“WOW!” This is the one word to describe AAO 2014. This year’s annual meeting in Chicago was my first, and it surpassed my expectations in every way. At the largest international gathering of eye care professionals, the Academy’s skill sessions and lectures were of the highest caliber and the lineup of fascinating exhibition booths was endless. Looking back, though, I’ll always remember the camaraderie and people that helped define my first meeting.
You Never Know Who’s Sitting Next to You…
For a little ole resident like me, AAO 2014 was at times a bit overwhelming to navigate, but there was always one place I could take a breath and relax with some friendly faces — the YO Lounge.
I grabbed a bite of refreshments and sat down to join some casual conversation. Our table chatted about how to be an active young ophthalmologist and then about how quickly residency would transition into fellowship and then a “real job.” One young fellow to my left joked, “Yeah, I should’ve asked all my stupid questions in residency, then I might be smarter today.” As the dialogue continued, I found out he was actually the residency program director at a prominent program! I probably wouldn’t have had such a fun conversation with someone of his stature if formal introductions had come first.
That got me thinking: with all of the bright, young faces around me, you never know who will become a top guru in retina, the next inventor of a scientific breakthrough or even a future Academy president. Chances are, many of the next generation’s leaders in our field were sitting right there in the YO Lounge, enjoying a few complimentary hors d’oeuvres.
These Guys Know How to Get Groovy!
Left to right: Young ophthalmologists Grace Sun, MD; Diana Shiba, MD; Jiaxi Ding, MD; Natasha Herz, MD; Lindsay Rhodes, MD; Janice Law, MD; and Purnima Patel, MD, at the 2014 Orbital Gala in Chicago.
I also had the good fortune of being invited to attend the Orbital Gala, during which B. Thomas Hutchinson, MD, was honored for his outstanding career and amazing contributions. This year’s gala theme was the Roaring 20’s, but I kept my attire conservative for my debut. To my pleasant surprise, most attendees took the theme to heart and many were dressed with incredibly authentic 20’s flair! During the festivities, I was seated with the YO crew and, over dinner, introduced to several more members of the YO advocacy, international and YO Info subcommittees. When the live band broke into play, a crowd gathered on the dance floor. I had not anticipated that our field was such a groovy bunch! I danced the night away with the YOs, the SOs (senior ophthalmologists) and everyone else in between.
Now to Serious Business
AAO 2014 is much more than making new connections and attending awesome parties, though. It is also an avenue to important, meaningful work. Because of my participation in the 2014 Mid-Year Forum as an advocacy ambassador, I have gained valuable perspective on the political, legislative and business undertows that will dictate the flow of my future practice. I will continue my advocacy as a resident liaison for my state society (the New York State Ophthalmological Society) and will hopefully return to next year’s Mid-Year Forum and many more to come. Along the way, I hope to convince a few peers to join me in helping shape the future of medicine. Perhaps the difference each individual makes is small on the scale of this big, big world, but you’ll likely find that it all adds up and the process changes your perspective.
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About the author: Jiaxi Ding, MD, is currently a PGY-IV resident in ophthalmology at the State University of New York at Buffalo. She was sponsored to attend the Mid-Year Forum by the New York State Ophthalmological Society. She received a special invitation to the Orbital Gala after writing about her experience as an 2014 advocacy ambassador for YO Info. Dr. Ding received her undergraduate training at Case Western Reserve University and medical education at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. She completed her transitional year internship at University of Pittsburgh Mercy Hospital and hopes to pursue a fellowship in glaucoma.