• 4 Key Takeaways for Budding Young Leaders in Ophthalmology

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    Every year at the Mid-Year Forum, the Academy’s Young Ophthalmologist Committee and Secretariat for State Affairs jointly host the L.E.A.P. (Leadership, Engagement, Advocacy, Practice Management) Forward session to engage young members of the ophthalmology community. 

    This year, the L.E.A.P. Forward session was hosted virtually. Although COVID-19 may have shut down traditional in-person conferences and meetings, it has inspired creativity and broadened inclusivity via virtual meetings. I learned so much from active leaders in the Academy through this online, interactive, and engaging session. Here are my four key takeaways of the virtual meeting:

    1. Leadership

    Leadership goes beyond managerial skills. Being a good leader requires a genuine vested interest in bettering your institution and listening to your colleagues. Even as young ophthalmologists, we have the opportunity to engage and shape the future of ophthalmology. Here are some ways to develop your leadership early in your career:

    2. Engagement 

    Whether you are a resident-in-training, a brand-new attending or a new private practice owner, the Academy offers several ways for you to engage, meet current leaders and get involved. A few examples include your local and state ophthalmology societies, Mid-Year Forum and of course, the L.E.A.P. Forward session. 

    It can be daunting to put yourself out there, but introducing yourself, networking and meeting leaders in the field will always open doors for you. In today’s virtual environment, it can feel even more awkward to introduce yourself and seek mentorship in an online setting. I challenge you (and myself) to take that leap (pun intended) of faith and identify mentors via email, social media, podcasts or other virtual means! 

    3. Advocacy 

    For young ophthalmologists, advocacy may appear last on their list of priorities. However, COVID-19 has shown us how essential it is to have an early seat at the table with legislators. An April 2020 report by the Commonwealth Fund showed that ophthalmology had the highest decline in outpatient visits during the crisis than any other specialty. We have called on our legislators to take steps to help ophthalmology practices on a national scale. This includes suspending prior authorization and step-therapy requirements during the public health emergency. We need to spend more time with patients, not paperwork. 

    4. Practice Management

    Seeking a job and advocating for yourself as a young ophthalmologist can be quite formidable. Nevertheless, starting a successful ophthalmology practice is still doable. Reach out to other successful ophthalmology private practice owners for clear guidance. If you decide to join a practice, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself in the age of private equity. Talk to lawyers who specialize in contracts local to the area where you intend to practice. Include language that gives you salary benefits and/or flexible noncompete clauses in the event that your practice transitions to private equity. 

    My review: Though virtual, this year’s L.E.A.P. Forward session was interactive, engaging and empowering. It has emboldened me to get more involved (even if only virtually for now) and seek out the mentorship of local and national ophthalmology leaders. Next year, I look forward to participating in person.

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    About the author: Hong-Uyen Hua, MD, is chief resident in ophthalmology at the Los Angeles County USC Medical Center. She was sponsored as a 2020 Advocacy Ambassador Program participant by the California Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons.