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Making People Care: Caverns and Coffee at the Academy’s Secretariat for State Affairs Meeting
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I have often wondered what it takes to make people care. I try to convince my patients with diabetic retinopathy to control their blood sugars, my AMD patients to stop smoking and my postop patients to position appropriately. Simply put, it’s difficult to make people do something they don’t want to do.
Joseph T. Nezgoda, MD, MBA
Left to right: Joe Nezgoda, MD; Dan Briceland, MD, Academy secretary for state affairs; Andrew Budning, MD, Canadian Ophthalmological Society chair, Council of Provincial Affairs.

That was the challenge facing state and national leaders at the recent meeting of the Academy Secretariat for State Affairs, where I was the young ophthalmologist (YO) representative. Much of the discussion echoed questions I ask in my own practice: How do you make them care? How do you make ophthalmologists (in particular, newly minted ones) care about their future profession? How can we show policy makers that surgical skills cannot be legislated?

Getting to the Bottom of It
This year’s meeting was in Seattle. After hearing the various state reports and the great efforts made by local — and international — societies to support ophthalmology and quality patient eye care, we needed a break. So, we did what any group of doctors at an important business meeting would do: we went urban spelunking into the old subterranean of the Emerald City. The Underground Tour showed us the dark recessed spaces of the now-bustling center of technology, and the city’s humble beginnings helped me to understand a thing or two about the city — in particular, how building a great city, like a great invention, takes a little necessity and urgency (in this case, tidal flooding).

After dusting off my slacks, I gave a report on the recent efforts of the YO Committee and its international, advocacy and YO Info editorial board subcommittees. Here are the highlights:

  • The YO Advocacy Subcommittee/Secretariat for State Affairs debrief session for Advocacy Ambassadors at the April 2013 Mid-Year Forum was a great success. This pilot session for ambassadors, residents and fellows who attended this year’s Congressional Advocacy Day gave them a chance to share their experiences on Capitol Hill and ask questions of Academy and state society leaders. During the session, state society executive directors also briefed the audience on the importance of membership in state societies. Because of the great turnout, we now plan to repeat this event at the 2014 Mid-Year Forum.
  • This year for the second time, we produced the YO Info Resident Edition, a print complement to our monthly electronic newsletter that was mailed to training programs with the Basic & Clinical Science Course sets. The YO Info editorial board specifically recommended the inclusion of an article by Ruben Sanchez, MD, “The World Is Run By Those Who Show Up,” which encouraged residents to become more involved in their respective state societies.
  • We also revamped the YO Program for 2013. With the newly designed “It’s YO World, Jumpstart YOur Career,” the Academy will offer a range of interactive sessions now updated specifically for both residents and YOs in their first five years of practice.
  • Throughout the year, the YO Advocacy Subcommittee has been personally reaching out to 2012–2013 Advocacy Ambassadors in the hope that they will become more involved at both the federal level via Congressional Advocacy Day and “back home” at the state level via the advocacy efforts of their respective state societies.

Service with a Smile
After representing the “YO” voice, we needed a recharge, so a few of us decided to go to the original location of Starbucks at Pike’s Place. Here, the endless lines (and the myriad “regular” Starbucks locations that we passed along the way) got me thinking about the wildly popular chain. What was it about this brand that worked so well? After the wait, we were rewarded by a personally crafted cup made just for us. The staff — certainly working tirelessly given the volume of patrons — treated us like we were their first customers of the day. I felt good (not to mention the euphoria of the sugary caffeine).

Indeed, the journey in Seattle led me to a small revelation about my pondering. To understand any issue, especially caring about yourself or your profession, one has to get dirty and see (as we did on our tour) the underbelly of the problem. The solution means grinding it out one victory at a time and serving it with a smile.

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About the author: Joseph T. Nezgoda, MD, MBA, is a member of the YO Advocacy Subcommittee and recently began a retina fellowship at the University of California, San Diego Shiley Eye Clinic in La Jolla, Calif.

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