This month we kick off a new approach to YO Spotlights, our periodic profiles of you and your colleagues. Each featured YO will be asked the same 10 questions, picking seven of them to answer.
For our first profile, we talked to Anthony Khawaja, MB, MA (Cantab), MRCOphth, a member of the Academy’s YO Committee’s international subcommittee and a graduate of the European Society of Ophthalmology’s Leadership Development Programme (SOE EuLDP). Dr. Khawaja is in his sixth year of residency at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, London, United Kingdom, a large teaching hospital affiliated with the NHS (National Health Service). He did his pre-clinical work at the University of Cambridge, and his clinical studies at the University College London.
1. Why did you become an ophthalmologist?
I love the fact that it combines medicine and surgery. The medicine is great, as it relies so much on clinical skills. And the first time I saw microsurgery, it blew me away!
2. What does a typical day look like for you?
I am currently the senior resident at a busy teaching hospital. The day always starts with seeing in-patients, which we have plenty of. A few are solely under our care, but most are joint care with medical physicians. I particularly enjoy this aspect of my current job, as previously I had very little interaction with other specialties while working at Moorfields Eye Hospital, which is purely ophthalmic.
The morning then comprises of outpatient clinic, which is always very busy. I work alongside approximately five ophthalmologists, five nurses, two orthoptists and one optometrist, depending on the day. We always have medical students and junior optometrists sitting in for training.
The afternoon is in theatre two days a week, and clinic two days a week. Friday afternoons is the teaching half-day, which I organise. A half-day theatre list typically comprises seven to eight cataracts, or equivalent. I am on-call one in six days. This is from home until the following day, though often involves coming to the hospital to see emergencies that have been referred from the whole north central London region.
3. What do you like most about the organization/health system/region where you practice?
I am very proud of our National Health Service (despite the bad press it has had in the United States of late!). Providing care that is free at the point of entry means that all the members of my community can receive high quality care, regardless of their background. It may be a cliché, but I believe health is a right, not a privilege.
4. What’s your biggest frustration about the organization/health system/region where you practice?
The NHS is the world's third largest employer, after the Indian railways, and the Chinese Army. Managing such a large organisation is, of course, fraught with difficulties — and the bureaucracy is huge. In an attempt to make the system more efficient, more and more managers are being hired. Slowly, resource decisions are being taken away from doctors. The reduction in autonomy, and the difficulty in implementing change, can be very frustrating.
5. What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Inspired by the Academy’s YOs, I have established the European Society of Ophthalmology (SOE) YOs. I think it is extremely important that the next generation of European ophthalmologists are more united and connected as we face the challenges that European law poses to medical care. I have particularly enjoyed the ongoing collaboration SOE YOs have had with the Academy YOs. We have had very successful joint symposia in Atlanta, Amsterdam and San Francisco.
: For the Academy’s 2010 Joint Meeting with the Middle East Africa Council of Ophthalmology (MEACO) in Chicago, Dr. Khawaja’s YO international subcommittee has also planned a joint Academy/SOE/MEACO YO symposium, “Modern Techniques and Technologies for YOs to Know.”
6. What do you find fulfilling about your career in ophthalmology?
I think we are fortunate in ophthalmology that most of our patients are pleased with us! We take their cataracts out and within a short period of time, they can see better and are grateful. I do not think I will ever stop finding cataract surgery and grateful patients rewarding.
7. What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to do?
It's funny, once I have achieved something, I never feel that it was that hard to get there. So, the things that seem hard are the things I am trying to achieve at the time. Right now, I am applying to various bodies for funding for a research project and a PhD. It is all quite new to me and I am finding it difficult. I hope in a few months time I'll be able to think to myself, that wasn't so hard after all!
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