In 1986, Jean E. Ramsey, MD, MPH, entered medical school as a student and a mother of three young boys. In a class of 150, she graduated third, juggling her responsibilities in the clinic and the classroom all while handling all of the duties of a parent.
Through it all, she had one career aspiration in mind: to become a caring, compassionate and competent physician.
Dr. Ramsey accepts the 2016 EnergEYES Award at AAO 2016. From left to right: Purnima Patel, MD, YO Committee chair; Grace Sun, MD, YO International Subcommittee chair; Dr. Ramsey; Janice Law, MD, YO Committee member; and Tamara Fountain, MD, secretary for member services).
Fast forward to today and she’s now vice-chair for Education, program director, associate professor of ophthalmology and associate dean for Alumni Affairs at Boston University School of Medicine.
But Dr. Ramsey is perhaps best known for her tireless advocacy and dedication to pediatric eye care. For all these reasons, the Academy presented her with the 2016 EnergEYES Award during the AAO 2016 YO Program in Chicago.
Created in 2009, the award honors an individual who demonstrates exemplary leadership skills and energizes others to improve eye health. For almost two decades, Dr. Ramsey has done just that — motivated her colleagues — and it’s most evident in her advocacy for improving children’s eye care.
In her colleagues’ estimation, she’s a pioneer. If a legislative battle has been fought to champion pediatric ophthalmology, chances are Dr. Ramsey has played a significant role:
- At the state level, she worked with the Massachusetts Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons to develop a mandatory pediatric vision bill that allows all children in the state to receive proper vision screening and follow-up eye examinations. When the bill passed in 2004, it was the first of its kind in the country — and a model other states have followed.
- At the subspecialty level, she has been instrumental in organizing symposia and workshops at meetings throughout the country to provide thousands of pediatric ophthalmologists with the tools to be successful advocates.
- At the national level, she worked on Capitol Hill to provide legislative briefings on children’s eye care bills and engaged with national and federal organizations such as Head Start and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Currently, she is co-chair of the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health, an organization funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau. Through these efforts, she’s brought awareness to pediatric medicine and developed universal systems of care for the early detection of disease and the prevention of permanent vision loss.
“Advocacy has been such an important part of my professional life,” Dr. Ramsey said. “I see it as another important tool to help my patients and a way to make a positive impact on those families that are beyond my immediate clinical practice — and that’s very rewarding.”
Her impact is also strongly felt throughout the young ophthalmologist community. “Dr. Ramsey has truly energized and motivated young ophthalmologists to get involved in advocating for their patients and their profession,” said YO Committee Chair Purnima S. Patel, MD. “She’s a standard bearer for a high-energy, contagious spirit.”
During her tenure as Academy council chair, Dr. Ramsey ensured YOs were included on the podium during council meetings. As a member of the Academy’s committee for resident education, a panelist at the Academy’s Mid-Year Forum session L.E.A.P. Forward (Leadership, Engagement, Advocacy, Practice Management) and a long-time supporter of the Academy’s Advocacy Ambassador Program, Dr. Ramsey has mentored members-in-training on and off Capitol Hill. Leading by example, she continues to teach young ophthalmologists about the importance of engagement to ensure that all children and all patients are given the opportunity to develop the best vision possible.
And her message to young ophthalmologists is simple: If you want to do best by your patients, stay in touch with the legislative and regulatory issues that impact their health and health care. “To build the necessary bridges with politicians, you need to join your state ophthalmology society,” Dr. Ramsey said.
By becoming a resource for legislators and someone they go to for advice, she added, you’re building strong relationships that are beneficial to you, your patients and your profession. “So when a legislative issue arises, set up time to go to your statehouse and talk with your legislator about your concerns — they are open to speaking with their constituents,” she said. “By the second or third visit, you’ll be like an old friend.”
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About the author: Mike Mott is a former assistant editor for EyeNet Magazine and contributing writer for YO Info.