• Ambassador Program Takes Members-in-Training to Washington

    For the fifth year in a row, the Academy and several partners are giving members-in-training a chance to get firsthand exposure to critical issues facing ophthalmology and the face-to-face meetings Academy advocates hold with their national legislators during Congressional Advocacy Day and the Mid-Year Forum in Washington, D.C.

    The Advocacy Ambassador Program AAP was established in 2004 by the Secretariat for State Affairs to educate residents and fellows early in their careers about the importance of political action and involvement in organized ophthalmology at both the state and national levels. The secretariat collaborates with state, subspecialty and specialized interest societies, as well as ophthalmology training programs, to support the attendance of members-in-training at the Mid-Year Forum, Congressional Advocacy Day and the spring Council Meeting.

    At the Mid-Year Forum, ambassadors get to attend sessions about hot topics and issues facing the profession. Then, during Congressional Advocacy Day, they are paired with seasoned ophthalmologists for visits with legislators and key care staff on Capitol Hill to discuss major issues affecting ophthalmology and medicine. At the Council Meeting, ambassadors are special guests and learn about the Council’s role as the policy advisory body to the Academy’s Board of Trustees.

    The best way to truly appreciate the impact of the AAP on young ophthalmologists is hear from those people who have participated in the program. Here’s what they have to say:

    Lola Idowu, MD resident, Howard University Hospital
    Advocacy Ambassador sponsored by the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Ophthalmological Society

    “I first participated in the Advocacy Day in 2006. Prior to that, I was largely unaware of the advocacy issues facing ophthalmologists. I was astonished by the extent to which the politics determined who provided and received clinical care and the reimbursement allowed. I became conscious that the future of ophthalmology as a profession and our ability to provide the best care for our patients was closely linked to how much we were able to educate and influence the politicians who made health care decisions.

    “Advocacy has become crucial for me and is, I believe, fundamental in our training. I would encourage every ophthalmologist to participate in advocating for the welfare of our profession.”

    Diana Shiba, MD resident, University of California, San Diego
    Advocacy Ambassador sponsored by California Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons

    “I feel the Mid-Year Forum is important for young ophthalmologists, not only because we should all be aware of the critical issues facing ophthalmology -- especially in regards to legislative affairs and scope of practice expansion -- but more importantly, we need to realize that these issues affect us: our future and our patients. As young Eye M.D.s, we need to maintain our involvement in organized medicine, through programs like the Academy Advocacy Day, to protect our patients and give them the best eye care possible. We need to remain at the table as eye physicians.”

    Moss Fenberg, MD resident, University of Missouri, Mason Eye Institute, in Columbia, Mo.
    Advocacy Ambassador sponsored by the Missouri Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons and the University of Missouri

    “My experience as a resident in Washington, D.C., opened my eyes to aspects of my profession and future practice that I certainly did not fully appreciate prior to attending. It was a powerful, motivating experience to be together with other residents from across the country, to listen to state and national leaders speak of our collective challenges, and to share my voice in advocacy with congressional leaders. I am now more aware of these issues myself and, having served as an Academy Advocacy Ambassador, I have raised that awareness among my fellow residents and my department as a whole. It was a great professional experience that I recommend to every resident in training.”

    Francesann Ford, MD resident, Howard University in Washington, D.C.
    Advocacy Ambassador sponsored by the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Ophthalmological Society

    “Participation in the Mid-Year Forum offers us a valuable opportunity to learn how to effectively engage in the legislative process that will shape our professional careers with activities like Congressional Advocacy Day. It provides an occasion to have our voices heard by those who will make the policies and laws that affect our economic and professional futures as ophthalmologists and supports a foundation for continued involvement later in life.”

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    Registration is now available for the Mid-Year Forum and Congressional Advocacy Day, which will be held in Washington, D.C., on April 9 to 12, 2008. Get involved and register today.