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YO Interactions, CATT Results and Advocacy: Highlights of the Abbott Presidency to Date
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In February, we talked with Academy President Richard L. Abbott, MD, about his goals for his presidency. At that time, he pointed to communication and education — especially overseas — as topics that were high on his list of priorities. Now, with six months under his belt, a wholly different area of Academy activities has given him some new insights and perspective on the profession and gained a tremendous amount of respect in his eyes.

Maintain Communication
One of Dr. Abbott’s primary goals as Academy president was to maintain and encourage communication with and among members, and he has done just that.

Richard L. Abbott, MD, 2011 Academy president.
Richard L. Abbott, MD, 2011 Academy president.
“I have been blogging on many different subjects regarding Academy programs and international trips,” Dr. Abbott says. “I have been traveling a fair amount, representing the Academy. In addition to U.S. travel, I’ve been to several international ophthalmology meetings, including the European Society of Ophthalmology Congress in Geneva, as well as the Asia Pacific meeting in Australia. And, of course, I’ve been to China to continue our collaborative efforts with clinical guidelines.

“I have really enjoyed traveling and meeting our international colleagues and hearing first-hand their impressions and suggestions for improving access to the Academy and its products,” Dr. Abbott continues. “I never cease to be amazed by the respect and value many international members have for the Academy. Clinical education and the PPPs are particularly valued by our international members.”

This all dovetails with Dr. Abbott’s mission to improve education and clinical care in the United States and internationally. “I am always looking for improved ways to provide education, especially electronically, and ways to communicate better, both nationally and internationally,” he says. “And one great opportunity is with the Academy’s ONE Network.”

Improving Education
Dr. Abbott is particularly interested in improving the search function and access to ONE for practitioners. “With the new ONE editor and co-editor Rob Melendez and Andy Doan, both leaders within the YO committee, I think they will do a fantastic job at achieving these goals,” he says.

Dr. Abbott will also work with Academy staff and physician volunteers to make sure members continue to receive the highest value for their membership. “I would like the Academy’s Annual Meeting to serve as a forum for discussion of new and evolving technology, such as femtosecond cataract laser surgery — to understand the pros and cons, and scope of new technology, as well as the implications to ophthalmic practice,” he says. “We will be having a symposium on this very subject at the Annual Meeting this year in Orlando.”

He is also excited about the results of the Comparison of Age-Related Macular Degeneration Treatment Trial (CATT), and the role the Academy played in bringing the trial to a successful completion. As he wrote in his blog, “It took courageous leadership from CMS Administrator Leslie Norwalk to push through a complete rewrite of CMS clinical trials in rapid fashion, to allow for CMS to support CATT. … The policy change to pay for the drugs within the CATT trial is nothing short of groundbreaking in terms of allowing CMS involvement in future comparative effectiveness research.”

In addition to the work related to femtosecond and AMD treatment, Dr. Abbott said the Academy is also working with OMIC to improve the process of care for retinopathy of prematurity. “These are just a few of the ways I am spending my time in supporting the Academy’s efforts to improve quality of care,” he notes.

But his work as president has not just involved communication and education. Dr. Abbott has also been very involved with several Academy leaders in state and federal advocacy, including Dan Briceland, MD, and Greg Kwasny, MD (secretaries for state and federal affairs, respectively), and Cindy Bradford, MD, senior secretary for advocacy. These interactions have led to one of the biggest surprises for him this year.

Renewed Admiration and Respect
When someone becomes president of the Academy, he or she has often come up through one of two Academy leadership avenues: the Council and/or advocacy leadership or through the many Academy committees dealing with education, quality of care or other topics. Dr. Abbott came up through the committee route.

“For the past 30 years, my work with the Academy has always been through committees … usually in the areas of education and quality of care,” he says. “And while I inherently knew that advocacy did good work, I now have a whole new level of appreciation for the work and dedication of those involved in our advocacy efforts.”

One of the areas this was most evident to him was at the Mid-Year Forum. “Spending time with YOs at the Mid-Year Forum as been one of the highlights of the year so far,” Dr. Abbott says.

“Just before the meeting, the Kentucky scope-of-practice ruling was handed down. It turned out to be a wake-up call and rallying point for many ophthalmologists and, in part, showed YOs the importance of being involved and building relationships with congressional members,” says Dr. Abbott. “Also, the importance of quality of care for our patients. This is their future.”

He was particularly impressed with YOs’ grasp of the issues and their dedication to the Academy and its mission. “I was talking with several YOs in small, informal groups during the meeting, and I could see the light bulbs go off,” Dr. Abbott notes. “It was a great opportunity for them to see how this process works and the critical need to be involved at both the state and federal levels and build relationships with our congressional leaders to help protect patients.”

As more and more new technology is used in ophthalmology, appropriate reimbursement becomes an added issue. “YOs have an exciting and bright future, and I want to keep it that way,” says Dr. Abbott. “Support is the major goal.”

Final Thoughts
Now halfway into his term, one thing particularly stands out for Dr. Abbott. “The Academy has an incredibly talented staff and physician volunteers. There are hundreds of doctors who volunteer their time and carry the ball to institute our programs,” Dr. Abbott marvels. “They do all this AND still manage to find time to take care of their patients and practice, as well as spend quality time with their families. They are a true inspiration.”

It is this dedication that continues to drive him to do whatever he can to improve the Academy. “I am very receptive to constructive criticism and suggestions,” Dr. Abbott says. “I welcome and encourage letters, e-mails and even comments in person.”

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About the author: Kimberly Day is a freelance health writer and medical editor and a frequent contributor to YO Info. She is the co-author of Hormone Revolution and contributing editor to Peak Health Advocate.

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