Cathy McClory woman leader

Celebrating women in eye banking

The importance of strong woman leadership

By Cathy McClory, Senior Director, Quality Improvement, Compliance, Education & Training 

Before joining what was then the Michigan Eye Bank, now Eversight, I had worked in ICU for five years at a hospital in Detroit. I loved the challenge that role presented in caring for critically ill patients, and the joy I felt in making a difference in their lives. It was wonderful to see those individuals stabilize then transfer to a general floor before going home. 

Sadly, there were times that wasn’t the case for our patients, and for a few fortunate families, donation became a source of hope for them. Having that experience piqued my interest in the field of transplantation, so I answered an ad in the Detroit Free Press for a nurse to work in eye banking, and the rest, as they say, is history. 

Mary Beth Danneffel, a leader in our clinical operations division, taught me all about eye banking and served as a role model for becoming active in EBAA. I had my first daughter while working as a manager in the lab. While the eye bank offered paid maternity leave prior to passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, the demands of my job made it a challenge to come back to work full-time, and part-time work just wasn’t a possibility in that role. 

I left the eye bank for three months before Mary Beth offered me a different role, which allowed me to work part-time and still contribute significantly in a different capacity: writing policies and procedures and working on statistical reporting, as well as a number of other tasks. 

This was a huge benefit for both of us. I had the opportunity to do two things that I loved—being a mother and working for a great organization—and inadvertently helped make this same thing a possibility for women who were to follow me. 

Soon after, I became the lab manager again, had another daughter, and went back to part-time work while my daughters were young before returning full-time and moving into the Quality Improvement & Compliance department. At every step, Eversight was there to support, challenge, and encourage me to grow and thrive. 

I have been extremely fortunate in my work life in that I never felt that my gender impeded my ability to take on new roles or responsibilities, nor did I feel it had been a deciding factor in my advancement. I am grateful for all the wonderful work I’ve been able to do as a result. 

Eversight historically has a culture of strong leadership by women. In fact, since 1989 our organization has been led predominantly by women who have demonstrated a positive and effective management style. So, to any women considering a career in eye banking, what better work to do than to help change people’s lives? 

As we celebrate women in eye banking during Women’s History Month, I am reminded of this quote from Helen Keller, a pinnacle figure in eye banking history. 

"When we do the best that we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another."
Helen Keller

Let’s keep making miracles and changing lives. 

Editor’s note: This perspective was originally published by the Eye Bank Association of America in celebration of Women’s History Month. 

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