I did not know about the Mid-Year Forum, held in April by the Academy, until I learned about it from several residents in our program who went last year. I heard it was a great meeting, but I was not sure if it was something for me.
I was fortunate to be able to go this year, and what I learned was so much more than I expected, including how easy it is to participate in the process! For others who haven’t attended before, here are some of the reasons why you should:
- Learn how to advocate for our profession. Advocating means publicly recommending or supporting issues that are important for ophthalmology. At Mid-Year Forum 2019, we attendees discussed four issues in Washington, D.C.:
- relief from prior authorization burdens
- concern for patient access to treatment with current step therapy policy
- rising drug costs and drug shortages
- support for increased vision research funding
We learned about these issues and the key talking points during the first day. On the second day, we talked to our legislators about these complicated issues. It sounds daunting talking to legislators and their aides, but they rely on us to inform them and speaking to legislators is a skill that is useful to learn.
- Meet senators and Congress members. It’s not every day that you get a chance to sit down and meet with senators and Congress members from your state. We were scheduled to meet Sen. Mitt Romney from Utah and his staff, but because Congress was not in session, we met with his staff. Having personal relationships with your state legislators and their staff is invaluable, and although each meeting may only take 20 to 30 minutes, it opens up future meetings.
- Network with academy leaders. Compared to the Academy’s annual meeting, the Mid-Year Forum is a smaller meeting, and all participants fit in one big ballroom. However, academy leaders and state leaders attended this meeting, and we had a chance to meet them in a more relaxed setting. As one of the participants of the Academy Ambassadors program, I was paired with a mentor from Nebraska who introduced me to several more people I would not have met otherwise.
- Local and state updates, including optometric scope of practice expansion bills. We know that organized optometry has waged battles in several states to expand their scope of practice, but we may not know the specifics and how it is affecting us personally. During the state meetings, we learned the nitty-gritty details of what is happening in our surrounding states from ophthalmology state leaders. They shared information about what they have done to halt bills that threaten to erode the integrity of patient care and physician practice..
- You get to see Washington, D.C. In spring, the Capitol explodes with cherry blossoms in bloom and is very beautiful. Our itinerary was packed, but in between meetings with legislators, their staff gave us a private tour of the Capitol.
Coming back from Washington, D.C., I have developed a new mindset that we are each individually responsible for our profession, as well as a new skill set to be able to advocate for ophthalmology. I hope you too will join the growing ranks of ophthalmologists eager in defending patients and our ability to provide them with the best quality care. Mark your calendars now. Mid-Year Forum 2020 will be here sooner than you think!