Are You an Optimist?

The concept of optimism has been catching my eye — and ear — a lot lately.  Word is spreading about the findings from functional brain imaging studies as well as those from psychology which show that positive emotions improve creativity and strategic thinking.  Harvard Business Review had a recent cover story this year titled  “The Science of Happiness” which emphasized how optimism and positive thinking is important to business success and to leadership.  Optimism is also the core message behind That Used to Be Us, a current New York Times best-seller.  Even the cover story in a January issue of Time Magazine was about optimism.

This emphasis on optimism and the focus on its importance has become particularly meaningful to me since becoming president of the ASC.   I have been struck by the number of members who told me that they enjoyed my address at the ASC annual meeting in November because of its optimism.   And following my first presidential blog in January, I received many positive comments personally and in e-mails on the optimism of my message.  Its always nice to get compliments, but this has also left me a bit puzzled.  Was my optimism somehow unusual or unexpected?  Does this mean that the members of the ASC are not optimistic?

Less than optimal optimism may be because medicine and healthcare are changing a lot, and therefore, the cytopathology profession – both cytotechnologists and cytopathologists — must change, too.  As we well know, change is often uncomfortable. But change can also be exciting since it offers new opportunities for creativity and growth.  Finding these kind of opportunities in the midst of change is what makes me energized and optimistic about leading the ASC this year, and inspires me in my work as a department chair and as a cytopathologist.   I think that there are probably lots of members who – like me – like the challenge of puzzling out solutions to these issues, learning and applying new skills, taking on new roles, and shaping the future.   The opportunity to be creative and address challenges is, in fact, what makes some careers more desirable than others, and can keep a profession from becoming stale or out-of-date.  And providing support and resources to nurture creativity, addressing change and enhance opportunities is what a good professional society, like the ASC, should be all about.

Optimism to fuel creativity and address challenges will be an important part of the ASC’s strategic planning effort this year.   As medicine and healthcare changes, everyone in the ASC needs to think about what we value as individuals in our own professional activities, and what our priorities should be as a society so that we can advance our member’s professional growth and ensure that we meet the healthcare needs of our patients and communities.  We need to think about how we can best focus the ASC’s activities in order to meet these priorities.  The thought and introspection provided from our members — hopefully founded in optimism — will allow the ASC to develop activities and resources and enable us all to evolve to meet new healthcare needs.  This strategic planning effort will also help us develop our new journal and ensure that it becomes a vehicle for advancing the values and goals of the ASC.

Soon you will be asked to participate in our strategic planning effort.  This will include participating in surveys and perhaps even discussion boards, too — I hope that you will respond.  In addition, I hope that you will share your thoughts on this blog, and post comments and ideas on our facebook page.  Connecting and sharing with others as part of a community is a reason many members join and remain active with the ASC – and this enhances optimism and success, too.  I look forward to your ideas and contributions!

Lydia Pleotis Howell MD, ASC President