Having worked closely with medical professionals for many years through senior executive roles in several Australasian specialist medical colleges and professional associations, Sonja is a true health care insider. She has personal experience with emotional exhaustion and burnout, perfectionistic tendencies and imposter syndrome, and is passionate about helping to reduce burnout in health care providers through evidence-based coaching techniques.
After qualifying as an optometrist in South Africa, Sonja lectured in contact lenses at the University of Johannesburg for almost 11 years, and became the university’s youngest ever head of department. She moved to Australia at the end of 2002 as Director of Education for the International Association of Contact Lens Educators (IACLE). In this role, she taught and worked closely with optometrists, ophthalmologists and other eye care providers and educators in more than 60 countries, to help raise the standard of contact lens education globally. She also developed a distance learning program for contact lens educators, which has since been translated into several languages and is still one of IACLE’s flagship programs.
Sonja is passionate about social justice, public health and education. Following a trip to India in 2007, where she saw first-hand the enormous impact of avoidable blindness on individuals and communities, she started working in blindness prevention – overseeing the development of world leading refraction and primary eye care courses and the training of more than 14,000 eye care providers worldwide.
Sonja has worked closely with medical specialists through senior executive positions at three specialist medical colleges – the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO), and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists (RANZCR). She was instrumental in establishing the Faculty of Radiation Oncology’s Targeting Cancer campaign – to raise awareness of radiation therapy as a treatment option that may benefit one in two cancer patients. She was also the Chief Executive Officer of the Cancer Nurses Society of Australia.
She founded Upward Strategy with the aim of helping people and organisations to strive and thrive – through professional coaching, consulting, facilitation, education and interim executive services.
Qualifications and Education
Professional Coach ICF-ACTP (including 10116NAT Cert IV in Life Coaching) Master of Public Health Master of Optometry Bachelor of Optometry Certificate of Advanced Study in Neural Basis in Optometry Certificate of Advanced Study in Ocular Disease and Pharmaceutical Application Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (TAE40110) Certificate in Accounting and Finance for Medical and Health-Related Professions Company Directors Course, Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD)
Memberships, Awards and Honours
Associate Certified Coach (ACC) Member, International Coaching Federation (ICF) Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (GAICD) Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry (FAAO) Fellow of the International Association of Contact Lens Educators (FIACLE); awarded Emeritus IACLE Membership and Lifetime FIACLE status in 2012 NSW Finalist: Australian Leadership Excellence Awards 2017 (not-for-profit category)
Strive and thrive
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