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Young Ophthalmologists
When to Risk Failure Instead of Regret: Seven Questions for Jeff Pettey, MD
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Jeff Pettey, MD

For this month’s YO Spotlight, we talked to Jeff Pettey, MD, an alumnus of The Ohio State University College of Medicine. He did his residency and fellowship at John Moran Eye Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he is now in an assistant professor. Dr. Pettey is also a participant in the Academy’s Leadership Development Program (LDP) XIV, Class of 2012, representing the Utah Ophthalmology Society. He talked to YO Info about his fascination with Charles Kelman, the importance of good mentors and why fear of failure shouldn’t stop you from taking risks in pursuit of a dream.

  1. Why did you become an ophthalmologist? I had the most fantastic role models in the ophthalmology department at Ohio State. They were people I knew I could fit in with and wanted to be like. I felt I would enjoy the mix of primary care combined with a surgical subspecialty. I’ve never had a second thought about choosing ophthalmology.

  2. What does a typical day look like for you? Either run, ride my bike or take the bus to Moran. Depending on the day: Staffing residents, teaching surgery, developing curriculum, lecturing, clinic, surgery, or attending lectures. Then home, something outdoors or with the kids.

  3. What do you like most about the organization/health system/region where you practice? The positive and supportive academic environment at Moran has allowed a position like mine to be created. The current chair and program director designed a year-long fellowship focused on academic ophthalmology, anticipating my future role as residency program director. I’m grateful for their forethought, which has allowed me to focus on how physicians are currently trained and how we can improve physicians training throughout medicine.

  4. What’s your biggest frustration about the health care system? Cost and access. The increasing cost of health care, both to individuals and to society, is unsustainable. Maintaining and improving access to care tends to drive up costs. It is far too complicated a problem for a simple and quick fix, but all parties need to be willing to give a little for the greater good.

  5. What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to do? Sacrifice time with my children.

  6. If you could be mentored by one physician, living or dead, who would it be and why? Charles Kelman. I think it would be fascinating to see the personal and professional struggles he faced trying to push a technology he believed in. He was ostracized and marginalized, but was, in the end, vindicated by the legacy of his idea.

  7. What advice would you give to a resident or someone considering ophthalmology as a specialty? Chances are, there are many medical specialties any one student could enjoy and excel in. Try to imagine yourself in the shoes of your different attending physicians you rotate with. Can you imagine yourself enjoying that job? Look at the types of people doing that specialty, how would you fit in with them? Then seek out good mentors and role models that can help guide you through applying to ophthalmology or any other specialty. If ophthalmology is your dream, then pursue it. Sure, it is competitive, but go for it. It is better to get denied applying to what you think you would love then regretting not trying.

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