Looking back on the whirlwind year of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic offered an added challenge to empowering and establishing young ophthalmologist organizations in the Asia-Pacific region.
With about 25 national societies under the Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology (APAO), the majority have no structured YO organizations. But opportunities lie in the midst of every crisis. Thanks to the internet, we were able to initiate an APAO Social Media Committee despite our borders, distance and lockdowns.
It all began through WhatsApp. Dr. Marcus Ang of Singapore put together nine other YO leaders from seven countries in the Asia-Pacific region (Singapore, India, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Myanmar, Bangladesh and the Philippines). Today, we’re a stronger group, with a social media committee, customized web pages and a more cohesive approach to communicating important events and information.
Asia-Pacific Social Media Committee
Initially unacquainted with each other, Asia-Pacific leaders hit it off right away with a few WhatsApp exchanges — and in just one Zoom video call, the Asia-Pacific Social Media Committee was born.
The social media committee aims to continuously engage, connect and empower its young ophthalmologists to establish social and holistic connections and promote education, peer support and mentorship among its members. With a recognized social media platform with specific objectives, a substantial benefit is expected to extend to YOs even in countries without established YO societies.
It was a reflex for the social media committee to use Facebook as a way to reach out to as many APAO YOs as possible. Facebook is the most popular social media platform for us, and it is one of the greatest ways to curate content.
A Facebook page was created to make information available exclusive to APAO YOs. Membership to the group is accepted with verification questions and approval by the membership committee. Launched this March, the page invites YOs to post 1-minute educational videos, educational photos, infographics or slide quizzes with promising prizes (worth up to USD$500).
The Asia-Pacific is full of culture, rich in color and loaded in sounds, and an Instagram platform will creatively showcase the lives of YOs in this part of the world. Hence, this platform was chosen to have weekly posts about announcements, activities, social fun facts, academic and even non-academic information to connect YOs. To date, 42 images have been posted, most of which have been cases, events, faces of YOs inspiring fellow YOs and memes.
A New Logo
As the ties continued to strengthen between the Asia-Pacific YO societies, we needed a logo to symbolize this new movement.
After a few drafts, the group decided on a logo drafted by Dr. Allan Larona, a Singapore- based Filipino YO with a special interest in graphic design. He integrated the elements of the eye with a corneal light reflex, the globe with the Asia-Pacific countries, the APAO YO letters and an exclamation symbol for more emphasis. The logo has since been a constant representation of this group’s presence on the internet.
Social media continues to be a powerful tool and offers a unique opportunity to network with YOs from the Asia-Pacific and around the globe. Its value became more prominent in the middle of this pandemic when physical connections are nearly impossible. But it is also through social media that we realize all the good that has come out despite the challenges of this pandemic and all the hope that we look forward to after this madness ends.
About the author: Charisse Sanchez-Tanlapco, MD, is the founder of the Philippine Network of Young Ophthalmologists (PiNoY) and is the Philippines’ young ophthalmologist representative to APAO. She is a member of the APAO Social Media Committee and the editorial team of the APAO YO Newsletter. She is mostly a comprehensive ophthalmologist in her private practice, but shuttles her way around the northern Philippines for orbit and oculoplastic surgery cases to the underserved.