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Young Ophthalmologists
A YO Perspective on the YO Program
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The core purpose of the Academy’s Young Ophthalmologist (YO) Committee is to address the educational needs of younger or new to practice ophthalmologists, communicate their concerns to the Academy leadership and support their membership and involvement in Academy activities. The major focus of these efforts is directed toward residency, fellowship and the first five years of practice. The YO Committee develops the YO Program held in conjunction with the Academy’s Annual Meeting. Committee member Rob Melendez reports on this year’s program.

This year’s YO Program consisted of discussions on a variety of topics, including the Ophthalmic News & Education (O.N.E.™) Network, advocacy efforts, AAOE insights, coding concerns, perspectives on getting your first job, negotiating contracts and international opportunities. Here’s a look at each section in more detail.

AAO Community: Professional Networking
One of the most exciting things from the YO Program was the announcement that, in 2010, the Academy will expand its new online community, where members can communicate with colleagues across the globe via photos, videos, and personal stories. To get started, log in to and comment on a news story, video or other content. You can modify your own community profile simply by clicking on your name in the site’s right column. New features — including blogs, photo and video uploading, groups organized by subspecialty and more — launch in early 2010.

Sanjay Kedhar, MD, also presented the myriad amount of Academy resources available to YOs. He encouraged members to attend the Academy’s annual Mid-Year Forum, held in Washington, D.C., where we have the opportunity to advocate for our profession and meet our legislators face-to-face on their home court.

And speaking of advocacy…

Advocacy Efforts
Parag Parekh, MD, shared the importance of getting involved to help provide solutions to health care reform issues. He also encouraged YOs to attend the Mid-Year Forum.

AAOE Insights
Ann Renucci, MD, talked about the American Academy of Ophthalmic Executives (AAOE). I never realized how many amazing resources AAOE offers, such as guides on coding, tips on interviewing and pearls of wisdom on how to land that dream job. The AAOE courses at the Annual Meeting are always incredibly useful, covering varied topics from how to maximize reimbursement to difficult coding issues and even how to be a better physician leader.

The best part is that AAOE membership is free to members-in-training (residents), fellows and clinicians in their first year of practice. Plus, you can submit coding questions to Maybe that’s how they always seem to know exactly what we need to know when we need to know it!

Coding Concerns
Sue Vicchrilli, COT, OCS, did an outstanding job simplifying coding for residents and fellows. She provided numerous examples of how to code correctly. My two biggest takeaways: What is the correct code to use when removing a rust ring using the slit lamp? Answer: CPT code 65222 Removal of foreign body, external eye; corneal, with slit lamp. And what is the global period? Answer: Zero day global period.

Personal Perspectives on Getting Your First Job
In this transparent, interactive session, we heard three unique perspectives on getting your first job. These included a department chair, a small practice Eye M.D. and a large-practice Eye M.D.

Pearl from the President
Academy President Mike Brennan, MD, challenged YOs to “Be nice to your staff.” After being in practice for five years myself, this phrase has rung true and reaps many benefits. This will build morale and decrease turnover in your practice. Everyone needs to feel important. Take time out to treat your staff as the special assets they are.
I was fortunate to be on the panel for this presentation and spoke to the point that you can have the best of both worlds — a clinical practice and an academic role — by serving as an adjunct clinical professor at a local university while in private practice. For me, the most important variable in choosing your first job is location. Choose the place where you want to live first, then make your choice on which practice to join.

For those interested in academics, Julia Haller, MD, department chair at Wills Eye Institute, made a strong case for the mentorship and high energy of teaching residents. She also shared the strong sense of community that you get in academics.

Lastly, Kris Gillian, MD, emphasized the importance of doing your homework on a practice and its partners. In his view, the key to a happy partnership is the chemistry between you and your new associates.

Contract Negotiation
Robert A. Wade spoke on the importance of learning the basics of contracts to negotiate an effective employment agreement. The best part of the talk was his personal “ten commandments” for contract negotiations. In case you missed the presentation, here are these little golden nuggets:
  1. Articulate your goals.
  2. Know yourself.
  3. Know your negotiating partner.
  4. Know the marketplace.
  5. Ask questions.
  6. Find common ground.
  7. Control the agenda.
  8. Understand and use leverage.
  9. Prepare a concession strategy.
  10. Use advisors wisely.
International Ophthalmology
Brad Feldman, MD, the newest member of the YO Committee, spoke on ways to get more involved in international ophthalmology. He shared about ORBIS, a nonprofit, global development organization whose mission is to eliminate avoidable blindness in developing countries by strengthening our local eye health partners’ abilities to prevent and treat avoidable blindness.

Dr. Feldman addressed the various ways to volunteer abroad, such as surgical short-term mission trips, advocacy/educational initiatives or lengthier in-country stays. He encouraged YOs to find a mentor who shares similar interests to help guide them through this process.

Finally, he provided online resources for YOs seriously looking to get involved overseas. The first is YODocsAbroad.Org, and the second is the Academy Foundation’s EyeCare Volunteer Registry.

I’d like to give a special thanks to Academy staff Gail Schmidt and Neeshah Azam, as well as our physician leader Ruth Williams, MD, Academy secretary for member services, for their hard work in preparing the YO Program. It was highly beneficial for all.

Related Resource: Web capture of the 2009 YO Program

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About the author: Robert F. Melendez, MD, MBA, is a full-time comprehensive ophthalmologist in private practice with Eye Associates of New Mexico with an emphasis on cataract surgery. He is an assistant clinical professor at the University of New Mexico department of surgery/division of ophthalmology. Dr. Melendez is also a member of the Academy’s YO Committee, a graduate of the Academy’s Leadership Development Program and a member of the editorial board for comprehensive ophthalmology with the Academy’s O.N.E. network.

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