A big welcome to our newest colleagues! The skills you have acquired over the past several years are a blessing to the patients who will entrust their precious eyes to your care.
As I look back on my own residency days, I remember working long hours and reading endlessly. There was one formative experience, however, that forever changed the way I viewed my role as a physician.
Towards the end of my residency, one of my professors urged fellow residents and me to attend the Academy’s Mid-Year Forum, where ophthalmologists from around the country come to Capitol Hill to meet with their legislators. During my time in Washington, D.C., I had several interesting revelations, not the least of which was to wear comfortable shoes when walking around Capitol Hill!
Most importantly, I learned that our elected officials — and their legislative aides — were very much regular people. They had no superhero powers, except the power that was conveyed upon them by virtue of their office. This was democracy in action. We had a voice in our government.
What I took away from this trip, and what has continued to influence me, is that it wasn’t enough just to be a good physician. If I could treat glaucoma, but my patients couldn’t afford their medications, then my education wasn’t enough. If a patient needed a compounded antibiotic to treat endophthalmitis but was prohibited by regulations from receiving it, then my training wasn’t enough.
If promising research projects couldn’t get funded because budget decisions were made without input from the medical community, then patients would ultimately suffer. And if state legislators decided that practitioners who do not have extensive surgical training could perform surgery, then I wasn’t doing the best I could to preserve patient safety.
In the end, if our voices weren’t heard when others decide how we care for patients, then our patients and profession were in danger.
So it dawned on me that, in order to take the best care of our patients, it was no longer sufficient only to be in an exam room with patients, but to use my voice to advocate for patients outside of the office. This needed to happen not only at the federal level, but also at state and local levels as well. Advocacy was a patient care issue that complemented all of the medical knowledge and clinical training I had acquired.
As you embark on what hopefully will be a long and fulfilling career as physician advocates, here are some tips that I hope you find helpful:
- Join your state ophthalmology society. You can find yours on the Academy website.
- Find out who your federal and state legislators
- Make a habit of supporting surgery by surgeons and preserving patient safety by contributing to the Surgical Scope Fund.
- Support the Academy’s federal advocacy efforts through OPHTHPAC®, our political action committee that operates to protect ophthalmologists from payment cuts, burdensome regulations, scope of practice threats and so much more.
Finally, have fun and enjoy the camaraderie of colleagues who share your passion for your profession and for patient care.
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About the author:
Lee A. Snyder, MD, is a fellowship-trained cornea specialist in private practice outside of Baltimore, MD. She received her Bachelor of Science in Economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and completed medical school, residency and fellowship at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She is a past-president of the Maryland Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons and currently serves as an Academy Councilor from Maryland and a Surgical Scope Fund committee member.