The mission of the Merton C. Flom Leadership Academy is through education and mentorship, the Leadership Academy will cultivate ethical, empathetic, and innovative leaders who contribute positively to the optometric community.


In the early 1990’s, Dr. Merton C. Flom recognized the need for the cultivation and development of a leadership culture within the American Academy of Optometry.  In such a culture there is an appreciation of leadership as a learnable process whose function is to produce useful change, not only within the Academy but also at work, in other organizations, and in one’s personal life.

In 1994, the Academy introduced the Merton C. Flom Leadership InSight program to provide leadership training courses to Fellows, Candidates, and Student Members at the annual meeting as well as registrants in the Ellerbrock CE program. From its inception through 2020, this program provided basic and advanced leadership courses to almost 900 attendees.

In 2020 as part of the leadership pillar of the AAO Strategic Plan, a series of virtual modules on leadership were proposed. It was agreed to integrate these eight modules into an extensively revised and expanded Merton C. Flom Leadership InSight program, now known as the Merton C. Flom Leadership Academy. This revised program was initiated at the 2021 Annual Meeting which was followed by a virtual leadership module presented approximately every six weeks.

Muriel Schornack, OD, FAAO
Ed Bennett, OD, MSEd, FAAO
Sharon Keh, OD, FAAO
Caroline Pate, OD, FAAO

Values and Goals

Develop a deep understanding of your core identity and value your unique talents

Harness your talents to positively influence others and encourage innovation

Nurture aspiring leaders to become role models and mentors

Foster ethical, empathetic leadership to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion

Provide opportunities for networking to establish life-long professional relationships

Course Description

The Merton C. Flom Leadership Academy is designed to help optometrists develop their full leadership potential through guided individual study, facilitated discussion, and optimization of their personal talents identified through the Gallup CliftonStrengths assessment.

The Leadership Academy begins with a live introductory course entitled “Know Yourself: Foundations for Effective Leadership” (scheduled on November 6th, 2024, 1:00 – 4:00 PM, during the annual Academy meeting). Over the course of the following year, course participants will participate in 8 learning modules, each of which is led by an established leader within the optometric community. For each module, reading materials, pre-recorded lectures, and/or other audio-visual content will be assigned to promote self-directed learning prior to a live virtual session. Virtual sessions will be held approximately every 6 weeks throughout the year, and will feature interactive discussion with course faculty and fellow participants to more deeply explore topics of interest. Topics to be covered in the learning modules include the following:

  • Principles of Effective Leadership Part 1 – January 9, 2025
  • Principles of Effective Leadership Part 2 – February 6, 2025
  • Embracing Diversity in Leadership – March 6, 2025
  • Effective Communication in Leadership – April 17, 2025
  • Leader’s Guide to Productive Meetings – May 22, 2025
  • Public Speaking for Leaders – June 12, 2025
  • Writing Skills for Leaders – July 24, 2025
  • Mentorship: Present and Future Leaders – September 4, 2025

*Module dates listed above are tentative and subject to change*

Participants must attend at least 6 of 8 sessions live in order to complete the program.

The course will conclude with a live Capstone Celebration at the following year’s Academy meeting.

Potential course participants must be a Fellow in the American Academy of Optometry.

Applications dates for the 2024-2025 program will be announced in the Spring. The cost for the full program is $195 for those selected.