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Stake Your Claim on the Future at This Year's Mid-Year Forum!
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Are you interested in how ophthalmologists can harness “big data” for their own practices? Are you concerned with the liability and data-security risks that electronic health records (EHRs) pose? Do you have an opinion on how to best address physician-payment issues and the increasing costs of health care?

Like the practice of all medicine, ophthalmology is both a clinical and political endeavor. That’s why the Academy hosts its annual Mid-Year Forum in Washington, D.C., held April 9 to 12 of this year. For young ophthalmologists, the meeting provides a chance to learn about and weigh in on issues that could affect the rest of their careers in medicine.

This year’s forum at the Renaissance Downtown Hotel encompasses hearings on pressing issues, Academy committee and secretariat meetings, the Council meeting and Congressional Advocacy Day.

What’s in It for YOs?
Several session topics strongly affect residents and practicing ophthalmologists at all levels. The forum will cover everything from the changing reimbursement landscape and integration of health care systems to the practice of medicine in the era of the EHR. “These issues are germane to all of ophthalmology,” said young ophthalmologist Justin Yamanuha, MD, “particularly with the new health care laws and insurance reform as well as the roll out of ICD-10.” Dr. Yamanuha attended the 2013 forum as an advocacy ambassador sponsored by the Wisconsin Academy of Ophthalmology.

He said it will become increasingly important for YOs to educate themselves in these areas so they can better serve as future leaders of the Academy and their own state ophthalmology societies. By attending the forum, “residents can return to their home programs and generate even more momentum by sharing talking points with all of their colleagues,” Dr. Yamanuha said.

One session in particular looks at YOs’ role in shaping medicine’s future. The Friday session “Think Global: Dispatches from the Wide World of Ophthalmology” will cover the Academy’s role in improving patient care beyond U.S. borders and how YOs can meet this international challenge. YO International Subcommittee Chair Brad H. Feldman, MD, will lead the discussion along with past-Academy President Richard L. Abbott, MD, who presently serves as the Academy’s secretary for global alliances.

View all Mid-Year Forum sessions and events.

Become an Advocate at Congressional Advocacy Day
YOs can address challenges in the more-immediate future by participating in Congressional Advocacy Day, April 9 to 10. This free event is designed to offer both YOs and seasoned ophthalmologists a chance to meet with federal legislators and staff. During the day, small groups of ophthalmologists learn how to build relationships with elected officials, strengthen ophthalmology’s presence on Capitol Hill and create support for key legislative issues.

Tennessee ophthalmologists meet with Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn.
YO Yuna Rapoport, MD (middle), and Louise Mawn, MD (left), meet with Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn.

Once participants have registered to attend, the Academy schedules meetings on April 9 for delegations from each state to review the Academy’s positions on various issues. The following day, participants visit Congressional offices in small groups, providing a chance for first-time advocates to learn from their more experienced colleagues.

“This exchange is the Academy’s one moment during a busy legislative session to remind the nation’s lawmakers that we, as physicians, are united in membership and purpose,” Dr. Yamanuha said.

If the thought of meeting a luminary like Hillary Clinton seems too daunting, Dr. Yamanuha suggests that YOs focus on the experience as a collaborative effort among peers. “YOs can enhance this opportunity by familiarizing themselves beforehand with their state lawmakers’ stances on various health care issues,” he said. “This can be extremely helpful in tailoring your own lobbying pitches as well as adding to the larger group discussion.” Come prepared to share!

What’s the Best Way to Join the Fun?
The Academy recognizes that residents and fellows can face more obstacles to participating, but partners with various societies to address that challenge. Members-in-training get free forum registration. Register online through March 17.

Through the Academy’s Advocacy Ambassador Program, residency programs and state, subspecialty and specialized interest societies sponsor residents and fellows to attend. Participating programs and societies cover travel expenses and allow ambassadors to attend the forum without a vacation penalty in their work schedule.

Last year, the program helped a record 160 members-in-training attend the Mid-Year Forum. Ambassadors get a special briefing, are assigned a mentor and provided with other help and resources during and after the meeting.

Download details about the Advocacy Ambassador Program and contact your program director or state ophthalmology society for more information.

Whether you prefer the Mid-Year Forum’s lively discussion offered or the lobbying efforts of Congressional Advocacy Day, this four-day affair is the ideal environment to build lasting relationships with other YOs and strengthen the future voice of ophthalmology.

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

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