I finished ophthalmology residency in 2001. Since 2002, I’ve attended every American Academy of Ophthalmology Mid-Year Forum (left early circa 2007 for a friend’s premiere at the NY Metropolitan Opera. I also missed two days in 2015 when my practice partner served as president-elect of our state society). I’ve attended as a member of the Young Ophthalmology (YO) committee, Leadership Development Program (LDP), American Academy of Ophthalmic Executives (AAOE) and as a representative to outside organizations (AMA Ophthalmology Section Council). I’ve also enjoyed the privilege of speaking at numerous Mid-Year Forum educational sessions.
The Academy’s Mid-Year Forum (#AAOMYF) originally included state and speciality society leaders, Academy volunteers & committee members, representatives to outside organizations, international leaders and the Academy’s board of trustees. Since 2004, the Academy has welcomed residents and fellows to serve as Academy Advocacy Ambassadors. The program was started by members of my Leadership Development Program (LDP) VI class (Jen & Beth!) and has evolved into one of the Academy’s growth areas of leadership development & YO engagement (“YO” = Young Ophthalmologist, coined circa 2000).
To make the most of the Mid-Year Forum, I offer the following suggestions to Advocacy Ambassadors:
Wednesday night – Meet mentors, colleagues and residents from your state. During the dinner briefing, you’ll learn about the key issues which ophthalmology faces at the federal level. Try to identify three talking points which will help when you meet Members of Congress and their staff.
Thursday – Capitol Hill Visits – You’ll travel to Capitol Hill and meet Congressional offices on both the House and Senate side. Have your running shoes on! You will want to speak with your mentors and fellow residents who will be attending. Do not be disappointed if you do not meet directly with your Member of Congress. Legislative Assistants (LAs) and Congressional staff are well versed in health care issues and in fact are wonderful liaisons with Congressional offices on key issues. Your perspective as a young ophthalmologist is critical to the ophthalmology efforts to protect sight. If you offer to follow-up on an issue, write down names, emails and follow-up! If the Congressional office requests more information beyond the “leave behind” packets which the Academy has prepared, alert Academy staff on the post-meeting forms.
Thursday-Saturday Mid-Year Forum – attend as many events as you can and meet colleagues from your state and subspecialty. The Surgical Scope Fund (SSF) and OPHTHPAC host receptions with modest contribution levels ($50 for Advocacy Ambassadors, $500 for other attendees). These are optimal opportunities to meet colleagues who volunteer hundreds of hours outside of their clinical practices to move medicine forward. If you have a specific interest (“Hey, I want to write an article for EyeWiki & EyeNet” or “I’d love to learn more about international ophthalmology”), feel free to reach out to connect with key leaders.
The Academy’s Mid-Year Forum is the premiere meeting to learn about health care policy, challenges and solutions for ophthalmology. The pearls you learn now will serve you well once you finish residency & fellowship. I’ve formed lifelong friendships and interacted with colleagues worldwide in a shared mission of #ProtectingSight & #EmpoweringLives.
See you soon!
PS. 1. Bring your business cards!
2. Please engage in social media early & often! Every post helps your patients, legislators and colleagues keep up-to-date with your travels on behalf of the #ProtectingSight journey. #AAO2019 #MYF2019 #WhyIAdvocate. You can find me on Twitter (@RaviDGoel) and Instagram (@rdgoel).
3. Bonus pearl: If you curate the perfect post (photo and caption), you may well be rewarded with a retweet/repost by the Academy or legislator.