I attended the Academy’s Mid-Year Forum 2023 in Washington, D.C., something that I have done many times.
For years, serving as an Academy councilor representing Ohio and later as a trustee on the Academy’s Board, I have enjoyed this amazing experience that has allowed me to serve the nation’s ophthalmologists and the Academy. This is a meeting that brings close to 500 volunteer ophthalmologists to advocate for our patients and for our profession. If you have never attended this event held every April, then plan to attend next year. It may also be your chance to experience walking beneath the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin - https://youtu.be/yOtz-EIRYWA
This year, I was very fortunate to be invited to participate in an amazing program first implemented in 2015 called L.E.A.P. (Leadership, Engagement, Advocacy, and Practice Management) Forward. It’s a joint effort sponsored by the Academy’s Young Ophthalmologist (YO) Committee and the Secretariat for State Affairs.
The L.E.A.P. Forward Program is presented annually to Advocacy Ambassadors. They are residents or fellowship trainees sponsored to attend the Mid-Year Forum by state, subspecialty/specialized interest societies and training programs. It is designed to teach YOs about the importance of Leadership, Engagement, Advocacy and Practice Management (L.E.A.P.), so we are laying the groundwork for the future. Academy YO Committee Chair Andrea Tooley, MD, and committee member, Meron Haile, MD, expertly led the program.
John Stechschulte, MD and mentee, Mahsaw Mansoor, MD
A highlight of the meeting for me was being offered the opportunity to mentor one of the residents in the Ambassador mentor program: Mahsaw Mansoor, MD, a second-year ophthalmology resident at the University of Iowa, who was one of 20 ambassadors paired with a mentor. At first, I wondered how I could advise an Iowa ophthalmology resident. After all, she has already benefited from daily teaching and mentoring by wonderful leaders in Iowa, like Keith Carter, MD, and Tom Oetting, MD. How much could I have to offer a smart, young, energetic, involved and evolving future leader like Dr. Mansoor?
Mentoring has become a high priority for the Senior Ophthalmologist Committee, which I serve. Although we all have some opportunities to influence the next generation of doctors, having a specific mentee is a more personal responsibility that I take seriously. To start with, Dr. Mansoor and I began talking by phone prior to arriving in D.C. I learned that she grew up in Cleveland, so I told her she would be welcome to join our Ohio delegation during the forum’s Congressional Advocacy Day. But the Iowa physicians and Academy staff advised against that last-minute change. When we did meet in D.C., she was still was dragging her luggage into the meeting. I was able to introduce her to key Academy staff members, Gail Schmidt, Rayland Asuncion, Neeshah Azam and Rebecca Hyder.
Showing her poise, Dr. Mansoor introduced herself to the Academy President Dan Briceland, MD and had already established friendships with several YO leaders. She is already involved in the American Medical Association, as is her spouse who also has advocacy goals. Her spouse is also a physician with advocacy goals. Dr. Mansoor will soon share the PowerPoint presentation about the forum with me. She and her fellow resident Joanna Silverman, MD, will present it to the Iowa ophthalmology residents when they return. Although I was nominally her mentor, I know that I will continue to learn from Dr. Mansoor. Although my assignment as her mentor is for one year, I know Dr. Mansoor and I have begun a lifelong friendship.
Share this link with the YOs whom you work with: https://www.aao.org/mid-year-forum/advocacy-ambassador-program. Your physicians and their patients will be grateful to you for improving patient care and strengthening our profession.