• Charting a Course in Difficult Times

    During Sunday’s Opening Session (OS03V), Academy President-elect Tamara R. Fountain, MD, shared her assessment of 2020.

    Where we’ve been; where we’re headed. In her assessment of 2020, Academy President-elect Tamara R. Fountain, MD, referred to her father’s experience as a military and commercial pilot. When disaster strikes during flight, she said, “flying the airplane has to be the singular most important task—everything else is secondary. Only when level flying is stabilized should the pilot work down the checklist and troubleshoot any other issues.”

    Similarly, in times of emergency, what should ophthalmology’s singular focus be? “Well, that’s an easy one: Take care of the patient,” Dr. Fountain said. However, as she noted, in the early days of the pandemic, clinicians had to scramble to protect their patients’ sight. And once they did—once they reworked clinic flow, incorporated telehealth, and addressed other immediate emergencies—the profession could turn its attention to the broader checklist, which included resident education, the American Board of Ophthalmology’s oral exams, and the annual meeting.

    The profession rallied and “checked a lot of boxes,” Dr. Fountain said, but “there’s still a lot of work to do.” Looking ahead to 2021, she highlighted two primary challenges: Addressing racial disparities in health care and preserving patients’ access to the best quality health care. With regard to the first, she said, “This is our lane. As a profession, we have a special moment in time to narrow this gap and make a difference for our patients.” And with regard to the latter, the profession will be “fighting fiscal headwinds as the bill for this pandemic comes due.”

    In her conclusion, Dr. Fountain said, “We’ve learned a few things about ourselves the last few months: We’ve learned that we may be separated, but we don’t have to be divided. We may not be able to congregate, but we can still collaborate. We may be apart, but we’re not alone. Let’s use these times, this opportunity, to improve ophthalmology.” —Jean Shaw

    (Sunday’s Opening Session also included a conversation about physician well-being between Academy CEO David W. Parke II, MD, and Saul Levin, MD, MPH, the CEO and medical director of the American Psychiatric Association.)

    Watch the event in full. If you are registered for AAO 2020 Virtual, you have access to the archived presentations on the virtual meeting platform until Feb. 15, 2021. Log in to the virtual meeting platform: Next, from the Lobby screen, select “Sessions” from the top navigation; click “Agenda” from the drop-down menu; select “Sunday”; and scroll down to “OS03V: Opening Session”

    Financial disclosures. Dr. Fountain: None.

    Read more news from AAO 2020 Virtual.