How did I become an advocate? I blame my dad, William S. Lesko, MD. I actually thank him too. He is an ophthalmologist. Thankfully, so am I.
His everyday efforts and choices simply defined a sense of integrity, discipline, mental toughness and accountability that framed the standard for living for my four brothers and me as we grew up in his impressive shadow. My dad came complete with so many personal assets I admired, combined with the one which annoys me to this day. He is rarely wrong in fact or in action. In other words, if I was going to dissent I had better pick carefully and do my due diligence or the fork in the road would poke at me for a long, long time.
When I began practice, it was my father who suggested (read insisted) I join the Academy and the state society, as well as the county and state medical society and College of Surgeons, etc. It wasn't really open for debate and it pained me every year to pay all those dues. I wasn't at all sure that this level of "membership" was something I needed. In other words, I did it mostly because I couldn't put together a convincing argument not to join. This opened more doors for me. Now I was a joiner.
During the Academy’s Annual Meeting in New Orleans, I was persuaded to join the Board of Governors of the New Jersey Academy of Ophthalmology. I must admit, I was incredibly impressed by all of the work being done by my colleagues and peers, who like me, were busy with their own businesses and families. As someone who likes to do things well, I was embarrassed that I hadn't done anything but pay my dues to these organizations. I had no idea this group of loyal, hard-working doctors was devoting time and talent to the goal of protecting the practice of ophthalmology for doctors and patients in NJ. How could I just sit back and ride their coattails? My dad's lessons of obligation brought me to the plate.
So here I am, learning the issues, working to increase state society membership, making early refill for eye drops a reality in New Jersey, meeting with and forming relationships with state senators and representatives.
I love and respect the entire field of medicine and am honored beyond words that education and hard work have put me in the position where patients trust me with one of their most valued possessions, their eyesight. My grandfather and my father were both physicians. Now my nephew wants to follow in the same path. Sure there is a passing thought to call my brother, his dad, to figure out how to talk him out of it and save him from the many issues and complexities that surround the future practice of medicine.
Then again, I truly believe that becoming and being a doctor isn't entirely a choice. It is, more likely, who you are at your core. The best in the profession can't separate the doctor from themselves. It is so much a part of you that it becomes your first name and your nickname. So I advocate for my nephew to be who he is and follow in the life-business of our family. He too has the advocate gene.
Thanks Dad. You empowered me to contribute all I can contribute, to join, to support and to advocate. At your core you are a doctor and thankfully, so am I.
Cecily Lesko, MD, is a general ophthalmologist and teaches at Mt. Sinai Hospital and School of Medicine.