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Young Ophthalmologists
Tchoupitoulas to Terpsichore: 2013 YO Program + Lagniappe
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After escaping residency in 2011, I entered a time warp and suddenly found myself at the 2013 Academy meeting on a Sunday morning, armed with just a chicory coffee and fresh corporate-swag pen. Despite The Big Easy’s enticing Saturday night entertainment, the young ophthalmologists’ program, “It’s YO World - Jumpstart YOur Career,” proved the place to be.

YO Program moderator Bill Lloyd, MD
Moderator Bill Lloyd, MD, during the 2013 YO Program in New Orleans.

The program’s pertinent takeaways are too numerous to list. Nonetheless, I shall attempt to recite some of the highlights with play-by-play interjections.

Pain in the Neck: Ergonomics in Ophthalmology
About 50 percent of ophthalmologists report suffering from musculoskeletal pain, which may interfere with work and be the result of cumulative injury from occupation-related repetitive activities, excessive mechanical forces or awkward postures. During his presentation, Meher Yepremyan, MD, MS, shows pictures of himself leaning so far to the side on his office stool that he almost falls off during indirect ophthalmoscopy. I’ve done that myself. Session take-away: You are not indestructible. Work-related disability is common amongst ophthalmologists. Take the time to plan your workspace and adjust both your patient and your environment to achieve neutral alignment of the hips, back, neck and wrists.

At Your Fingertips: Academy Resources
The YO Committee and its subcommittees support young ophthalmologists’ educational needs, participate in the development of Academy resources and support YOs’ membership and involvement in Academy activities. These aren't your prom-planning committees; the YO Committee gets it done, and Academy leadership genuinely considers their input. In fact, as YO Committee chair Rob Melendez, MD, MBA, described, a number of your favorite Academy resources resulted from YO Committee recommendations. One of these, EyeWiki, offers reliable, free and professionally vetted information to anyone on the Web. It’s easy to get involved. YOU can contribute at

Also stemming from YO input, the recently-revamped Ophthalmic News and Education (ONE®) Network, of which Dr. Melendez is editor-in-chief, offers self-assessments, full text access to nine major journals and much more. The Advocacy Ambassador Program supports residents and fellows at the Mid-Year Forum and Congressional Advocacy Day. Finally, the Academy Online Community provides a forum for professional discussion and networking. The experience is Facebook-like, although it is much more exclusive and free from the risk of, say, being stalked by your ex, unless you dated someone in your program. But let’s save that discussion for a different article. If you request to be my friend, I promise to accept.

Dollars and Sense: Financial Planning
Now that your paycheck finally contains a few extra zeros, don’t spend it all on silly things. I suppose I didn’t really need those 22” chrome rims. You still have a responsibility to invest in your financial future. Presenter Derek Preece of BSM Consulting advised YOs to seek the advice of a professional concerning disability insurance, retirement savings, managing student-loan debt and charitable giving.

Becoming a Leader Starts Now
“Strong leadership is critical to the success of our profession,” Academy President Paul Sternberg Jr., MD, told us in his address. You don’t have to wait. The time to become a leader is now. There are opportunities at your hospital, residency, state ophthalmology society, the Academy and other organizations. Dr. Sternberg explained his recipe for effective leadership. I cannot say it more clearly than he already has; I highly recommend reviewing his succinct slides, included in the YO Program guide.

Audience questions were submitted via Twitter, an Academy first, ensuring that questions originated from genuine YOs.

Coding Pearls, Sue Vicchrilli COT OCS, Academy Coding Executive
The gods of coding want you to succeed, but it will not be easy and may induce flashbacks of your college differential equations course. However, the payoffs for developing healthy coding practices are large. The American Academy of Ophthalmic Executives is a tremendous resource — and YOs enjoy free membership through the first year of practice.

The program moved quickly, with a packed docket, but Jeff Pettey, MD, regulated the time with an accuracy to be envied by the DOD’s atomic clock.

When the Vit Hits the Fan: Surviving Your Surgical and Medical Errors
In politics, the cover-up is often more damaging than the scandal. Similarly, as Thomas Oetting, MD, MS, described, bad things in medicine are made much worse when poorly handled. His key points: Only attempt what you know you can do well. Prepare. Ask for help when you need it. Be direct and honest with your patients; call them often and follow closely. They will respect you for it.

The decisions you make now will greatly influence the trajectory of your career. Choose carefully. For more information on the YO Program, including presenters and presentation slides, view the program guide.

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About the author: Chris O’Brien, MD, MBA, MPH, practices both pediatric and comprehensive ophthalmology in California’s Orange and Los Angeles counties. Dr. O’Brien will become a member of the Academy’s YO Committee effective Jan 1. Contact him at Chris O'Brien, MD, MBA, MPH
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