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  • Mid-Year Forum 2023: Making Some Noise

    As a second-generation immigrant, I was taught by my parents that achieving my dreams meant keeping my head down and working hard.

    I grew up with a quiet demeanor, thinking twice before speaking up or taking a stand on issues I felt strongly about. So my first experience at the Academy’s Mid-Year Forum 2023 was both exciting and challenging because I had to step out of my comfort zone and into the role of an Advocacy Ambassador; in short I had to “make some noise.”

    Before starting my medical training, I believed that protecting vision was confined to the clinical setting. Our clinic is located in a Level I Trauma Center in the heart of Washington, D.C., and primarily serves uninsured and low-income populations. 

    I quickly discovered my limits as a physician as I tried to push past the multiple barriers that prevented me from providing high-quality and equitable care to all my patients: Hours were spent every week filling out prior authorization requests, checking pharmacies for more affordable medication options and calling insurance companies to follow up on surgical preapprovals. While advocating for my patients on an individual level came naturally, I realized that my role as their advocate had to extend beyond the clinic.

    “... My mind immediately went to the veterans I had cared for. Many of them had referred to me as their ‘optometrist,’ unaware of the differences in our qualifications and training.”

    As a first-time Advocacy Ambassador, my inclination was to blend into the background and put on a polite smile. I felt slightly out of place in my suit and heels as I took my seat directly across from House Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C.

    My colleagues began to discuss the importance of ensuring that eye surgeries in our veterans' health facilities are performed only by ophthalmologists. As I listened intently to their conversation, my mind immediately went to the veterans I had cared for. 

    Many of them had referred to me as their “optometrist,” unaware of the differences in our qualifications and training. They frequently relied on my expertise and decisions, without inquiring about my years of education or surgical numbers. I realized that this level of trust and respect, unique to the physician-patient relationship, is a valuable reality that can add perspective to the conversation. 


    I spoke up and shared my own experiences at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), explaining to the Congresswoman that people often trust the "eye doctor" in the white coat without fully understanding the distinctions between different types of eye care providers. I emphasized that our priority is to protect our veterans by ensuring that they have access to the highest quality of care possible – that their vision should not be compromised because of their readiness to trust their provider. 

    The remainder of the hour flew by, and I left the room feeling more passionate and confident, ready to again use my voice for the benefit of my patients.

    Discovering a Passion for Advocacy

    The Academy’s Mid-Year Forum 2023 was a powerful display of strength and unity – an assembly of numerous passionate and dedicated ophthalmologists. The atmosphere was truly inspiring, as we united to advocate not only for our own rights as physicians and surgeons, but more importantly, for the safety and well-being of our patients.

    Personally, the Mid-Year Forum helped me further uncover my passion for advocacy and find my voice as a protector of our patients and profession. It taught me that effective advocacy requires a multifaceted approach. It is essential to start by educating ourselves early on in our careers about the issues we face as ophthalmologists. We need to be aware of the latest developments in the field, as well as the challenges and barriers that are often encountered when seeking eye care.

    And yet, advocacy extends beyond staying informed. It requires us to listen to our patients and understand their unique needs and concerns. By connecting them with resources that can provide them with social and financial support, we can help them overcome the barriers that prevent them from receiving the care they need.

    Moreover, we should use our patients' experiences to drive research and develop individualized treatment strategies for complex eye diseases. By recognizing our power and impact on the individual level, we can begin to serve our community on a higher level and make a meaningful impact in our profession.

    Looking around the room during this year’s forum, I felt pride and camaraderie, knowing that I was among a group of like-minded professionals who shared my commitment to making a positive impact in our field and in our communities. The experience reaffirmed my belief in the power of advocacy. I have never felt more empowered and motivated to continue stepping outside my comfort zone for the sake of my patients.

    And so, while I continue to value hard work and humility, I am also learning that sometimes it’s necessary to make some noise to make a difference. 

    Narmien Murdock, MD About the author: Narmien Haddad Murdock, MD, is a PGY-3 ophthalmology resident at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital/Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. She was sponsored to attend the Mid-Year Forum as an Advocacy Ambassador by the MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.