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  • Beyond the Stereotypes: Millennials in Medicine

    While Generation Xers already share in senior ophthalmologists’ practices, the next wave is ready to join. Millennials outnumber baby boomers and are leaving training to join or buy our practice or set up shop near us. They will be our new colleagues as well as our doctors in the future.

    We think seniors should be interested in bridging this generational gap. Accordingly, senior ophthalmologist (SO) and young ophthalmologist (YO) groups will be working together to create a question and answer based column through both Academy newsletters, Scope and YO Info.

    Millennials differ from seniors in several ways. The medical-student cohort is half female. Each gender comprises a mix of African American, Asian, Hispanic, Indian and white students -- very different from the “old days.”

    The stereotypes regarding millennials include that they:

    1. Don’t expect to be at the same organization all their work lives;
    2. Want a business to have a purpose beyond profit;
    3. Expect management to develop their leadership skills and provide effective training programs;
    4. Want strong leaders and are more likely to request guidance and coaching;
    5. Are more likely to seek work/life balance;
    6. Are more comfortable with shift work or part-time work.

    Stereotypes provide a shortcut to make broad generalizations about a given group and by no means can be applied to each individual. Regardless, there are differences between senior ophthalmologists and millennials.

    Of the Academy’s United States-based practicing ophthalmologist members, 32 percent have self-identified as solo practitioners and 49 percent are in a group practice. Of the United States members-in-training from the 2015 resident class, 88 percent indicated plans to complete a fellowship. The trick will be to match these two groups together -- not an easy job for certain geographic locations.

    What does this mean for senior physicians? Once you have found a match, you will need to position yourself to achieve the best financial outcome of your practice addition or sale. Many millennials may expect strong leadership from the established doctors in the practice and may seek more guidance and feedback than we ever wanted or received. In addition, they will need coaching on practice-management techniques, as we all did after training.

    If you are in a group, you may notice different attitudes when millennials join. They may be looking for more time off for life events like the birth of children. They will almost certainly be more tech savvy and more comfortable with electronic medical records and social media. They may never have encountered a paper chart. You will find that each party will have to make adjustments.

    These principles also apply to younger seniors who plan retirement well into the future. Millennials’ desire to have more work/life balance and job sharing could work to the advantage of senior ophthalmologists who want to slow down and work less but not retire. (We will consider this option in more detail at the Senior Ophthalmologist Committee’s symposium during AAO 2017 in New Orleans).

    In conclusion, millennials potentially differ in many ways from us seniors. While the totally stereotypical millennial does not exist, we can expect some of the characteristics ascribed to this group to apply. It’s up to you to make millennials fit into your plans and smooth their transition from training. If you would like to be involved in bridge building between the YOs and SOs, submit your questions to and let the conversation begin. We will also solicit questions from YOs through their newsletter, YO Info.

    For more stories from Scope, download the winter 2017 issue (PDF 720K)