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  • What’s in a Name?

    “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” Juliet Capulet declared in William Shakespeare’s play “Romeo and Juliet.” It’s the same for Academy lifetime members.

    And so, the Academy’s Senior Ophthalmologist Committee has been renamed as the Lifetime Engaged Ophthalmologist Committee.

    I joined the Senior Ophthalmologist (SO) Committee in 2015, and the first meeting that I attended was held at the Academy headquarters on Beach Street in San Francisco. I entered the conference room with mixed feelings of excitement and intimidation, as many past and then current committee members were also Academy past presidents. As new and returning members were informally greeting one another in advance of the agenda, the outgoing committee chair peered directly at me and said, “Sam, your first job is to change the name of this committee!”

    That was nine years ago, and now considerable thought and time have been expended to arrive at our new name, the Lifetime Engaged Ophthalmologist Committee, representing lifetime engaged members.

    The term “senior ophthalmologist” has been permanently retired. Until now, the SO designation was applied automatically to all Academy members and fellows who had reached 60 years of age. When garnering badge ribbons during registration at the Academy’s annual meeting, many members, new to the demographic designation, were caught by the surprise of “sticker shock” when they got the SO ribbon. Perhaps not surprisingly, a number of those ribbons could be noted on the floor adjacent nearby trash bins as some colleagues were unprepared to be referred to and accept the position as “senior” at 60 years old.

    To many, that designation carried a negative connotation, and this was likely the main reason that I was charged, perhaps tongue in cheek, with the task of renaming the committee. For some, the term “senior” generally connotes the burdens of advancing age and the potential for loss of one’s sense of value and professional importance. Although that concept is an unfortunate interpretation of the aging process, the fact is that few, if any of us, enjoy the prospects of aging as our society tends to place inordinate value on youth, rather than celebrate the wisdom and respect that can be gained over time.

    It is also quite true that at age 60, many of us are and have the sense of being in our prime, as we have heard on more than one occasion, that “60 is the new 40.” In addition, owing to demographic changes of the Academy’s membership over time (see Figure 1), in 2023 SOs accounted for 43% of the total Academy membership, up from 35% just nine years earlier.

    Committee Membership
    Chart of age demographic of Academy membership in 2022 indicates that 43% were above age 60 and designated as “senior.”

    This indicates that as a profession, we are aging. But more significantly, 90% of the membership between age 60 and 64 remain active (see Figure 2), suggesting that as a profession we continue to work despite aging. To the committee, the data suggested that age of inclusion in the new Lifetime Engaged Ophthalmologist designation should rise from 60 to 65 years old in order for the committee to better address and appropriately serve the needs of the demographic.

    Academy membership by age
    Bar graph demonstrates the proportion of active versus retired members. Note that in excess of 90% are still active in the 60-64 age group.

    In keeping with the desires and needs of its members, the Academy has eliminated the SO designation and established the new Lifetime Engaged Ophthalmologist designation for all members above 65 years of age. With the new designation, we will constitute just under 35% of the membership (see Figure 3), and in keeping with the 2013 analysis. Those previously categorized as a SO and not yet reached the age of 65 will automatically stay in our demographic, but no new members will be added to the category until they reach age 65.

    Membership by career stage
    Chart indicates that changing the age demographic from 60 to 65 for designation as a Lifetime Engaged Ophthalmologist will reduce the proportion of members from 43% to 35%.

    By raising the age of eligibility, the committee has the strong sense that those members and fellows among us who remain active will truly wish to participate in the Academy, contributing as Lifetime Engaged Ophthalmologists.

    More importantly, we anticipate that we will continue to be active, give presentations, sit on committees, mentor young ophthalmologists, and in many ways make important contributions to the Academy community.

    Alfredo Sadun, MD, PhD: A New Perspective

    You may have noticed the new name for this publication. Moving forward, “Scope” will be renamed “Perspective.”

    “Perspective” captures the sense and purpose of the journal for Lifetime Engaged Ophthalmologist members. Perspective will continue to address issues of relevance to us. Most of the articles will be useful as well as interesting to all ophthalmologists. But the perspective will largely be from the point of view of ophthalmologists whose careers and experiences will enrich the discussions.

    Perspective will continue to include editorials, historical reviews, and vignettes, past and present, that inform as well as entertain.

    We think you will enjoy our Perspective.