It has been an honor to serve as the 2017 Academy president in the 121st year of our professional organization, the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Each year, our Academy achieves remarkable advancements for our profession due to dedicated physician volunteers on more than a hundred committees and the support of the excellent Academy staff. The membership is well represented by the Board of Trustees’ wisdom of experience and new insights from younger ophthalmologists.
Education continues to be the foundation of the Academy under the leadership of Senior Secretary for Clinical Education Louis B. Cantor, MD. Close to half of the Academy’s physician volunteers work on education committees. The Ophthalmic News and Education (ONE) Network continues to be the educational nexus for ophthalmologists around the world. The latest addition is the David E. I. Pyott Glaucoma Education Center, which is dedicated to advancing education of eye care providers globally for the most effective care of patients with this complex disease process. In the rapidly changing subspecialty of retina, a new Academy publication, Ophthalmology® Retina, brings more information to ophthalmologists managing retinal disorders.
The IRIS Registry (Intelligent Research in Sight) continues to grow in importance to the practice of ophthalmology by facilitating physician participation in the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), enabling our fellow Academy members to avoid tens of thousands of dollars in financial penalties. And now, through the foresight of H. Dunbar Hoskins Jr., MD, and his wife Ann, with the generous support of $500,000 from OMIC, the Academy launched the Hoskins Center IRIS Registry Research Fund. Research of large data sets from the IRIS Registry can allow us to identify the most effective and efficient care for patients more rapidly. This will be a truly transformative change in how research and subsequently patient care is practiced.
The Minority Ophthalmology Mentoring Program Student Engagement Day was held for the second time at the annual meeting. It was very successful in introducing these students to the possibility of becoming ophthalmologists. This is a long-term project that will be rewarding for patient care and for ophthalmology in the future.
Developing ophthalmology leaders is also important for the future of our profession. The Academy’s Leadership Development Program (LDP) celebrated 20 years of service as well as global expansion of the program. The impact of the LDP is manifested in many of our organization’s best leaders such as: 2018 Academy President Keith D. Carter, MD; 2017 Jackson Memorial Lecturer Daniel F. Martin, MD; Council Chair Mathew W. MacCumber, MD, PhD; Council Vice Chair Lynn K. Gordon, MD, PhD; 2017 Straatsma Award recipient Shahzad I. Mian, MD; and 2017 Artemis Award recipient Jeff H. Pettey, MD. After 20 years, there are too many outstanding graduates to list them all.
Advocacy on both the federal and state levels is critical for patient care and practice health. The Academy has expended significant effort, time and money to protect federal reimbursement for the clinical care ophthalmologists provide. Access to and reimbursement for compounded medications has been an issue for over a decade. In 2017, the Academy continued this seemingly never-ending work to ensure that we have access to these sight-saving medications for our patients. Another federal advocacy focus is to decrease the regulatory burdens that divert physician time away from patient care. At the state level, we remain active in working with legislatures to ensure the highest quality of care across the nation.
Effective advocacy requires financial investment and personal relationships. Academy members who know their state legislators and donate to their state PAC, as well as the Academy’s Surgical Scope Fund, help to impact the quality of care at the state level. At the national level, OPHTHPAC® donations allow the Academy to support members of Congress who are favorable to ophthalmic patient care. If all U.S.-based Academy members (rather than the currently fewer than 20 percent) split a $900-a-year contribution among the three funds, the results could be remarkable for our patients.
And that is our raison d’être — taking care of patients. The Academy’s 2017 Secretary for Communications Philip R. Rizzuto, MD, and his committee members share patient stories with our membership and the public to help make eye health a priority. These stories are inspiring because they remind us of why we wanted to be ophthalmologists and make us proud of our profession and our colleagues.
Just as eye health should be a priority for patients, to take good care of them, physicians also need to be healthy. Administrative burdens, electronic medical records implementation and many other changes are diverting physician attention away from patients, increasing stress while eroding physician happiness. The Academy has created a series of online wellness resources and events to help restore well-being for ophthalmologists. Remember the joy of matching in ophthalmology? Perhaps following in a mother’s or father’s footsteps? Keep the joy of the wonderful profession of ophthalmology. Take time to live a healthy life. Eat healthy food, get sufficient sleep and take time to exercise.
Ophthalmology is a great profession. Thank you for the privilege of serving as the 2017 president of the Academy.
Cynthia Ann Bradford, MD