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Young Ophthalmologists
One to One: Academy EVP and CEO David W. Parke II, MD

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Academy CEO/EVP David W. Parke IIDavid W. Parke II, MD, has been in Academy leadership for a while, but he recently took on his biggest role to date: executive vice president and CEO, succeeding H. Dunbar Hoskins Jr., MD. Dr. Parke talked with YO Info about his decision to leave Oklahoma's Dean McGee Eye Institute for the West Coast and what he sees on ophthalmology's horizon. With just over one month in his new role, he told us he's thankful no one has changed the locks!

I have faced many defining moments in my ophthalmology career. The first was deciding which career path to follow once I finished my fellowship. Did I want to stay in academics or go into private practice? I chose academics because I was pretty certain I wanted to be involved in research and teaching and to become a leader in my area of expertise. Plus, it allowed me to keep my options open.

Assuming Academic Leadership
My next big career decision was to take a substantive administrative role in academics as the residency director at Baylor University’s Cullen Eye Institute. The position obligated me to become educated in all aspects of the organization, including program design, operations, finances, governance and leadership.

Once this commitment was made, it put me in a position to expand my career and successfully negotiate a chair position at the University of Oklahoma at the age of 39.

Assuming Academy Leadership
The most recent professional decision I’ve made is to step away from traditional academics and make a major career shift into the Academy’s executive vice president and CEO position. It took two years of careful consideration before I made the leap.

The first thing I had to consider was that I would have only minimal involvement in direct patient care. Also, for the first time in over a quarter century, I would no longer have day-to-day involvement with residents. Plus, I would have to move my family, including my wife, who is also a physician, away from the community in which we had become deeply embedded.

I knew this would be a challenge for me, as I am a big believer in personal community service outside the practice of medicine, and I would be leaving the comforts of Oklahoma City, where I had risen to a point of significant involvement in community affairs, and moving to a large, more complex city like San Francisco, where I would frankly not have many of the same opportunities.

I also had to consider the responsibilities of the EVP/CEO position itself and try to dispassionately determine if I felt I could excel and also enjoy it. This involved a critical self-assessment and an evaluation of the position responsibilities and the foreseeable challenges. I was also acutely aware that, in this type of position, you have varied and complex stakeholders and high-risk issues over which you may have no or incomplete control. Therefore, you are personally vulnerable and you must recognize that ultimate success or lack of optimal success may be outside of your control. It forces you to accept the vulnerability and liabilities that accompany this type of focus and responsibility.

The Future of the Academy
I will relish looking back 10 years from now at the Academy and the profession of ophthalmology to see how it has changed, how robust and healthy it is, and to say to myself that I played a small role in helping to guide the profession through some difficult challenges.

One of those challenges will be ophthalmology’s clear need to deal with the global economic imperatives in the next two to three years. With this new political administration’s focus on health-care reform and changing priorities in health-care policy, we will need to adjust to a reshaping of all health-care expenditures.

Our profession will also be faced with a need to practice a different type of ophthalmology, due to new technologies and different delivery systems. Both of these changes — from the actual scientific practice of medicine to the changes in the health-care system — will require that ophthalmologists in different practices flex with these changes. The Academy will be a critical and valuable resource as we navigate these new waters.

On the Horizon
In the next year or so, outside of the health-care policy issues, the Academy is poised to assist ophthalmologists in validating our competencies, so we can operate safely and effectively. At its core, the Academy is an educational organization, and with the amazing amounts of new scientific information currently available in all forms, from peer-reviewed journals to online blogs, the Academy can help physicians wade through all this material and secure the most qualified, focused, relevant content specific to their needs. The public focus and our professional focus must be on safety, quality, and value. That analysis (and any accompanying regulations) MUST be data-based. The Academy plays a critical role in advocating for our profession and patients in this process.

I also see the Academy as the “voice of the profession” to the public, payers, policy makers, patients and regulators, as well as ophthalmologists. My goal is to make the Academy a more effective voice to all of these audiences and to develop increasingly effective ways of listening to these audiences and learning from them. I also hope that every ophthalmologist begins to think of the Academy not as “the” Academy, but as “my” Academy: the professional voice that cannot be filled by any other professional organization.

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