• Want Your Voice to Be Heard? Become an Advocate at the Mid-Year Forum

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    As an ophthalmologist, you’ve spent years refining the medical skills necessary to protect patients’ sight. But helping them continue to see takes work outside the clinic, too. Like the practice of all medicine, ophthalmology is both a clinical and political endeavor. That’s why the Academy hosts its annual Mid-Year Forum in Washington, D.C.

    For YOs, the meeting provides a chance to learn about and weigh in on issues that could affect the rest of their career in medicine. It also provides important take-home pearls regarding practice management.

    “The Mid-Year Forum truly is something that must be experienced in person,” said Mehul C. Patel, MD, MSc, who attended the 2015 meeting through the Academy’s Advocacy Ambassador Program. “It’s like going to the OR to watch your very first cataract surgery — being there, in the action, is part of an experience that textbooks, newsletters and YouTube can’t duplicate.” 

    This year’s forum, April 13 to 16 at the Marriott Marquis, includes hearings on pressing issues, Academy committee and secretariat meetings and a chance to meet in person with your elected officials -- Congressional Advocacy Day.

    What’s in It for YOs?

    Several sessions cover topics that will strongly affect residents and practicing ophthalmologists at all levels — from new payment and delivery models to harnessing big data for your practice.

    In particular, the second annual L.E.A.P. Forward session is designed specifically for YOs participating in the Mid-Year Forum as part of the Advocacy Ambassador Program. Held on Friday, April 15, this session covers four major topics: leadership, engagement, advocacy and practice management.

    The three-hour program consists of short 10-minute talks and panel discussions on everything from the importance of good leadership to the changing ophthalmologist-optometrist relationship. YOs can look forward to lively interaction with ophthalmologists of all ages — from Academy past presidents to YOs currently serving in leadership roles at the state and national levels.

    “The L.E.A.P. Forward session is incredible,” said 2015 Advocacy Ambassador Rachel Simpson, MD. “The Academy fills the room with the foremost thought leaders in our field, who spend all day discussing issues that are really important to those of us just completing their training or starting out in practice.” Watch Dr. Simpson discuss her “life-changing” experience at last year’s Mid-Year Forum.

    Learn the Ropes at Congressional Advocacy Day

    In addition to these sessions, the Mid-Year Forum also offers the chance to learn, first hand, how to advocate. During Congressional Advocacy Day — a free event held April 13 to 14 — small groups of ophthalmologists learn how to:

    • Build relationships with elected officials;
    • Strengthen ophthalmology’s presence on Capitol Hill; and
    • Create support for key legislative issues.

    Once participants have registered to attend, the Academy schedules meetings for delegations from each state to review the Academy’s positions on priority issues. During the meetings, participants visit Congressional offices in small groups, letting first-time advocates learn from their more experienced colleagues.

    “The Mid-Year Forum really has so much to offer, but the really special part of it is the integration of YOs into this Capitol Hill lobbying experience,” said Dr. Simpson. “An amazing group of veteran physicians help coach YOs on how to effectively champion the issues.” Meeting a public official might seem daunting, but these mentors provide the tools and confidence to allow YOs to speak up — and let their voices be heard.

    How to Attend

    The Academy recognizes that residents and fellows can face many obstacles to attending the Mid-Year Forum and, as part of the Advocacy Ambassador Program, waives all registration fees for members in training. Participating residency programs and state, subspecialty and specialized interest societies also support young ophthalmologists’ attendance through the program.

    Last year, the program helped more than 160 members-in-training attend. Read for yourself how the program helped Peter Karth, MD, slay the “SGR dragon.”

    For more information about the Academy’s Advocacy Ambassador Program, contact Gail Schmidt, Academy director of ophthalmic society relations at gschmidt@aao.org.

    Stake Your Claim on the Future

    Whether you prefer the Mid-Year Forum’s lively discussion or the lobbying efforts of Congressional Advocacy Day, this four-day affair is the ideal environment to build lasting relationships with other YOs and strengthen the future voice of ophthalmology. 

    Visit the Academy’s website for a full schedule of Mid-Year Forum events.

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    About the author: Mike Mott is a former assistant editor for EyeNet Magazine and contributing writer for YO Info.