• LEAP Forward Session for 2017 Advocacy Ambassadors

    Mid-Year Forum 2017 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.


    Advocacy ambassadors will be inspired and engaged to be successful leaders in their practice setting, community, state and subspecialty society as well as national and international organizations. This session provides 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.

    Background Information

    The Academy’s Advocacy Ambassador Program is a partnership with state, subspecialty/specialized interest societies and training programs. The L.E.A.P. Forward concept was first introduced at the Mid-Year Forum 2015 with overwhelming success. In 2016 and 2017, improvements have been made based on ambassador input. The Academy’s secretariat for state affairs and the Young Ophthalmologist (YO) Committee jointly sponsored the session. Enhancements to the session at Mid-Year Forum 2017 included:

    • Additional time allotted to roundtable networking with Academy and state society leaders. At least two Academy and state ophthalmology society leaders were assigned to each table. During a break, they switched tables to be able to interact with a new set of advocacy ambassadors;
    • Addition of a panelist who is a leader at the NEI who could speak about the direct impact of advocating for research funding;
    • Addition of a department chair who had successfully engaged his residents in advocacy and participation in scope battles;
    • Increased messaging about state ophthalmology society efforts;
    • Agenda time for ambassadors to compose “gratitude” cards to recognize someone that had supported them (i.e. a sponsoring state or subspecialty society, a particular mentor at the Mid-Year Forum, etc.). Each advocacy ambassador received two to three gratitude cards.

    Summary of Comments from Guest Speakers

    Academy Secretary for Online Education Rob Melendez, MD, MBA, led off the session with an icebreaker. He was part of the first group of residents to attend the Mid-Year Forum in 2004. Dr. Melendez then led the panel discussion on engagement. YO Committee members Janice C. Law, MD, and Jeff H. Pettey, MD, moderated the four panel discussions on leadership, engagement, advocacy and practice management. YO Committee chair, Purnima S. Patel, MD, provided pearls and tips to advocacy ambassadors throughout the session.

    Each of the four topic “themes” began with a keynote speaker followed by an interactive panel discussion. Keynote speakers and panelists each shared inspirational personal 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.

    Keynote speakers:

    • Leadership: Cynthia A. Bradford, MD – 2017 Academy president;
    • Engagement: Robert F. Melendez, MD, MBA - Academy secretary for online education and graduate of the Leadership Development Program X, class of 2008; member, American Academy of Ophthalmic Executives Board of Directors;
    • Advocacy: Keith C. Carter, MD – Academy president-elect and graduate of the Leadership Development Program V; Lillian C. O'Brien and Dr. C.S. O'Brien Chair in Ophthalmology Chairman and Head, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics;
    • Practice Management: Ruth D. Williams, MD - Academy past president and chief medical editor, EyeNet Magazine.

    Summary of Audience Comments

    The opportunity to interact with Academy and society leaders in this setting was significant to 2017 advocacy ambassadors. Follow-up to this third 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:

    • "I cannot say enough positive things about the quality of the L.E.A.P. Forward session. As a first-time attendee to the forum, it was my favorite part of the 3 days. I was inspired by each speaker and left with an overwhelming sense of optimism about the future of our profession. It sparked several ideas and reminded me of a few passions I have that were neglected in the business of residency training."
    • "Overall, excellent session. Very motivational. I enjoyed being able to listen to the panelists and their personal experiences with L.E.A.P., but it was even more helpful having them at our tables to have casual conversations with them and be able to ask more specific questions."
    • "This was so fun and just outstanding! I loved the opportunity to hear about pearls from leaders from the Academy. It seems that the Academy is putting ambassadors (residents/fellows) as a priority by bringing something like this to have and having Dr. Parke speak to us on the future of ophthalmology. There was nothing I didn’t like. This was such an inspiration. We have all worked so hard to get to where we are in our residencies and even residency itself can be brutal with sleepless nights and stresses of deadlines and fearfulness of not knowing the answer in grand rounds. It is so refreshing to get away from all of that for a member and put into perspective that all of that only matters for a little while, that I just need to keep putting patients first and I can make a difference in my field. I hope to come back again next year."

    High-Priority Objectives

    • Engage advocacy ambassadors to take action in future state scope issues.
    • 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 state and subspecialty societies to be inclusive and offer YOs an opportunity to be involved.
    • Continue to educate advocacy ambassadors on the differences and the importance of contributing to three critical funds: the OPHTHPAC® Fund, the Surgical Scope Fund and state eye PACs.

    Review more sessions in the Mid-Year Forum 2017 report.