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Young Ophthalmologists
YO Program Draws Crowd

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The 2007 Annual Meeting in New Orleans was the site of the ninth annual Young Ophthalmologist Program. Once again, the YO Program drew a large crowd of newly minted ophthalmologists eager to learn the latest news on various topics that will affect their careers. Nearly 150 young and young-at-heart physicians from New York to California and as far away as Kenya gathered to listen and take notes on everything from advocacy to negotiating one's first contract.

The four-hour event opened with a greeting from Academy President C.P. Wilkinson, MD. Parag Parekh, MD, then started the morning session with a primer on advocacy. Advocacy, in its broadest definition, is an umbrella term for organized activism or lobbying related to a particular set of issues. Dr. Parakh talked about how advocacy in ophthalmology has helped to prevent or reduce Medicare cuts, has insured funding for the National Eye Institute and has protected the public by passing legislation such as the bill that defined plano-decorative contact lenses as a medical device thus subject to FDA regulation. He encouraged the audience to get involved in their state societies, contribute to OPHTHPAC and attend the Mid-Year Forum.

In her final talk as a YO committee member, Dianna Seldomridge, MD, MBA, gave an introduction to the American Academy of Ophthalmic Executives (AAOE). She described the AAOE as the resource center one needs to navigate the business aspects of ophthalmology. The AAOE addresses topics such as interviewing, negotiating employment agreements and buy-ins, coding, finance, legal issues and other aspects of practice management. A 14-page listing of legal consultants and typical topics in the AAOE newsletter was distributed in the program guide.

Before the break, a full hour was devoted to Sue Vicchrilli, COT, OCS, the Academy's coding executive. This popular segment touched on the regular topics of modifiers, global surgical periods, special testing services and audits. Participants were allowed to write down specific questions for Vicchrilli to answer. As in the past, questions from the audience spilled over into the break. (See the “Coding Q&A” article in this newsletter for several of these specific questions and answers.)

After the break, Tamara R. Fountain, MD, discussed the not-so-pleasant, but oh-so-important, topic of liability insurance. Dr. Fountain defined the differences between occurrence versus claims made policies. She also pointed out the nose and tail types of coverage, premiums, limits and other coverage features. In conclusion, she said that liability insurance should be comparison shopped, because every company has something different to offer.

Jaci Lindstrom gave the next lecture, which was on leadership. Lindstrom described the 10 traits that define a successful leader, spanning from the simple love of learning to the ability to recruit, retain and motivate people. She challenged the audience to strive to achieve as many of these learned attributes as possible. Lindstrom also reminded participants that opportunities are everywhere to get involved and make a difference.

Next, Rob Melendez, MD, addressed the pragmatic issues of networking and marketing. Dr. Melendez gave an overview of those two terms, then delivered “pearls” to improve one’s chances of being hired. These ranged from editorial suggestions on your CV and how to present yourself via e-mail and phone, to the “do’s” and “don’ts” of the face-to-face interview.

The final discussion of the afternoon centered on the hot topic of contracts, buy-ins and negotiating. Wesley D. Millican, MBA, a favorite lecturer in the YO Program in years past, once again delivered an entertaining and eye-opening one-hour segment on these topics. As with the earlier coding discussion, a question-and-answer period was offered at the end of Millican’s talk; a similar spillover of raised hands was seen at the conclusion of this popular segment.

The enormous success of this year's YO Program once again demonstrated the need for and interest in these topics in the world of the young ophthalmologist. After meeting in Chicago in early in January to plan the 2008 event, the YO committee promises that next year's YO Program in Atlanta will be the best one yet!

NOTE: To learn more on these topics while earning CME credits, take one of the online courses from the 2007 AAOE Program at the annual meeting. These meeting highlight courses are free to AAOE members.

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About the author: Kris Gillian, MD, a native of Little Rock, Arkansas, is a board-certified ophthalmologist. He practices comprehenive ophthalmology at Georgia Eye Associates in Atlanta, where he lives with his wife and new son. Dr. Gillian has been a YO Committee member since 2005.