Fresh out of fellowship training, I bought into a well-established cataract and refractive practice in my hometown. I was ready to hit the ground running, eager to perform as many sight-saving operations as possible.
At the same time, I had big dreams of conducting Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clinical trials, speaking on the podium at national conferences and consulting for ophthalmic companies on the latest drug developments and technologies.
The problem was — no one had any idea who I was.
Building a strong brand and reputation as a young ophthalmologist is essential for establishing yourself as a credible and trusted professional, not only for practice growth, but also for personal career development. Here are five strategies to consider in order to enhance your brand and reputation.
Define Your Brand
Whether your goal is to grow your practice by attracting new patients or work with industry and research colleagues to advance the field, it is important to first understand who you are and what expertise and skillset you have to offer before putting yourself out there. Reflect on what makes you and/or your practice unique and sets you apart from similar providers in your local market.
Perhaps you received highly subspecialized training at a top institution and are an expert at managing a particular condition. Or maybe your practice provides an unrivaled patient experience with the latest and most advanced technologies in the field.
As your experience grows, so too will your list of accolades and sense of purpose. Your brand identity will become clearer and more refined over time, but it should always remain professional and consistent at its core.
Market Your Practice
Once you have a good grasp of your brand identity, make it visible to the world. Develop a professional website that showcases your expertise, achievements and areas of specialization. Include a biography, information about your practice and any relevant publications or research.
Create professional marketing materials such as business cards, brochures or informational handouts that highlight your unique skills and services. Distribute these materials at conferences, networking events, medical offices and businesses within your community.
It’s also important to build a glowing reputation on popular patient review websites like Google, Yelp and Healthgrades. Deliver high-quality care and exceptional patient experiences, and then actively solicit positive feedback and reviews from satisfied patients, which can significantly contribute to your reputation.
Network at Conferences
Attend conferences, seminars and workshops within your specialty to meet and connect with experienced physicians and industry leaders. The Academy’s Young Ophthalmologist Committee provides many educational resources and opportunities for networking during the Academy’s Annual Meeting each year. Build relationships with mentors who can guide you and provide valuable advice and support as you progress in your career.
As you become more involved, ask for ways to volunteer on different committees. Don’t forget about local and regional medical societies, which can help foster strong community ties for you and your practice.
Present and Publish Research
Conduct research that you are passionate about and reflects your expertise in a unique area. As you adopt new technologies or treatments in your practice, you can ask your pharmaceutical reps about opportunities to participate in investigator-initiated trials in which you can receive funding from the company to evaluate post-market outcomes. This becomes a launching pad for participating as a principal investigator in FDA clinical trials later on.
Submit abstracts and publish research papers regularly as well. Presenting and publishing your work at reputable conferences not only adds credibility to your profile, it also allows you to share your expertise and build connections with fellow professionals. This can also create opportunities to consult with and speak for industry as a key opinion leader.
Take Advantage of Social Media
Social media makes it easier than ever for YOs to build their reputation early on in their career. Establish a professional presence on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and/or Doximity where you can share your insights, research findings, surgical videos, speaking engagements, accolades and more. I’ve found it to be a wonderful source of opportunities for collaborating with like minded colleagues in medicine and industry.
Other platforms — such as Instagram, TikTok and YouTube — are ideal for attracting new patients. Engage with your audience by creating engaging and educational content and respond to comments to participate in relevant discussions. This can help you build relationships with patients and enhance your reputation as a trusted source of information.
Remember, building a strong brand and reputation takes time and consistent effort. It's important to continuously invest in your professional development, stay up to date with the latest research and advancements in your field and maintain ethical practices.
By leveraging networking opportunities, research, speaking engagements, marketing strategies and a positive social media presence, you can effectively establish yourself as a respected and trusted young ophthalmologist.
About the author: Dagny C. Zhu, MD, is a cornea, cataract and refractive surgeon and medical director and partner of NVISION Eye Centers in Rowland Heights, Calif. She joined the YO Info editorial board in 2023.