• Letters

    Thoughts From Your Colleagues

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    Toxic Colleagues: A Step Further

    I write in response to Dr. Williams’ editorial on toxic colleagues (Opinion, November). I would call the situations she describes “old school,” or tribal behavior. Openness to new ideas and others’ points of view is crucial to advancing our communal knowledge and understanding. This instinctive human reaction to the other should improve as we continue to become more diverse in our field in terms of gender and ethnicity. The old boys’ club mentality that underlies toxic behavior should become a thing of the past, although vestiges will remain.

    Openness has always been an avenue to better collective understanding and intellectual growth. We ophthalmologists now have many media and networks to build our profes­sional knowledge. In the context of broader society, we can look forward to more innovations that will help us share and verify information without much cost or hindrance.

    The current movements in general culture toward greater transparency and sharing of insights have created heightened divisions between those who have different views and values. The respect that we have for each other in person is hard to replicate online, where anonymity easily breeds contempt. The social mores that underlie our discourse cannot hold when tested by faceless and divisive media.

    The question remains: How do we hold our institutions and professionals accountable for their behavior? Education is the first step. We need to teach problem-solving skills that involve both colleagues and patients in a respectful manner. Our culture is preoccupied with adversarial conflict and asymmetric profit-taking. This creates an environment in which suggestions are left unsaid by those who wish to avoid creating tension. A more open, quality-oriented environment would value the best outcomes for each patient and provider without innate conflict and competition. Given our human nature, that may be a difficult goal to achieve!

    Christopher F. Wood, MD
    Arlington Heights, Ill.

    CORRECTION: In the January News in Review article “Using the Visual System to Treat Multiple Sclerosis,” EyeNet incorrectly identified clemastine fumarate as Claritin. EyeNet regrets the error.