This month, we continue our new approach to YO Spotlights, periodic profiles of you and your colleagues. Each featured YO is asked the same 10 questions, picking seven of them to answer. For our third profile, we talked to JoAnn Giaconi, MD.
Dr. Giaconi is in her sixth year of practice, dividing her time between the Jules Stein Eye Institute in Los Angeles and the Veterans Administration, and specializes in glaucoma. She attended Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, completing an ophthalmology residency at Stanford University Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif. Dr. Giaconi then went on to complete two fellowships: a cornea fellowship at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, and a glaucoma fellowship at Jules Stein Eye Institute in Los Angeles. She is a graduate of the Academy’s Leadership Development Program XI, Class of 2009, and currently serves on the Academy’s Ophthalmology Liaisons Committee and the Glaucoma Panel for the Practicing Ophthalmologists Curriculum.
- Why did you become an ophthalmologist? From my point of view in medical school, ophthalmology combined the best of medical and surgical practice while being a field that improves the quality of life for patients.
- What does a typical day look like for you? I split my time between the Jules Stein Eye Institute (JSEI) two days a week and the Veterans Administration (VA) three days a week, so I have two different “typical” days.
At JSEI, my day looks like a private practice. I see a full day of glaucoma patients or I operate (mostly glaucoma and cataract cases). I treat both adults and children with glaucoma. I also attend conferences, grand rounds and research meetings there.
At the VA, about 75 percent of my time is spent with residents attending clinics or in the operating room. Other days are spent on administrative duties and research activities. I attend a lot of meetings at the VA since I took over as chief of the division. About once a week in the evenings, I have various committee conference calls or local ophthalmology group meetings to attend.
- What do you like most about the organization/health system/region where you practice? Both places where I practice are wonderful in their own way. JSEI is a fabulous place to work for many reasons, namely my colleagues and patients.
The VA is also a great place to work because it is “one-stop shopping” for the patient and doctor. If you need an MRI, it’s easily ordered and the results are easily found on the electronic medical records system after you are alerted that the study has been completed. There’s no waiting for faxes and mail, and less hassle in chasing down results. The organization is also making a big push toward patient-centered care right now, which is benefiting everyone in the system.
- What accomplishment are you most proud of? I am very proud of a book that I co-edited with my division at the Jules Stein Eye Institute on glaucoma, called Pearls of Glaucoma Management. It was a daunting project at first, having to come up with the book’s concept, to get commitments from authors and keep the entire project on deadline, and then actually edit as a junior faculty member.
At the end of my own glaucoma fellowship, I had a great number of unanswered questions about glaucoma. This book asks those questions and then expert glaucoma specialists from all over the world answer them. I think that we have produced a very helpful and practical textbook. I myself learned a lot from the book and from the process of producing a book.
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten in your career so far? “Join groups and go to meetings.” I was strongly encouraged to attend meetings early on and to join professional groups. I didn’t quite see the point of being a member of multiple ophthalmic and medical professional groups at first, but now I recognize that this is the best means by which to meet colleagues and learn about what is going on in medicine that will affect your practice and future. You never know who you will meet at a meeting and what kind of opportunity that meeting will transform into. You can really help your community, whether it’s a community of doctors or patients, through involvement with an established group. And it’s fun.
Editor’s note: Dr. Giaconi has been very active with the California Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons. Find your state society through the Academy website. To find colleagues in your subspecialty, check out the groups on the Academy Online Community.
- What advice would you give a resident or someone considering ophthalmology as a specialty? I would tell both medical students and residents to go into the specialty or subspecialty that they really enjoy. We don’t know exactly what kind of changes are ahead in medicine in terms of regulations and reimbursements. It’s important to go into an area that you find intellectually fascinating and one where you enjoy the type of patients that you will be seeing.
- What do you find fulfilling about your career in ophthalmology? Educating patients and helping them to understand their diseases. Hearing “now I understand it” from a patient is very satisfying. Being involved in the education and training of residents has also been hugely rewarding. It’s actually taught me a lot about ophthalmology and surgery.
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