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Residents’ Guide to the Annual Meeting: ‘Take Charge of Your Career’ in New Orleans
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Without a doubt, young ophthalmologists (YOs) face a unique set of professional and personal demands in their transition from training to practice. Fear not though, YOs. The YO Program at this year’s Annual Meeting is there to ease the process. From contract negotiation and coding to marketing and selection of practice types, the Academy’s newly designed “It’s YO World, Jumpstart YOur Career” allows YOs of all stripes to learn about the key issues central to their young professional careers. And new in 2013, YO Program attendees can now choose a track — as a member-in-training, YO in one to five years of practice or both.

This month, YO Info takes a look at what the Annual Meeting has to offer residents and how the experience can propel your career forward.


Bridging the Professional Gaps
The Academy’s focus for YOs has always been centered on helping them through the developmental stages of their professional lives. The YO Program — “It’s YO World, Jumpstart YOur Career” — is the perfect example of this effort. “It does a great job of offering a launching pad for trainees and young attendees to become involved in the Academy and learn more about the concerns specific to them,” said James G. Chelnis, MD, a resident at the University of Buffalo and member of the YO Info editorial board. “My residency has done a great job of training me in diagnostics, surgical skills and disease management, but there are a lot of considerations that aren't formally addressed that I would like to be comfortable with early on.”

This is where the Annual Meeting can help fill in any professional gaps. This year’s four-hour YO Program offers interactive panels specifically designed for members-in-training on topics such as:

  • Choosing a subspecialty;
  • CPT and ICD coding basics;
  • Ophthalmic Knowledge Assessment Program and board exam preparation;
  • Negotiating your first contract;
  • Avoiding medicolegal issues;
  • Marketing 101;
  • Using social media to build your practice and
  • International opportunities for YOs.

Speakers include Academy President Paul Sternberg Jr., MD; Ophthalmic News & Education (ONE) Network editor-in-chief and YO Committee chair, Robert F. Melendez, MD, MBA, and a host of other ophthalmologists, who have lived and breathed the resident experience.

“This is an ideal environment for residents to take charge of their careers and rub elbows with ophthalmic leaders who can provide priceless professional advice.” Dr. Chelnis said. “My first meeting is when I became connected to other YO members, and it ultimately led to my current involvement in YO Info. Every year, I try to take advantage of something new.”

“It’s YO World, Jumpstart YOur Career” (Course # SPE10) takes place Sunday, Nov. 17, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in room 252-254 of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. All fees are covered by the Academy Plus Course Pass, which includes access to more than 350 Academy and AAOE courses. Academy members in training pay only $100 for the course pass — a significant savings.

Visit the Academy’s website for more information and a full schedule of events.

Learning Skills From Skilled Leaders
In addition to improving any deficiencies in one’s practice/business skill set, the Annual Meeting also provides ample opportunities for residents to learn or enhance a range of surgical proficiencies. “I think what first caught my attention about the Annual Meeting was the ability to expand my clinical horizons,” said Dr. Chelnis. “It’s the complete world of ophthalmology all under one roof and, of course, I wanted the opportunity to learn about ophthalmology from the leaders in the field.”

This year in New Orleans, the Academy has added resident-specific sessions and Skills Transfer labs so members-in-training can expand their knowledge base and gain confidence practicing independently after graduation. Here’s a sampling:

  • Introduction to Cornea and Lens-Based Refractive Surgery for Residents (Course # SYM02; Sunday, Nov. 17, from 8 to 11 a.m. in room 228-230). A combined meeting with the International Society of Refractive Surgery (ISRS), this session will provide an overview of the most relevant topics on corneal and lens-based refractive surgery, including patient evaluation, a step-by-step surgical explanation of LASIK and surface-ablation procedures and managing complications.
  • Glaucoma Surgical Lab for Ophthalmology Residents (LAB124B; Monday, Nov. 18, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in room 354; $100). In this lab session, Thomas W. Samuelson, MD, and others will offer hands-on instruction of glaucoma filtration surgery, including techniques for trabeculectomy, scleral flap dissection, fistula creation and iridectomy.
  • Laser Refractive Surgery for Ophthalmology Residents (LAB141B; Tuesday, Nov. 19, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in room 345; $140). Jointly sponsored by the Academy's Skills Transfer Advisory Committee and ISRS, this wet lab is designed for those interested in learning specific techniques in laser refractive surgery. George. O. Waring IV, MD, and other renowned surgeons will assist with questions and demonstrate mechanical microkeratomes, femtosecond lasers, excimer lasers and corneal inlays in the ultimate hands-on experience. Note: An extra hour was added to this resident session to include a section on cataracts.
  • Phacoemulsification and Advanced Techniques Lab for Ophthalmology Residents (LAB120C; Tuesday, Nov. 19 from 1 to 3 p.m. in room 356-357; $175). Led by Maria M. Aaron, MD, this course will cover the steps of phacoemulsification, including scleral and corneal incisions, capsulorrhexis, hydrodissection, nucleus removal, cortical removal and implantation of foldable IOLs. It will also tackle topical anesthesia, management of complications and more.

All of these sessions and labs are specifically designed for residents — as opposed to specialists already in practice. They are not covered by the Academy Plus course pass, but, Academy members in training save 50 percent on tickets for most labs and all Breakfasts With the Experts.

For more information about fees and requirements, check out the Academy’s online Program Search.

Making the Most of Your Meeting
While there’s a fairly widespread custom of sending residents to the Annual Meeting at least once during training, residents can still face some financial obstacles to attending. However, there are some ways — in addition to the above-mentioned discounts — around these roadblocks.

“Many programs will fund the full trip to the Annual Meeting or cap paid expenses,” said Janice C. Law, MD, assistant professor and associate program director for residency education in ophthalmology at the Vanderbilt Eye Institute. She noted that, on average, each major program in the nation funds a limited number of residents — often of senior status — to attend the event.

“My residency is also in the practice of sending residents to conferences if they are first author presenters with a stipend,” added Dr. Chelnis. Even if you aren’t able to procure institutional funds, he still recommends doing whatever it takes to make the trip: “I think it’s important to consider attending at least for a weekend on your own, as there are definite advantages to attending early in training.”

Academy membership includes free registration for the meeting, so a resident’s main expenses will come from transportation, housing, meals and session costs like the course pass or lab fees. Although Subspecialty Day meetings are not included in meeting registration, members in training save up to 50 percent on the regular price.

Regardless of your particular situation, it’s easy to make the most of your first Annual Meeting: sign up for Skills Transfer labs and different types of hands-on workshops; actively participate in the YO Program; network, network, network … and have fun. After all, while the Academy has something to offer for YOs of all stripes, it’s up to you to make the most out of your meeting.

For more information about other courses, symposia, and free offerings for YOs — such as Welcome to the Real World: Reality 101 for Residents and Fellows — be sure to visit the Academy’s YO Events Web page or search the online Program Search by special interest “Endorsed by Young Ophthalmologist Committee.”


Next month’s Annual Meeting focus: YOs in one to five years of practice.

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About the author: Mike Mott is a former assistant editor for EyeNet Magazine and contributing writer for YO Info.

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