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American Academy of Ophthalmology
Life at the Academy

Who We Are
What We Do
History
What It's Like to Work Here
How We Value Our Employees
Importance of Recruiting the Best

Who We Are
The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the largest national membership association of Eye M.D.s. Eye M.D.s are ophthalmologists, medical and osteopathic doctors who provide comprehensive eye care, including medical, surgical and optical care. More than 90 percent of practicing Eye M.D.s in the U.S. are Academy members, and the Academy has more than 7,000 international members.

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What We Do
At the Academy, our primary mission is to advance the lifelong learning and professional interests of ophthalmologists (Eye M.D.s) to ensure that the public can obtain the best possible eye care.  

Serving our Members: Ophthalmology is a rapidly changing field, with new scientific breakthroughs and treatments regularly improving outcomes for patients. We offer a range of opportunities to members that allow them to continue to learn about their chosen field, including print and electronic materials, reference books, self-assessment programs and an online education network. We constantly review the most recent information about eye care to help Eye M.D.s sift through an ever-growing body of knowledge so that they can provide patients with the highest quality care.

The Academy also sponsors an annual meeting, which is one of the largest ophthalmic meetings in the world and among the largest medical meetings in the U.S. Each year more than 20,000 ophthalmologists and other eye care professionals attend the Academy meeting to attend symposia and education courses, hear about the latest scientific research and see exhibits showing the practical applications of new advances in eye care.

In addition to serving as an educational resource for ophthalmologists, we also advocate on their behalf with federal and state government policy makers on legislative and regulatory issues that affect the delivery of quality eye care. We also serve as a resource for information to help Eye M.D.s and their staff efficiently run their practices.

Public Education: The Academy is the premier resource for members of the public looking for reliable and accurate information about eye health. We publish a wide array of patient education materials that give consumers information about general eye health as well as specific conditions and treatments. Since 2007, our public awareness campaign, EyeSmart, has reached millions of Americans with information about what they can do to understand their risks for eye disease and save their sight. EyeCare America, a public service foundation of the Academy, also provides information to the public and offers multiple eye care programs (free or low-cost) for seniors and others who qualify.

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History
The Academy has a long history, dating back to 1896, when the American Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology (AAOO) was founded. AAOO provided continuing education to eye, ear, and nose and throat doctors. A pioneer in the education of physicians and establishment of standards of care, AAOO was the first organization to provide board certification for a medical specialty. Over time, the organization grew in size and the two specialties became increasingly distinct. As a result, AAOO was divided into two separate entities and the Academy incorporated in 1979.  With its incorporation, the Academy moved from Rochester, Minn., where AAOO was headquartered, to San Francisco. 

Today, the Academy has almost 200 employees, making it the largest specialty medical association on the West Coast and one of the largest non-profit organizations in San Francisco.

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What It’s Like to Work Here
Our staff and our members share a common purpose: to advance the highest standards of comprehensive eye care and protect patients’ vision through life. As an organization focused on healthcare, we bring a scientific rigor to our work. We understand the fear of blindness people have and the devastation that loss of vision can bring. That is why we are committed to making sure that the information we supply our members and the public is reliable, up-to-date and evenhanded. Our decisions are based on evidence and our goals are measured by quantifiable results. We follow explicit processes and procedures that allow us to perform our tasks efficiently and with consistent results.

We balance this thoroughness with a relaxed atmosphere that promotes collaboration and values employees’ time. It’s not uncommon for our all-staff meetings to be both serious and fun, featuring an informational presentation from a leading ophthalmologist and “Name That Tune” contest for employees. We recognize the importance of a good work/life balance; we’re efficient at what we do at work so that we can have the time we want outside of work to spend with our families and on personal activities. Even the location of our office is more relaxed. We’re in the Fisherman’s Wharf part of the city, with great views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay.

The Academy functions as a group of colleagues working together toward a common goal. As colleagues, we respect each other’s contributions and treat each other as peers. Management has an open-door policy, and we actively seek ideas from all staff on how we can improve our activities.

We’re large enough to have a wide range of functions at the Academy, but small enough that we can recognize each other in the halls. That sense of collegiality contributes to a high level of job satisfaction. About half of our employees have been here for five years to twenty years.

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How We Value Our Employees
As an organization, we recognize that our employees are the reason that the Academy has been successful. That’s why we offer a great package of benefits, including some that you won’t find in other workplaces.

We work hard to develop our employees’ skills. Managers attend multi-day sessions to help them coach their employees better. Employees can sign up for courses that help them with their professional development. We also recognize that people grow in their jobs, which is why it’s common to find employees who started at the Academy in a different job and were promoted as they developed new skills.

To ease the transition into the Academy for new employees, we have a buddy system. Each new staff member is paired with another staff member, from a different division of the Academy. Your buddy will help you to get to know the Academy and your new colleagues and can answer questions on anything from workplace policies to the best places to eat in the neighborhood.  

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Importance of Recruiting the Best
The way we work and who we are didn’t come about by accident. We chose to recruit the best people and give them the opportunity to excel. We developed a culture that emphasizes both hard work and collegiality. We are constantly looking for talented people who have the skills we are seeking and who would enjoy working with others toward a common and worthwhile goal. Find out more about careers at the Academy.

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