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  • From YO to SO: Mid-Year Forum Through the Years

    Twenty-seven. That’s the number of Mid-Year Forums I have attended.

    When I attended my first one in 1996, the whole concept of a mid-year leadership summit was still new. H. Dunbar Hoskins, MD, new in his role as Academy executive vice president, envisioned a gathering of rank-and-file member physicians along with Academy leaders to discuss and address pressing issues of the day.

    It started out in Chicago, a geographic center and convenient transportation hub. It moved to Washington, D.C., in 1998 when it became clear that ophthalmology’s most pressing issues lent themselves to strategic advocacy at the federal government level.

    I got an invite to my first Mid-Year Forum in the ’90s because I was a member of the Academy’s nascent Young Ophthalmologist (YO) committee—evidently, Academy leaders wanted to hear what we trainees had to say!

    Getting an all-expense paid weekend away during fellowship training was an almost intoxicating honor at this stage in my young career. All seven of the YO committee members were seated together at a reserved table for the Thursday night banquet at the Mayflower Hotel, Mid-Year Forum’s home in Washington, D.C., in those early years. I will always remember the giddiness I felt when the Dunbar (like Cher or Madonna he only needed his first name), said my name aloud as he introduced the members of this new committee to the gathered ophthalmic dignitaries in the ballroom.

    Dr. Fountain with her daughter Natalie
    Dr. Fountain, pictured with her daughter, Natalie in 2003

    I have worn different hats in my attendance over the years—YO Committee, Ethics Committee, Ophthalmic Mutual Insurance Co. board member, Health Policy Committee, Secretary of Member services, ASOPRS president and in 2022, Academy president. I’ve brought both my children when they were studying government in the fifth grade. I’ve lobbied on Capitol Hill, learning the hard way that rubber-soled shoes handedly trump fashion when logging 10,000 steps through the halls of Congress.

    I remember the days when there were chartered buses that took us to and from the Hill (we now get prepaid Metro cards and a map), when security tightened after 9/11 and when the Capitol dome underwent major renovations that ruined our group photos for a couple of years.

    Dr. Fountain with her son Nicholas
    Dr. Fountain, pictured with her son, Nicholas in 2004

    Every three to four years, our April dates would coincide with peak cherry blossoms season. These were the years that invited each of us to linger a bit longer or take the long walk back to the hotel, thus carving out time to cherish this yearly rite of spring and passage. There is no better time to be in our nation’s capital than when the cherry blossoms are in full display. And it never gets old.

    This trip in 2023 was a bit different than my first trip. For one (and obviously), I’m no longer on the YO committee. In fact, I was recently recruited to the Senior Ophthalmologist (SO) Committee in my first year of eligibility. How’s that for a career arc? And no, even though Academy leaders may care what we SOs have to say, it’s no longer all-expense paid. (Then again, I’m also no longer drawing a fellow’s salary.)

    This year during the banquet my name was called again — this time as a past president. It was still the honor that it was 27 years ago but the feeling of figurative intoxication I felt then is now instilled the old-fashioned, literal way: with a good lemon-drop Martini.