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Feature | May/Jun '14

Cultivating Leadership

Young ophthalmologists, new in their careers, are often eager to make their mark on the profession as a whole. Becoming an authority in your field can help you better serve your patients and grow your practice. However, young careers also frequently coincide with young families, and most of us measure success as some kind of balanced lifestyle. There are increased numbers of both working mothers and fathers in ophthalmology, medicine, and all of today’s work industry, which forces parents to manage their time well to be successful in their professional and daily lives. Success no longer equals giving up everything else for your career. In the ongoing juggling act of life and work, time management is imperative.

First, stay current. There is no substitute to reading the medical literature. It is our job as ophthalmologists to stay on top of our skills and certainly all of the changes that take place. I first try to read all of the titles and most of the abstracts published in the peer-reviewed journals to make sure I have the most pertinent information. There is also great information to be gleaned from trade publications. MillennialEYE is the first to provide a completely digital format, which makes it really easy for us to stay up to date just using our smartphones.

You also shouldn’t overlook video archive sites such as Eyetube, which is an excellent resource for continuing education. If you are performing a relatively new surgical technique or there is one you are interested in learning about, there are phenomenal videos that provide a real visual image of how others are performing the technique and what proves successful for them. We know there is more than one way to do things, and seeing a variety of techniques increases our opportunity for learning and improvement. We can then pass this knowledge onto our peers, further developing our leadership capacities and improving the quality of patient care around us.

Second, keep networking.Forging connections allows people to gain exposure to new ideas and opportunities on a broader scale. Most find this to be particularly true at annual industry meetings, such as the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) meeting and various subspecialty meetings. However, while attending these events, time is always at a premium, and it can be overwhelming to determine which events are most worthwhile. I find it valuable to first outline what you most want to accomplish, and then focus on the events that will help you progress toward your top priorities. Organizations like Ophthalmic Women Leaders (OWL), for example, provide opportunities to connect with people outside of your immediate group, especially for industry and physicians to connect, and I always find those meetings very valuable.

That leads into the third tip: Foster relationships with industry. Contrary to what some believe, connecting with industry does not implicitly mean that your opinions are up for sale. Rather, these connections can present opportunities to help others and influence the future landscape of ophthalmology. We cannot do what we do without the presence of industry, so I think it is important to forge connections with companies whose missions, products, and corporate vision truly interest you, and become involved with issues that you are passionate about. If the driving force behind your relationship is an interest in the technology or clinical paradigm rather than the sole pursuit of financial gain, you will find your situation a win-win situation for everyone—including your patients.

Last, always remember that the best leaders are those who lead by example, rather than authority. Just as we wouldn’t be where we are without inspiration from those who came before us, we will one day be a source of inspiration for the next generation of surgeons looking to make a difference in their communities. When I think of a leader and inspiring figure in our field, Claes Dohlman, MD, immediately comes to mind. He is a true example of leadership done right. He is a brillant man who essentially founded the cornea subspecialty, but if you were to approach him in casual conversation, it wouldn’t show. Dr. Dohlman is one of the hardest working and humble individuals I have ever encountered; his continued excitement and stellar work in his field speak for itself. This is the kind of leader we should all strive to be: one who lets his or her accomplishments empower and propel others forward in a genuine, humble manner.

Becoming a “go-to person” takes consistent effort and no shortage of time, but the rewards can be well worth the effort. People are often under the impression that a leader is one in 10,000 and that “leadership” can exist only if there are a proportional number of “followers” present. In truth, we can all be leaders in a very real way.

Kathryn M. Hatch, MD

Kathryn M. Hatch, MD, is a Partner at Talamo Hatch Laser Eye Consultants in Waltham, MA. Dr. Hatch is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at the Warren Alpert School of Medicine of Brown University and specializes in cornea, cataract, and refractive surgery. She may be reached at KHatch@lasikofboston.com.