) and also teaches at Western Governors University.

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