There is no better time to get involved in your state ophthalmology society than right now.
Optometric scope-of-practice expansion bills continue to threaten the safety and quality of care for patients. Your involvement is of utmost importance to protect our patients and profession.
As a new ophthalmologist, you’ve excelled in every way beginning from high school through medical school. In residency, you spent countless nights on call and thousands of hours in clinics and hospitals treating a huge diversity of patients with vision threatening conditions. You performed hundreds of complex surgeries and lasers. No other physician or provider knows the eyes and surrounding structures better than you. Your experience in treating diseases of the eyes, orbits and surrounding structures is unparalleled.
Yet, there are undertrained providers that are actively trying to gain privileges through politics and legislation instead of earning them through appropriate education and training. Teamwork and collaboration with other physicians and mid-level providers like nurses, optometrists and physician-assistants are important for quality care; however, a physician-led eye care team provides the gold standard of medical and surgical care for all patients.
As a young ophthalmologist, you can help prevent the further erosion of the standard of care and become an advocate for your patients and profession by getting involved in your state society! Here are a few easy steps:
- Send an email to your state society leaders to introduce yourself and to ask how you can help. This simple first step is likely the most impactful way you can do to get involved as state societies will always need energized volunteers. In this correspondence with your society leader, also ask to connect with their young ophthalmologist committee, and if your state doesn’t have one, start it!
- Attend your state society meetings. Your state society will likely have quarterly meetings to discuss legislative issues and will often also cover other educational topics. These meetings are great opportunities to network with your local ophthalmologists and to start building your practice.
- Attend a “day on the hill” event. Many ophthalmological societies will sponsor a day to meet in the state capitals with legislators to educate them on various issues. Although optometric scope-of-practice expansion bills are always a top priority, there are many other issues related to insurance, medication access or patient care that legislators don’t fully understand. Just as you educate your patients in optimizing their eye health, it’s important to educate legislators on various issues and how they can help you help your patients. Leave behind contact information at your representatives’ offices or invite them to come visit you in clinic or surgery. Relationships with your state representatives need to continue throughout the year, and your state society can help facilitate this.
- Attend Mid-Year Forum. Every April, the Academy hosts Mid-Year Forum in Washington, D.C. This is an opportunity to discuss state-level issues on a national stage. You will meet with members of Congress to further advocate for your patients. This is also a fantastic way to learn about how other ophthalmologists across the country are getting involved in their own states. You can share ideas and strategies on how to be an effective physician-leader with other like-minded, passionate ophthalmologists.
There are so many ways to get involved with your state society. The most important step, though, is reaching out and introducing yourself. Contributing to your state eye political action committee as well as the Academy’s Surgical Scope Fund and OPHTHPAC®, which works on the federal level, can also make a big impact. The profession of ophthalmology is special and is truly life-changing for our patients. Stand up, be vocal, be a leader!
Viraj Mehta, MD; Alexandra May, MD; Joy Carroll, MD; and Janice Law, MD at the Tennessee state capitol in Nashville, Tenn.
||About the author: Viraj Jayesh Mehta, MD, is an oculoplastics surgeon in Washington, D.C. He joined the YO Info editorial board in 2020.