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Young Ophthalmologists
YOs in the Spotlight

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One of the many ways the Academy works to champion their members is by collaborating with the AMA to ensure ophthalmology’s interests are represented in the big house of medicine. This is key for ophthalmology, as our profession makes up just 3 percent of medicine. Therefore, it is imperative that ophthalmology has a seat at the "AMA table" with powerful voices.

To that end, the Academy has several representatives who work with the AMA. For the AMA House of Delegates, these include Sam Solish, MD; Mildred Olivier, MD; Michael Redmond, MD; and H. Dunbar Hoskins, Jr., MD (alternate). Lisa Nijm, MD, is our representative for the AMA Resident and Fellow Section, and Ravi Goel, MD, is the Academy’s voice for the AMA Young Physician Section. Additionally, YO Dawn C. Buckingham, MD, a graduate of the Academy’s Leadership Development Program (LDP) IX, Class of 2007, has also just received the Academy’s endorsement for election to become chair of the AMA’s Young Physician Section.

According to Dr. Goel, "The core issues of the Academy are the same as the AMA, including scope of practice, Medicare funding, sustainable growth rate, Medical malpractice and patient access to care … among many. The interaction with colleagues in other states and specialties has helped to lobby for the best interests of our patients and profession." And one of the ways we ensure that ophthalmologists are not only involved, but also recognized as leaders in the larger medical community, is by putting forth strong candidates for the AMA Leadership Awards.

The Leadership Awards
The goal of the AMA Leadership Award program is to encourage involvement in organized medicine, provide leadership development for the country’s brightest and most energetic leaders in the medical field and to reward outstanding non-clinical leadership skills.

As Dr. Goel explains, "The AMA Leadership Awards provide an ideal professional development opportunity for ophthalmology residents, YOs and established physicians. The award is given across specialties and for non-clinical leadership achievements, such as community service, education, advocacy and public health."

This year, the Academy is proud to honor three YOs who received the AMA Leadership Award: Robert F. Melendez, MD; Thandeka N. Myena, MD; and Diana R. Shiba, MD.

Robert Melendez, MD, is a full-time, comprehensive ophthalmologist in private practice and is pursuing an MBA degree at Anderson School of Management at the University of New Mexico (UNM) in Albuquerque. Dr. Melendez was selected for the "2007 NM Business Weekly 40 Under 40 List" of movers and shakers under 40 in New Mexico. He is a co-founder of the Chief Resident Leadership Forum, now in its fifth year. Currently, he is the secretary/treasurer for the New Mexico Academy of Ophthalmology, participant in the Academy’s LDP X (Class of 2008) and section chief of ophthalmology for Presbyterian Hospital. Dr. Melendez was also selected to the Young Ophthalmologist Committee and co-authored a paper titled, "Perceptions of Recent Ophthalmology Residency Graduates Regarding Preparation for Practice." He plays an active role in teaching and mentoring medical students as a volunteer assistant clinical professor at UNM. Dr. Melendez has been married for nearly 16 years and loves playing basketball with his three children.

Thandeka N. Myeni, MD, is currently a student at the Harvard School of Public Health. Her interests include health care disparities, health care access and eliminating needless blindness in underserved communities, both domestically and internationally. As a medical student, she served in various leadership roles in organizations such as the Student National Medical Association, Students for Community Involvement and the Obstetrics and Gynecology Student Interest Group. After discovering her passion for ophthalmology, she has volunteered and coordinated eye care screenings in Georgia and Washington, D.C., and, in 2006, she lobbied on Capitol Hill for the Vision Care for Kids Act. She is currently actively involved in the Harvard University chapters of Unite for Sight, Women in Leadership Group, African Health Forum and the Black Student Health Organization.

Diana R. Shiba, MD, is a second-year ophthalmology resident at the Shiley Eye Center at the University of California, San Diego. She is heavily involved in medical advocacy via the Ambassador Advocacy Program, served as a delegate to the AMA House of Delegates from California and co-authored the resolution adopted at the last AMA meeting on the issue of economic hardship loan deferment for residents. She currently serves as the one resident member on the board of trustees for the California Medical Association and on the board of trustees for the California Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons. Dr. Shiba is also active in the community, providing free ophthalmology consults with Volunteers in Medicine, a national organization of 50 clinics offering medical care to the working uninsured. She was also one of the first volunteer doctors on scene at Qualcomm Stadium during the San Diego fires. She is currently undergoing training as a member of the Disaster Medical Assistance Team, San Diego, deployable under the National Disaster Medical System with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Getting Involved
If you or someone you know has exhibited outstanding leadership in organized medicine, advocacy, community service, public health or education, nominate that person for an AMA Leadership Award. The AMA usually posts applications on the AMA Foundation Web site and in AMA newsletters beginning in September; the deadline for nominations is around the first week of December.

The more you get involved and provide leadership in your profession and the larger medical community, the stronger your voice will be so you can ensure the best possible care for your patients.

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About the author: Gail Schmidt is the director of Ophthalmic Society Relations for the Academy.