Ophthalmology is our chosen profession. It is a noble profession that has been in existence since 800 B.C. and will be around for a longer time after we are gone. But as practicing ophthalmologists, we all need to exert effort to advance our profession.
For some, the contributions are academic. For others, the contribution is ingenuity to develop new procedures and devices to improve outcomes for our patients. For most, the main contribution is consistently providing a high standard of care for our patients.
A few years ago I watched the blockbuster James Cameron movie, “Avatar.” This was a fantastical movie in a beautiful, lush futuristic setting with gorgeous blue creatures. Despite the seductiveness of the land of Pandora, there were always hidden dangers lurking. I feel the same way about ophthalmology.
Ophthalmology is a rewarding profession. I consider it a blessing to be charged with protecting my patients' sight. But despite the rewards, ophthalmology faces danger in the near and longer term. There is the persistent slide in reimbursement, the encroachment of scope-of-practice by other professionals, escalating malpractice risk and other dangers lurking.
If we do nothing, we leave our fate in the hands of others. But, if we choose to be advocates, we put ophthalmologists in the driver’s seat. I got involved in advocacy soon after completing my residency. Often I listened to my friends groan about their disenchantment with practice. They complained that our state ophthalmology societies and the Academy were not doing enough to help Eye MDs. They swore the American Medical Association was in cahoots with insurance companies.
When I joined the executive council of my state ophthalmology society, I witnessed the hard work being done. I was there when Texas doctors won the tort reform battle. I watched the Academy’s up and down reimbursement struggles.
On the outside, the system seems to be failing dismally. As an advocate, you know the heavy lifting that is being done. But be forewarned, advocacy is rarely sexy. It is hard work. It requires patience. It rarely provides instant results. But it too can be rewarding.
Sidney K. Gicheru, MD, a comprehensive ophthalmologist, is president-elect of the Texas Ophthalmological Association.