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What the Future Holds: A Resident’s Take on Her First Academy Meeting
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As I sat in the third row of the conference room amidst a sea of suits all engrossed in the opening moments of the YO Program, I peered up at the podium, pen poised above a blank yellow legal pad. American Academy of Ophthalmology President Ruth Williams, MD, was speaking about the changing face of health care. She encouraged us to be open to change, and said, “From chaos comes opportunity.”

These words resonated with me, and I quickly scribbled them down. I thought back to earlier that morning, when I jumped out of the taxi and entered the wonderfully chaotic world of the Academy's Joint Meeting in Chicago. As a first-time attendee, I was initially overwhelmed. The number of lectures, workshops, coffee talks and industry representatives seemed to flood the mammoth convention center. Thumbing through a program the size and weight of a textbook, I tried to plan the next few days. Luckily for me, I stumbled into the YO Lounge, where I learned of the YO Program and its series of lectures exploring the challenges and choices we might encounter while transitioning from training to practice. I decided to indulge. Here’s what I learned.

  • Lindsey Rhodes, MD, member of the YO Advocacy Subcommittee, kicked off the session by discussing the importance of integrating advocacy into our practices. She encouraged us to get to know our lawmakers and to donate, donate, donate (specifically to OPHTHPAC, the Surgical Scope Fund and state ophthalmology society political action committees), because “if you aren’t at the table, you will end up on the menu.” She suggested that we visit the Academy’s website to find out more about how we can advocate for ophthalmology.
  • Afterwards, we dove into the intricacies and potential pitfalls of coding. Sue Vicchrilli, the Academy coding executive, told us how to “Code It Right.” We learned that 40 percent of claims are submitted incorrectly, and her talk highlighted some of the pitfalls that we should try to avoid. She also emphasized that we must take responsibility for the coding that occurs within our practice and suggested that we read the Academy’s publication, Ophthalmic Coding Series: Essential Topics, for more information. 
  • William Loyd, MD, moderated the Practice Profiles panel, which was an energetic discussion that probed into the career paths of four young physicians, all of whom were happy with the evolution of their very different careers. Natasha Herz, MD, a solo practitioner, emphasized the importance of location in her decision-making process. She discussed how much she enjoys having autonomy and flexibility, and highlighted the dos and don’ts of taking over a retiring physician’s practice. Janice Law, MD, an academician at Vanderbilt University, discussed the role of mentors in guiding her toward academia. She loves to teach and is a team player, and emphasized the importance of “being bold and asking questions” while searching for the right job. Sherman Reeves, MD, a member of a “hybrid academic–private practice,” described the journey that brought him there. While he had initially planned to go into academics, he now feels that he has the best of both worlds. Eliza Hoskins, MD, an ophthalmologist at Kaiser Permanente, stated that she appreciates the predictability of her environs, and feels that it enables her to simply practice good medicine without the added hassle of managing a business.
  • Having been educated about the variety of career paths, program attendees next learned exactly how to close the deal once we found our own. We heard from consultant Larry Geller, Vice President of Consulting Services at Medical Management Associates Inc. in Atlanta, who discussed contracts, buy-ins and negotiations. He introduced a slew of unfamiliar concepts, such as fringe benefits, restrictive covenants and tail coverage, and somehow he managed to give meaning to this previously uncharted territory. He emphasized how to evaluate a practice to make sure that it’s the right fit. For more information on this topic, he suggested visiting the American Academy of Ophthalmic Executives website.
  • Once we join a practice, however, how do we distinguish ourselves in a sea of competitors? Randall Wong, MD, answered this question by sharing his philosophy on medical marketing. He emphasized the importance of building our Web identity and said that patients expect us to have a website of our own. Without one, we simply don’t exist. He noted that we need to find a way to distinguish ourselves in an era of information, and for him, a practice website, particularly a forum for interacting with his patients, does just that. Purnima Patel, MD, then discussed the role of social media in creating our brand and connecting with the consumer.

After the YO Program, I retired back to the lounge, where I collapsed onto the large leather couch, reflecting on the previous four hours and thinking ahead to the next few days. I realized that this wasn’t chaotic at all — it was a choose-your-own adventure with thousands of right answers and an equal number of resources to help guide me. Earlier, Dr. Williams reminded us that “what [we] do matters.” Armed with her words and with a better understanding of what the future held in store for me, I left the lounge and dove right in.

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About the author: Emily Waisbren, MD, is a second-year ophthalmology resident at Baylor College of Medicine. She completed medical school at Tufts University School of Medicine in addition to a Doris Duke Clinical Research Fellowship at Harvard University.

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