Dr. Mullen’s Inauguration Speech
Delegates, distinguished guests, members of the Board of Trustees, faculty, family members and friends: Thank you so much for attending my inaugural ceremony. You honor the Illinois College of Optometry and you honor me by your presence in this glorious chapel.
I would like to extend a special welcome to my colleagues from distinguished education and health care institutions, many of whom traveled great distances to be with us today. I would also like to thank the representatives of government, the ophthalmic industry and business, whose service in partnership with us has greatly benefited our students and patients. Finally, I would like to thank those who join me on the dais for this ceremony. You do great honor to the college, to the profession of optometry, and to me.
On a personal note, I would like to thank my best critic, my best supporter, and my best friend… my wife Rita. To my children, Elizabeth and Henry, thank you for blessing me with the spirit of respect. And to my extended family, thank you for being with me on this very important day.
I am humbled by this occasion and by the responsibilities that are mine as President of the Illinois College of Optometry. At the same time I am strengthened by the confidence shown in me by entrusting me with this responsibility.
The great educator and founder of Tuskegee University, Booker T. Washington, once observed, “Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him and to let him know that you trust him.”
I am acutely aware of the full extent of the responsibility you have placed upon me, and of the expectations we all share for the college and for the Office of the President.
My spirit is sustained by your trust and support. In return, I pledge to you this day that your trust has not been misplaced. Imbued by your generosity, I pledge to be generous in all things. Buoyed by your support, I pledge to approach every task with a full sense of optimism.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said that the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. I shall endeavor to be worthy of such measurement as he described.
My presidency shall be guided by a simple, but all encompassing principle: to be open, honest, and truthful in all things. We cannot afford to compromise truth, even in the smallest of our actions.
Truth is not relative; it is absolute. Anything less than truth brings conflict with one’s self and among one’s colleagues.
By investing me with the powers of the Presidency of the Illinois College of Optometry you have evidenced your faith that I will be constant to the truth.
To the staff and faculty of ICO, for the pride we justly take in our association with the college – I offer both my congratulations and my thanks. Our mutual commitment to excellence will be our guiding light in these challenging times.
Few would contest that we are in one of the most challenging times in the history of modern health care. But with these challenges come unprecedented opportunities. I am committed to working with you to insure that these challenges become opportunity: For ourselves, for our students, for our profession and for the patients we serve.
Our rewards will be great as our challenges become opportunities. We will see apathy become involvement, adversity turn to advantage, and confrontation into cooperation.
A new culture is being created at ICO. It is a culture that encourages innovation and creativity; it recognizes personal initiative as well as individual and collective accountability. It calls for improved outcomes and heightened productivity. It is a culture that demands we be models of ethical behavior and integrity, for nothing less is acceptable. It is a culture committed to growth and improvement.
To sustain this new culture we must have a new vision for ICO.
In all that we do – in education, in research, in patient care – we must be dedicated to a concept that is contained in a single word. That word is “excellence.” We must strive for excellence in all we do; we must accept nothing less as our goal.
Excellence is not easily obtained. But neither is it an esoteric concept that is only referred to at commencements and… at Presidential Inaugurals.
Although difficult to obtain, excellence is real and can be both achieved and sustained. It is achieved through a detailed and carefully drafted plan. Excellence is sustained by the implementation of a plan that contains quantifiable measurement and timetables.
We have such a plan at ICO. We call it our “Prescription for Excellence.”
First and foremost, our prescription for excellence requires accountability. Education, patient care, and research must be accountable to, and managed with, performance expectations and outcome measures. The Prescription for Excellence provides a road map for future growth. Educational offerings must emphasize areas of greatest societal need, not only in the short term, but also over the career of our students. We must be open to academic and clinical affiliations that are fair and equitable… providing our faculty with full recognition and meaningful roles with the affiliated institutions. Programs of education and research must be integrated with patient care. We must recognize that effective communication will be the cornerstone upon which our commitment to excellence will rest.
But we must also recognize that to be effective we must free our faculty and our clinicians from unnecessary administrative functions, so they can focus on their primary responsibilities: Education and Patient Care.
We will achieve a position of prominence by remaining true to the pursuit of excellence.
The genesis of America’s revolution in health care is found in a quest for value. No longer will consumers of health care accept results without measurement or costs without discernable outcomes. The principles of managed care that are embodied in expectations of efficiency and accountability are embedded across the spectrum of health care today, whether in the guise of managed care or in some other form. We must selectively adopt these principles to improve our effectiveness and our efficiency of operations.
In demanding accountability we serve not only our patients but also our students. Only in the context of an efficient, high quality delivery system can students and residents receive high quality clinical experience. Only in a high quality educational environment can our alumni receive the continuing education they require to remain at the forefront of their profession.
The Illinois college of Optometry will be characterized by exceptional accountability, measurable in clear and understandable terms. High performing institutions are defined by high levels of individual and collective accountability, and at ICO we can accept no less if we are to sustain excellence.
We must keep our prescription for excellence ever before us, and empower our faculty and staff to do whatever is necessary to translate words into reality. We must maintain an environment that is committed to the principles of equal opportunity and free from any form of discrimination whatsoever as we embrace and support one another as colleagues.
We have begun our preparations for the next century. As we continue to do so we stand on a firm foundation built by those who went before us. We do so knowing that the rate of change and innovation we have experienced in this century, as great as it has been, will pale by comparison to what will be experienced by our students and residents. We owe it to them and to the patients they will serve, to see to it that the Illinois College of Optometry remains faithful to a commitment to excellence by remaining in the vanguard of change. We must aggressively seek out new alliances. Embrace new areas of research, and pioneer new methods of teaching, always with excellence as our measurement of success.
The Challenge that we take upon ourselves is tremendous.
It is a challenge that no individual could, or should, accept alone. With your continued support I pledge to you that ICO will make a significant contribution to guiding optometry into the next century.
My tenure as president at the Illinois College of Optometry officially begins this day. As important as this day is to myself and my family, a far more important day will be the day I turn the mace of office over to the next president, for it will be on that day that full measure of my administration will be taken. It will not be for me to determine what yardstick others will use, but I can tell you that for myself I shall measure our years together not by what we have gained, but by what we have given to others.
Ours is a great challenge, and a great opportunity. I am both humbled and grateful for the confidence you have placed in me this day. I look forward to working with you all in our continuing pursuit of excellence in the months and years ahead.
I thank you for honoring the college, my family and myself by your presence here today.
May God bless you all.