• Senior Ophthalmologists in the Time of COVID-19

    It’s hard to fathom that the lives of nearly 8 billion people on the planet could be simultaneously threatened — and their daily routines and economies so drastically impacted in such a short time — as we witness during the current COVID-19 pandemic. We in ophthalmology are but a tiny microcosm of what is transpiring across the globe. The Academy is carefully assessing the fallout to our patients and to our profession, and developing resources to assist its members. But what has become clear is that age is a significant risk factor for the disease and may also have specific negative personal and economic effects on senior ophthalmologists (SOs). 

    Samuel Masket, MD
    Chair, SO Committee

    In April, the Academy conducted a member pulse survey of U.S. practicing ophthalmologists in private practices to gauge the response of private practices to the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey results show that practices anticipate being nearly or fully closed for three to five months and that a majority of practices will be smaller by the end of the year. The findings indicate that in the absence of substantive federal economic relief and support, a small percentage of ophthalmologists will consider stopping practice.

    This information means that a considerable number of ophthalmologists, especially those older than 60, may soon have a change in career. Will more of us retire or semi-retire in 2020? Will more doctors leave smaller practices to join larger practices or academic institutions? Will some doctors seek medical but non-ophthalmological careers such as in administration? Will senior doctors who have sold their practices to private equity companies regret the decision to sell? Is it possible that some of us will take on totally new careers outside of medicine?

    In the April 10 issue of the Houston Chronicle, ophthalmologist Belu Allam, MD, FACS, 66, said, “I would like to stay with the group but I’m at risk for catching the coronavirus and this may go on for several months.” She and several members of Houston Eye Associates will retire soon.

    The Academy may address other practice changes in future pulse surveys on COVID-19. Members of the SO Committee encourage you to guide the Academy and your colleagues by sharing your practice experiences and any resources that you have found helpful. Please send material to the SO Committee at so@aao.org and we may feature your story in Scope.