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Young Ophthalmologists
What a Fanged Mouthguard Has to Do with Ophthalmology: An Interview with the New YO Info Editor
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As a solo practitioner and mother of two, new YO Info editor Natasha Herz, MD, certainly has her hands full. Yet she finds a way to handle multiple roles and still maintain a sense of humor.

As Dr. Herz takes over the helm of YO Info from Rob Melendez, MD, MBA, we asked the long-time editorial board member how she handles it all and why she’s willing to carve out even more time for the newsletter.

Natasha Herz, MDDr. Herz said the key to her multiple roles is scheduling. “I do have to stay quite organized or I would lose track of it all,” she said. “Unfortunately, I still have times where I miss things, like a recent phone interview. But for the most part, if I stick to my schedule, I can stay on top of it.” 

Fortunately, she has had many years to perfect this. After finishing a cornea/anterior segment/refractive surgery fellowship at Baylor College of Medicine in 2007, she and her husband moved to the Washington, D.C., area for her husband’s job.

Dr. Herz credits her husband’s financial expertise and negotiating skills with their ability to buy a practice in Rockville, Md., — the Kensington Eye Center — where I just happen to be a patient. And it was this move that indirectly brought her to YO Info.

“During my first year in practice, I came into contact with Aaron Miller when he was in D.C. for the Mid-Year Forum,” Dr. Herz said (they knew each other from her time in Texas). “We went out for drinks and talked about the changes you go through after leaving the academic world.”

When Dr. Miller heard that she missed teaching and feeling connected with the big picture for ophthalmology, he suggested Dr. Herz send him her CV and said he would see if there were any service positions available for the newly formed YO committee. As it turned out, there was an opening on the editorial committee. “I was thrilled to serve on the YO editorial committee, as it gave me an opportunity to offer advice to other YOs who were going through similar circumstances,” Dr. Herz said. 

YO Info is a Must-Read
As the saying goes, Dr. Herz is not just a YO Info board member, she is also a client. “YO Info keeps you connected with the big picture and the rest of ophthalmology,” she said. “If you are going into private practice and will no longer be in the academic community, this newsletter is an awesome way to stay in touch.”

That is particularly true when it comes to advocacy and practice management. Most YOs enter practice with quite a deficit in business knowledge, which creates a steep learning curve. Issues like contract negotiation, joining a practice or buying into a practice can be particularly challenging for a young ophthalmologist.

Then there are the issues of proper coding, marketing, human resources, staying up on CMEs (and how to get free ones) and being realistic about growing your practice. “Do not expect to have the patient volume or surgical volume that you had in residency and fellowship for at least five years or longer,” said Dr. Herz.

“Unless you are practicing in an underserved area, you will have to build your practice and market yourself. It’s not fun or easy, but do not expect to have your patients handed to you.” In fact, Dr. Herz suggests that your senior associates will respect you much more if they see you working hard to get known in the community and paying your dues like they had to.

Dr. Herz also values YO Info’s coverage of advocacy, noting that YOs’ futures are very closely tied with what happens with Medicare. “Other medical specialties may be able to opt out of Medicare, but it is virtually impossible for YOs, just starting out, to do surgery and not accept Medicare,” she said. “That’s why PQRI, e-prescribing and EHR all are issues YOs must pay attention to and get involved in as a matter of practice.”

Gearing Up for the Annual Meeting
One of the things Dr. Herz is particularly proud of is the way YO Info helps guide young ophthalmologists through their Annual Meeting experience. “It can be a bit tough, especially if it’s your first time,” said Dr. Herz. “Not only are you checking out courses and getting back in touch with friends and colleagues, but you get to hear about all the latest advances and shop the expo floor, which is always so cool.”

Dr. Herz is particularly excited about this year’s Subspecialty Day meeting for refractive and cornea, as well as the Global YO Reception and Orbital Gala. “And I will certainly drop by the YO Lounge,” she said. “It sounds like it's going to be awesome.” Make sure you drop by yourself and say hello!

Final Thoughts
As she settles into her new role with YO Info, the keys for Dr. Herz are relevance and ingenuity. When she was first starting out, some of the big issues for Dr. Herz involved making key decisions that would affect the rest of her life, such as doing a fellowship or whether to enter private practice versus academics.

“I think these are always big questions in YOs minds and are pivotal in shaping their career,” Dr. Herz said. “These are the topics we need to continue to address in order to stay relevant.”

Of course, one of the best ways to stay relevant is to use a bit of ingenuity. For this, she points to a recent article about, of all things, high school football.

As Dr. Herz recounted, players had been banned from wearing black paint beneath their eyes, which some used to “get their game face on.” How did the players respond? “In an effort to find another way to be creatively intimidating, one player chose a mouth guard with fangs,” Dr. Herz said. “I loved it!”

While she won’t be sporting funky mouth guards anytime soon, look for Dr. Herz to bring more of her own brand of creativity and ingenuity to YO Info in the months to come.

For a taste of her advice, check out these past contributions to YO Info:

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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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