How did that happen? In the few years since my residency, just about all of my expectations about practice have been annihilated? Isn't anyone speaking out for common sense?
These were the questions that spawned my inner advocate. Voices of change will always have an advantage over voices of tradition, because the latter see no need to tout what is already established and comfortable. By the time the revolutionaries have persuaded enough followers to carry their position by force of numbers, it is too late to stop them. The sheer velocity of new causes and legal motions militates against serious discussion. It is this that leads to the realization – we have become our own worst enemies.
What we are experiencing is the subversion of our noble work as healers in favor of political ideology. Unless we choose to play the part of sheep going to slaughter, it is time for us to collectively let out a roar: to become the loudest voice in the room; to become zealots; to advocate the good, the safe, the ethical, the reasonable and economically sane model of medical practice.
For me, advocacy started with identifying the protection of patients and our profession as the primary challenge. My natural fighter was becoming frustrated with recent events. I'm from Kentucky – enough said. I convinced myself that I could truly effect change in the face of adversity.
Fortunately, I was given a push that put my advocacy in motion. In 2011, a mentor suggested that I apply for the Academy’s Leadership Development Program. I resisted at first, based on the time consumed by solo practice, but then I saw the opportunity it presented to release my inner advocate. I built a political Listserv for like-minded ophthalmologists. These ophthalmologists fueled my advocacy. We were a real team. We involved patients in the political process in a paradigm-shifting way.
In 2012, the Surgical Scope Fund invited me to be a component of the engine that drives the Academy's state advocacy. I quickly wanted to take advocacy to new extremes. Now, the first annual Sporting Clays fundraiser to benefit the Surgical Scope Fund is in the history books. Who would have thought? Advocacy can truly be fun! “You probably finished school at the top of your class, so you are a natural fighter. I encourage you to find your own push into advocacy to make your mark. Give your time and give your resources. Give to the Surgical Scope Fund, to OPHTHPAC, and give to your state political action committee. Start your own fundraiser. Discover joy in advocacy as I have. You'll never look back, and you’ll know that at least you didn’t get too comfortable.
William “Chip” Richardson, MD, is a general ophthalmologist at Georgetown Eye Care and chief of surgery at the Georgetown Community Hospital.