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How to Navigate the Crowds and Connect With Your Peers in Chicago
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Milling through a crowd of thousands in one of the country’s largest convention halls isn’t the optimal way to acquaint oneself with new friends and professional contacts. But several Academy young ophthalmologists have volunteered their time and energy to make that prospect easier and more likely. Here’s how you can connect with them and others at the Joint Meeting in Chicago, Nov. 10 to 13. 

One of the best places to meet fellow YOs is the YO Lounge, open daily in the Grand Concourse Lobby, McCormick Place. “The YO Lounge is the perfect place to take a break, review a poster or practice a presentation that you will be giving, or just hang out with some of your friends,” said Brad Feldman, MD, who’s helping organize some internationally themed events in the YO Lounge. “This year there will also be several networking events taking place in the lounge.”

The YO Lounge will be open Saturday, Nov. 10, through Tuesday, Nov. 13. Stop in to relax and catch up with friends between sessions or use the free WiFi. You’ll also want to make note of several happy hours and other networking events in the lounge. View the complete schedule.

  • Eye M.D.s in Washington, D.C. If you’re interested in political and professional advocacy — and in meeting other, like-minded folks — attend the OPHTHPAC and Surgical Scope Fund happy hour on Saturday, Nov. 10, from 4 to 6 p.m.
“The YO happy hour is a great way to meet other YOs,” says Bryan Lee, MD, JD, who is a YO member of Surgical Scope Fund Committee. “In general, there's no substitute for meeting people in person, even with the growth of social media.”
  • Meet international experts. Network on your lunch break during an informal session Dr. Feldman organized on Monday, Nov. 12, with experts from around the world. Past Academy presidents Michael Brennan, MD, and Richard Abbott, MD, will join several others from 11:30 to 1:30 p.m. Bring a lunch and ask your questions! Outside the lounge, Grace Sun, MD, will also moderate a discussion of international opportunities for ophthalmologists on Sunday, Nov. 11, from 4:15 to 5:15 p.m. in room S101AB of McCormick Place.
  • Research matters. For those interested in vision research, the “YO ARVO!” gathering on Monday afternoon is a great opportunity to meet and ask questions of senior clinicians. Stop by from 4 to 6 p.m.
Pedram Hamram, MD, who’s leading this collaborative event between the Academy YO and ARVO MIT committees, said he believes the casual moments at the meeting are more conducive to networking.

“In my experience, the most fruitful venues at the meeting have been at the YO Committee’s happy hours,” Dr. Hamram said. “Meeting other YOs and making acquaintances has led to my personal involvement with the YO Info editorial board and more involvement generally in the Academy. I personally prefer the face-to-face interactions and do not use Facebook or Twitter, for better or for worse.” (For social media addicts, the meeting’s Twitter hashtag is #aao12.)

Beyond the Lounge
Such gatherings are just one way to connect with other physicians, of course. Dr. Feldman said smaller sessions, such as the various Breakfasts With the Experts, will also offer YOs a chance to ask questions of experts whom they otherwise would only listen to from afar. “It may be very intimidating to speak during a large symposia or course Q&A, but these smaller session are very relaxed and not at all intimidating,” he said. “They truly lend themselves to conversation.”

Between sessions, you never know who you might bump into, or the long-term impact of a seemingly chance meeting. “The folks that you end up meeting could be your colleagues throughout your career,” Dr. Feldman said. “One YO that I bumped into four years ago at the meeting set me up with a job interview that very day! I'm still working there — happily I should add.”

He also urged YOs not to miss the evening fun. “Every night at the meeting there are tons of happy hours, dinners and late-night meet-ups,” Dr. Feldman said.

Chief among those gatherings is the Global YO Reception, beginning Sunday evening at 9 p.m. It will be held at the Cuvee nightclub located at 308 West Erie Street in Chicago. Admission is by ticket only, however, so be sure to pick up yours in the YO Lounge.

“Last year's [reception] was really incredible and we expect a repeat this year,” Dr. Feldman said.

Whether you prefer organized events or hallway conversations depends on your own chemistry. But both rely on the face-to-face warmth that all doctors cultivate for their life’s work — and for every patient encounter. And, as Dr. Lee suggested, warm encounters can be contagious (in a good way). “I think the best approach to networking is the old-fashioned way — by meeting your friends' friends,” he said. “The Academy is great because you get to catch up with friends in ophthalmology from around the country, and as you do that, you make new friends through them.”

For more YO-related meeting highlights, download this e-brochure featuring course recommendations, free resources and Chicago favorites.

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About the author: Denny Smith is a former editor for EyeNet Magazine.

Academy members: login to read or make comments on this article.