Name: Elaine Grisdale
Position at the IOA: Director of Development
Other Positions held: ABDO Head of Professional Services and International Development, WCSM Liveryman, Fellow of EAOO, Trustee of EAOO, Member of ECOO, Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry, Scientific Committee Member for the Silmo Academy Paris, Vision Jury Member for the Silmo d’Or Paris, OPTI G3 Committee Member, Member of China Optometry and Ophthalmology Resource Development ( COORD ) Initiative, International Advisory Committee Member for Vision China.
How did you get into optics?
I wore glasses from an early age but the revelation came when I was fitted for contact lenses to play hockey when I was 11. I was fascinated by the fitting and adapting and the way it could change someone’s life. I always wanted to be in a healthcare profession and when I got a holiday job working at my opticians, I was exposed to practice life and the different actors and roles. I started off thinking I wanted to be an optometrist and got a conditional offer from Cardiff University but didn’t get the grade I needed in one of my A levels so I had the choice of redoing it and going back to Sixth Form for a year or staying on in practice, having my studies paid for and earning a salary to start my career in optics another way. It didn’t take long for me to decide that the hours, flexibility, career progression opportunities and diversity of the dispensing optician role were perfect. I also found out fairly quickly that spending my time in a consulting room really wouldn’t have been for me.
How has your career progressed?
I studied day release at Bradford College. After qualifying in 1985 and spending a short time in practice, I joined Essilor UK as only one of three lens consultants. In those days there was no lens sales force, there were only three people who went around the country seeing patients who were having adaptation difficulties with the then Varilux 2. I covered an area from the top of Birmingham to the top of Scotland plus the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland. Interspersed with problem solving and one to one teaching, there were seminars and student events. After three years with Essilor UK trouble shooting and latterly becoming responsible for sales of lenses, frames and instruments in the top half of the UK, I was poached by Essilor HQ in Paris in 1989. I went over to a new life with a Spanish O’level and no French experience but belief that all would be okay ! My first job was Product Marketing Manager for Northern Europe ie English speaking countries but this then expanded to helping countries such as South Africa where I was sent for a couple of 3 month spells to develop the market with progressive lenses. I also got to work a lot with the USA. I then moved into Product Development and Strategic Marketing for single vision lenses getting involved with R&D and new product development.
My favourite role was becoming the first International Professional Relations Manager for Optometry and Opticianry. Up until then Essilor head office had only been involved with ophthalmologists because of the language. It was an exciting time liaising with all the different professional relations functions for Essilor worldwide and nurturing relations with vision care opinion leaders, scientists and professional organisations on every continent ( the first solid relations between Essilor International and ECOO, WCO, Special Olympics and other organisations were made by me ). My professional relations role allowed me to lecture extensively worldwide on presbyopia and related subjects, dispensing for children and healthy sight. I also published articles, a book in Chinese which I co-wrote with Prof Irvin M.Borish who was a mentor and voted the Optometrist of the Century in the USA and I co-wrote and produced a number of educational CD Roms. Further to this I also put double blind clinical trials into external centres to support work being done by R&D. In 1997 I worked to establish Varilux University which was the first European Continuing Education Centre dedicated to Presbyopia and the Aging Eye. It opened its doors in January 1998. Varilux University has developed over the years and is now known as Essilor Academy.
In 2001, I returned to Manchester after the death of my father and worked in practice for a couple of years. I then joined Essilor subsidiary BBGR in Salford where they were entering the UK market. I was Professional Relations and Marketing Manager there for a couple of years.
In 2007 I joined ABDO as the first Professional Services Manager liaising with membership, industry, the GOC and CET department. During this time I had a spell as Principal Examiner for Professional Conduct for a couple of years. My ABDO role was expanded to take in international development in 2012 and to build on my past experience and contacts.
What do you bring to the IOA?
A long and varied career in international professional relations. I have developed many links over the years in industry, optical politics, academia and practice which I hope I can tap into. I also have an interest in and respect for different cultures, and a love of languages which I hope can be useful in building the IOA into an organisation which can be accessible to all opticians around the world and is an integral part in the development of the profession worldwide.
Topic: Who's Who at the IOA