As senior ophthalmologists, most of us have been advocates since medical school and residency. It’s in our DNA. We have always tried to help our patients; every letter or phone call to an insurance company for a patient is advocacy. Every patient we cared for without getting paid was advocacy. We all sent letters or made calls to our legislators and that is advocacy.
Now as SOs, we are established experts in our profession and, just as our practices are slowing down, we have the time to play a leadership role in giving back to our profession. We have the stories lawmakers need to hear. There are so many opportunities for you to help.
Advocate with Legislators
On the national level, you can participate in the congressional advocacy program, where ophthalmologists serve as key contacts for members of Congress. These advocates develop relationships so that when important issues come up before the U.S. Congress, the Academy can quickly get its message to lawmakers through direct, personal communication.
Mid-Year Forum’s Congressional Advocacy Day, held every April in Washington, DC, is another exciting way to get involved. Meet with your lawmakers on Capitol Hill and represent the issues that are important to ophthalmology. This event draws a lot of residents and fellows through the Academy’s Advocacy Ambassador Program. These members in training and future leaders need mentors, which is a perfect fit for SOs. If you haven’t attended in the past, it’s a tremendous and rewarding experience.
Every state ophthalmology society needs volunteers to help in advocacy. Learn how government works by visiting your state capital and talking with your local lawmakers. All of your states employ lobbyists who could accompany you on your visits and teach you how to be an effective spokesperson for ophthalmology and for your patients.
Advocate Through Service
Several states have retired physician special licenses where you don’t need malpractice insurance and you can work in special clinics as a volunteer. You don’t do surgery but it’s still very rewarding in helping low-income patients. If you don’t live in a state with this type of license, you could work to get a law passed.
Another opportunity is volunteering to mentor residents and medical schools with ophthalmology programs. There is so much they need to learn about the practice and business of medicine. They also need SOs who can instruct them on the importance of advocacy.
Lastly, consider volunteering on international ophthalmology missions. Many organizations would love to have SOs lend their experience on helping people regain their sight. There are so many presbyopic patients that are so thankful to receive a pair of reading glasses.
Just because you are slowing down or even retired doesn’t stop you from being a physician or relieve you of the responsibility as an advocate. Join me in continuing to advocate for our wonderful profession and patients.
For more stories from Scope, download the winter 2017 issue (PDF 720K)