There is no question that our world is getting smaller and smaller. Thanks to the Internet and global news coverage, we are all closer than ever. For ophthalmology, this means new opportunities to learn, grow and support colleagues in other countries. For young ophthalmologists, it means new ways to address the different challenges YOs have compared to more-established ophthalmologists. Two international meetings this spring will provide opportunities to do just that.
From Abu Dhabi …
The first is the World Ophthalmology Congress in Abu Dhabi, Feb. 16 to 20. It is a joint meeting of the Middle East Africa Council of Ophthalmology (MEACO), the European Society of Ophthalmology (SOE) and the Academy. This year’s program includes a joint YO symposium on Feb. 20, during which speakers from all three organizations will discuss global educational challenges and solutions.
“International meetings are a great opportunity for YOs to meet each other, be inspired and contribute to their organizations,” says Anthony Khawaja, MBBS, who has been instrumental in organizing the symposium, along with Kgaogelo Edward “Eddie” Legodi, MD, and Manal Taryam, MD. A member of the Academy’s YO international subcommittee, Dr. Khawaja is also chair of the SOE YO committee, which he helped organize after getting the idea at an Annual Meeting YO Reception and meeting with Academy staff and physician leaders to further his plans.
“The benefits of a YO committee are clear when you consider the huge achievements of the Academy’s YO committee,” Dr. Khawaja said. He credits that committee with making the Annual Meeting “extremely relevant and beneficial … for YOs, in terms of education, networking and developing modern educational and communication tools such as YO Info and EyeWiki.”
That success in turn inspired the establishment of the SOE YO Committee. In recent years, the SOE Congress has greatly enhanced its offerings for YOs, which now includes special sessions, a lounge and a reception. There are also international collaborative sessions and online resources to help those taking European exams or wanting to do an observership or fellowship abroad.
But SOE isn’t the only organization expanding the role for YOs. “There have also been efforts by the Academy’s YO Committee to collaborate and facilitate the establishment of YO committees within PAAO [the Pan-American Association of Ophthalmology], MEACO, APAO [the Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology], as well as the Canadian Ophthalmological Society [COS],” Dr. Khawaja said. “We have had the privilege of collaborating with YOs from each of these organizations and successful joint symposia have taken place at meetings worldwide.”
Dr. Khawaja has largely taken the lead on these efforts, along with Brad Feldman, MD, chair of the Academy’s YO international subcommittee, and R.V. Paul Chan, MD, a consultant for the YO international subcommittee and a member of the global ONE advisory board.
… To Korea and Beyond
Dr. Chan is very active in APAO meetings and, in his role as an Academy YO international subcommittee member, helped organize a joint YO symposium at the upcoming joint APAO/SOE congress in Busan, Korea, April 13 to 16. “The first joint symposium was organized last year,” he said.
“We are repeating those efforts again year, thanks to Clement Tham, with the support of Dennis Lam, the APAO secretary general. The focus of the April symposium will be on trainees (residents and fellows) and navigating research.”
In addition to these face-to-face gatherings, Dr. Chan sees increased potential for YOs to connect throughout the year. “In addition to leadership, enthusiasm and awareness by the YOs, one of the biggest tools that can be utilized is the Internet and social networking,” he said. “The Academy has a wonderful online resource and now YOs from around the world can stay connected much more easily.”
The Benefit for Patients
Building off of these successes, YOs worldwide continue to work together to help other nations and supranational ophthalmic groups establish their own YO committees. This is critical, not just for ophthalmology, but for patients as well.
“I think it's incredibly important that YOs meet to discuss the issues of their time,” Dr. Chan said. “YOs from around the world can all learn from one another by building friendships and collaborations. They will also be able to implement new techniques for patient care and even in practice management to help their patients, which of course is ultimately the goal — to improve patient care by creating a collective and improving communication and access to care.”
Dr. Khawaja agreed. “A great example of this was the joint AAO/SOE/COS YO symposium at the 2011 Annual Meeting in Orlando,” he said. “Speakers from all three organizations talked about evolving therapies in each of their regions that YOs from other areas may be less aware of. It is our responsibility to share ideas and information so our patients benefit from worldwide expertise.”
Whether you are able to attend one or even both of these meetings, choose to participate in an international volunteer activity, or simply attend the international informational and networking session at the Annual Meeting, it is more important than ever to connect with your peers across the globe.
“We no longer live in a world where it's difficult to communicate with one another and exchange ideas,” says Dr. Chan. “Through joint YO programs and events, YOs now know that they are not alone and have a voice. The result is better patient care and better access to care around the world.”
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About the author: Kimberly Day is a freelance health writer and medical editor and frequent contributor to YO Info. She is the co-author of Hormone Revolution and ghostwriter of Eat Papayas Naked.