• 7 Ways to Expand Your Support System

    The first years of practice are filled with countless ups and downs. 

    Looking back, I wish someone had told me how to prepare for each of those. What could I have done when I had a light schedule of patients? What could I have done to prepare for that tough case — or better yet, for that routine case that turned tough? Thankfully, I did not feel alone in these moments, and the goal of this piece is to remind you of all the resources available to you — lean on your support system (and expand it) — there is no shame in asking for help!

    Here’s what you can do:

    • Keep your wonderful mentors close. They have guided you this far and remain invested in your success even after graduation day! Stay connected and be sure to thank them for their role in your journey. 
    • Take notes for your future self. Although removing a white cataract in a shallow anterior chamber may become second nature for you at the end of training, having handy notes for the next time you tackle such a case solo will give you confidence and foresight. Taking screenshots or notes regarding your phaco settings, instruments trays and suture specifications will make life easier when your favorite surgical technician isn’t by your side. 
    • Stay connected with your cohort. Now that you have completed training, there may not be another person going through exactly the same rotation as you. This was my biggest transition — setting my own milestones and priorities and identifying my own areas of improvement. Stay connected with your residency and/or fellowship cohort and check in with each other intermittently! Discuss diagnostic dilemmas and complex surgical cases with one another and continue to learn!. 
    • Find local mentors. Practice patterns may be affected by regional differences, patient demographics, and even insurance carriers. Becoming an active member of your state ophthalmology society is a great way to expand your support system and find local mentors and sponsors. 
    • Boards — be prepared, not scared. There is a comprehensive compilation of advice to prepare for American Board of Ophthalmology exams, including study tips for the oral boards. However, you should read about recent changes in the exam, especially the oral board examination. It is important to adapt these tips to your particular learning style and timeline. 
    • Familiarize yourself with the AAOE® (American Academy of Ophthalmic Executives®). There is a wealth of online information regarding coding and practice management; notably AAOE membership is free in training and in your first year of practice. 
    • Stay tuned to the Academy. If you are reading this, you most likely understand the value of Academy and programming specific to Young Ophthalmologists, available both virtually and in person at conferences. For regular updates, stay tuned to our YO Info newsletter and check in at the Young Ophthalmologists section of the Academy website. Make sure you have opted in to receive the YO Info newsletter and other Academy communications. Remember, Academy membership is free until the end of the calendar year of your training. 

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    Natasha Nayak Kolomeyer, MDAbout the author: Natasha Nayak Kolomeyer, MD, is a glaucoma specialist at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia. She joined the YO Info Editorial Board in 2019.