• Inspire and Be Inspired by YO Voices

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    What happens when you put over 40 exceptional and emerging young ophthalmologist leaders from across the country on a Zoom call? Knowledge sharing, recognition and perhaps most importantly, inspiration.

    Just before the AAO 2020 Virtual, 42 YO society leaders across the country gathered at the virtual AAO YO Leader Meet and Greet to discuss their plans to amplify the YO voice and to recognize the contributions of young ophthalmologists. These YO leaders represented state, subspecialty and specialized interest societies that have representation on Academy’s council such as Women in Ophthalmology, American Society for Cataract and Refractive Surgery, Macula Society, American Glaucoma Society, Pennsylvania Academy of Ophthalmology, and Indiana Academy of Ophthalmology just to name a few.

    This year we recognized the great contributions of YO leaders from the American Society of Retina Specialists (ASRS) Aleksandra Rachitskaya, MD, and Ohio Ophthalmological Society (OOS) Arjan Hura, MD, who shared their YO section achievements, future plans, and provided inspiration for this group of leaders.

    The Academy’s YO committee hosted a second YO Leader Meet and Greet on Dec. 4 with YO leaders of international societies to again share challenges, opportunities and inspiration. YO leaders attending spanned the globe — from Singapore to Morocco, Jordan to Spain and many places in between. 

    YO Professional Growth

    During COVID-19, the brainchild born from the ASRS Early Career Section (ECS) leaders Aleksandra Rachitskaya, MD, and Yoshihiro Yonekawa, MD, was an online grand rounds that allowed ECS members to submit and share interesting clinical cases with expert faculty members who provided informal and stimulating dialogue. 

    This online case-based learning format immediately became popular and quickly grew in attendance. These grand rounds have now become an established monthly educational event that young retina specialists look forward to.

    Arjan Hura, a PGY4 resident at University of Cincinnati, performed the monumental task of creating the first ever young ophthalmologist event at the in-person Ohio Ophthalmological Society meeting in February 2020. His event hosted speakers, posters and grand rounds presentations.

    Over 20 medical students, residents, and fellows from across Ohio met over a private lunch event covering topics such as research, networking, job search, collaborating with industry and advocacy. Hura, inspired by his experience at the Academy’s Virtual Advocacy Day is motivated to reach as many YOs as possible to lead and advocate for our profession and patients. He plans to continue this tradition annually, further providing leadership and learning opportunities for OOS YOs. 

    YO Voices
    YO leaders representing 20 national and supranational societies around the globe joined the Dec. 4 virtual YO Leader Meet and Greet hosted by the Academy’s YO committee and YO international subcommittee.

    Emerging YO Leadership

    The AAO YO committee recognizes and celebrates this successful group of YOs and encourages societies to continue to develop and promote the future of ophthalmology. Nearly all subspecialty societies have a young ophthalmology section or early career section dedicated to supporting YOs and helping YOs succeed like the ASRS ECS mentoring program to help members get ahead in their careers.

    Numerous state ophthalmology societies are creating young ophthalmologist committees to engage YOs in advocacy and to provide opportunities for executive board leadership. Hans Andrews, MD, a resident from Vanderbilt Eye Institute and Casey Smith, MD, a resident from Hamilton Eye Institute serve on the Tennessee Academy of Ophthalmology (TNAO) executive board as resident representatives, giving them early exposure and experience in organizational medicine and leadership. Gearing up for a future optometric scope expansion, they helped TNAO create an interactive state map displaying where ophthalmic procedures are performed in Tennessee. 

    I have been truly inspired and excited watching YO sections and chapters grow in number across the country and learning how they support other YOs professionally and educationally. In fact, every region in the world now has formal YO sections from Morocco to Denmark to Bangladesh to Hong Kong! It is clear that every successful society values the perspectives and contributions of young physicians and invests in their success.

    Impacting Ophthalmology

    Throughout the virtual AAO YO Leader Meet and Greet, I was impressed by the YO leaders and the exchange of ideas to empower YOs in their organizations, to innovate in the midst of a historically challenging time and how to continue to build community. I was encouraged by the leaders’ enthusiasm and energy to create regularly scheduled education and networking events to keep up the YO momentum during pandemic while also taking advantage of technology and Zoom opportunities to unite members. 

    Establishing social media directors and utilizing social media channels were ideas that came out of further discussions to improve outreach and advocacy to protect sight and empower lives.

    Young ophthalmologists, make an impact on your society and be inspired by these leaders and become a leader! If you are interested in contributing to your state, subspecialty or specialized interest society, reach out to your leadership board. Find out if your local YO committee is looking for membership growth, newsletter help, or even a social media director to reach out to other YOs to increase engagement in the community or training programs. 

    Playing a role in your society can develop leadership skills, inspire you to stay involved, and help you develop a deeper network for future collaboration and mentorship that will benefit your organization and your career while advancing the field of ophthalmology. 

    About the author: Janice C. Law, MD, is a vitreoretinal surgeon and an assistant professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.