• L.E.A.P. Forward for Advocacy Ambassadors

    Mid-Year Forum 2016 included a session is designed specifically for residents and fellows who participated in the Advocacy Ambassador Program. Following is a brief summary of the program and what attendees thought of it.


    This session provided young members an opportunity to network and interact with active leaders in ophthalmology with panel discussions covering four major areas: leadership, engagement, advocacy and practice management. Presenters inspired and engaged advocacy ambassadors to be successful leaders in their practice setting, community, state and subspecialty society as well as national and international organizations.

    Background Information

    The Academy’s Advocacy Ambassador Program is a partnership with state, subspecialty/specialized interest societies and training programs. The goals of the Advocacy Ambassador Program are to:

    1. Engage and educate members in training (residents and those undergoing fellowship training) early on as to the importance of advocating for their profession (training future advocates for patients and for the profession);
    2. Help members in training understand the importance of membership and active involvement in their respective state ophthalmology and subspecialty societies; and
    3. Expose members in training to some of the critical issues in medicine being discussed by leaders in ophthalmology during the Mid-Year Forum and Council sessions.

    The L.E.A.P. Forward concept was introduced at the Mid-Year Forum 2015 with overwhelming success. It is jointly sponsored by the Academy’s Secretariat for State Affairs and the Young Ophthalmologist Committee. Enhancements to the session at Mid-Year Forum 2016 included:

    • Additional time allotted to roundtable networking with Academy and state society leaders.
    • Panelists who had previously attended the Mid-Year Forum as advocacy ambassadors.
    • Addition of department chairs who had successfully collaborated with their respective state societies on scope battles.
    • Increased messaging about state society efforts.
    • An icebreaker that demonstrated team-building skills.

    Summary of Comments from Guest Speakers

    Rob Melendez, MD, MBA, Academy secretary for online education and part of the first group of residents to attend the Mid-Year Forum, led an icebreaker that demonstrated the importance of team interaction skills. YO Committee Chair Purnima Patel, MD, and YO Committee Member Janice Law, MD, moderated four panel discussions on leadership, engagement, advocacy and practice management.

    Each of the four topic “themes” began with a keynote speaker, followed by an interactive panel discussion. Keynote speakers and panelists each shared inspirational stories and provided practical methods on ways to become engaged and involved at the community, state society and national levels. The four panels included leaders in ophthalmology at varying points in their ophthalmology careers, as well as previous advocacy ambassadors. This cross-generational approach demonstrated the importance of a lifelong commitment to being an engaged citizen in our field and being an advocate for our patients.

    The lead off keynote speaker set the stage with compelling visuals and stories of leaders “who get it right” juxtaposed with those who have some work to do in the leadership arena. Ambassadors also had the opportunity of improving themselves in each of the four themed areas by writing down and committing to a five-year goal.

    Keynote speakers:

    • Leadership: Tamara R. Fountain, MD – Academy secretary for member services
    • Engagement: Ravi D. Goel, MD – Board member, American Academy of Ophthalmic Executives / Academy representative to the American Medical Association / past president, New Jersey Academy of Ophthalmology
    • Advocacy: Cynthia A. Bradford, MD – Academy president-elect and past senior secretary for advocacy
    • Practice management: Paul Sternberg Jr., MD - Academy past president / G.W. Hale professor and chair, Vanderbilt Eye Institute

    Summary of Audience Comments

    The opportunity to interact with Academy and society leaders in this setting was significant to 2016 advocacy ambassadors. Follow-up to this second L.E.A.P. Forward session included many positive statements by the participating advocacy ambassadors. When asked what they liked most about the session, ambassadors responded:

    • "The amazing line up of speakers and the availability and approachability of all of the Academy leaders. They seem so untouchable because of their credentials but now I feel like I am able to say hi to them in the meeting and they seem really genuinely invested in getting to know me."
    • "The pearls each doctor gave were inspiring and insightful. This session makes me want to be a leader for the betterment of my patients and the future of ophthalmology."
    • "I loved the opportunity to meet with so many leaders in our field and listen to their opinions and experiences. So often in residency we focus only on clinic/OR/OKAPs. The L.E.A.P. Forward program helped broaden my perspective about the field and encouraged me to think outside the residency box"
    • "What I liked most is meeting all the other ambassadors and having a session dedicated to us. I also really enjoyed having expert speakers come to give us advice…..It was definitely the best session I attended."
    • "The L.E.A.P session was outstanding! I walked away feeling incredibly inspired and with a new sense of purpose as I return to my residency training program."

    High Priority Objectives

    • Continue to engage and inspire advocacy ambassadors to be involved not only in the Academy, but also ‘back at home’ within their respective state ophthalmology societies as well as subspecialty societies.
    • Encourage societies to be inclusive and offer YOs an opportunity to be involved.
    • Engage advocacy ambassadors to take action in current and future state scope issues.
    • Continue to educate advocacy ambassadors on the differences and the importance of contributing to three critical funds - OPHTHPAC, the Surgical Scope Fund and state eye PACs.
    • Provide advocacy ambassadors who have “made a difference” the opportunity for speaking roles at various sessions – Council meeting, state society presidents-elect meeting, future L.E.A.P. Forward sessions, etc.

    Review more sessions in the Mid-Year Forum 2016 report.