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Young Ophthalmologists
Clinician-Scientists Unite!
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Clinician-scientists play a vital role in filling the gap between patient care and discovery research. Splitting their time and interests between clinical practice and research enables them to translate their research results into the clinic, as well as develop research questions based on clinical issues they encounter in practice.

However, over the last three decades, significant concern has been expressed about barriers faced by clinician-scientists and, indeed, their very survival. While the difficulties of this career path, which involves patient care, research and teaching, are evident to most, the motivations, success stories and rewards to those who choose this path would aid the ones considering this path.

The clinician-scientist forum at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) meeting, which I have had the privilege to organize for the past six years, has had a long tradition. The forum is a formal venue for young or budding clinician-scientists to learn from more established clinician-scientists.

And, over the years, it never fails to amaze me that the one thing attendees long for is a chance to talk to the speakers directly. In fact, during my tenure as the chair of ARVO’s Members-in-Training (MIT) Committee, our committee helped develop a survey to capture the needs of trainees. More than 200 young clinician-scientists expressed their wish to have an ARVO networking event at the Academy’s Annual Meeting.

Clinician-scientists at the YO ARVO reception in Chicago
Left to right: Natalie Afshari, MD; Emily Chew, MD; and John Gottsch, MD, at the YO ARVO! reception in Chicago.
Out of this came the idea to organize a networking event for clinician-scientists, jointly sponsored by the Academy and ARVO. The goal was to not only promote the clinician-scientist career, but to also give ophthalmologists-in-training and young ophthalmologists interested in a potential clinician-scientist career an opportunity to network with established clinician-scientists.

The end result was an informal event wholeheartedly supported by the Academy’s Young Ophthalmologist Committee and ARVO’s MIT committee.

Enter YO ARVO!
For 18 months, the Academy’s Gail Schmidt and Neeshah Azam, as well as ARVO’s JoAnne Olson and Lori Methia worked to plan our pilot event — “YO ARVO! Happy Hour: Exploring Careers in Research” — which was held in the Academy’s YO Lounge during the recent Joint Meeting in Chicago. The event was jointly organized by myself and Lucia Sobrin, MD, a member of ARVO’s MIT committee.  

The event was kicked off by Russell Van Gelder, MD, PhD, professor and chairman of the department of ophthalmology at the University of Washington, who outlined the importance of clinician-scientists and the impact they can have on patients’ lives.

YOs and clinician-scientists at the YO ARVO reception in Chicago.
YOs with David Epstein, MD, professor and chair of the Duke University department of ophthalmology, during the reception in Chicago.

In addition, 25 established clinician-scientists from renowned universities attended and mingled with the close to 100 attendees, sharing their experience and insights. They also answered questions about career development, opportunities and challenges.

The two-hour event was well received, and many attendees, trainees and established clinician-scientists alike said they would like to have the event repeated on an annual basis. The Academy and ARVO have agreed to co-sponsor this event again for the 2011 Academy Annual Meeting in Orlando, Oct. 22 to 25. We are looking forward to an exciting YO ARVO next year.

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About the author: Pedram Hamrah, MD, is an assistant professor of ophthalmology and the director of the Ocular Surface Imaging Center at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Harvard Medical School.

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