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Outstanding Female Leader in Ophthalmology | Nov/Dec '20

Outstanding Female Leader in
Tamara R. Fountain, MD

Dr. Fountain is an oculofacial surgery specialist at Ophthalmology Partners Ltd. in Deerfield, Illinois, and a Professor of Ophthalmology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Please share with us your background.

I was born an Air Force brat and moved around as a young kid before settling down in Minneapolis, where my dad was Northwest Airlines’ (since merged with Delta) first black pilot and my mom was a Pillsbury executive. I love travel, sports, photography, and meeting new people, even though at my core I’m somewhat introverted.

Describe your training and current position.

After receiving my medical degree from Harvard Medical School, I completed an internal medicine internship at the University of Pennsylvania. I then did my ophthalmology residency at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute, followed by a fellowship in oculoplastic surgery at the University of Southern California’s Doheny Eye Institute.

Currently, I am a Professor of Ophthalmology at Rush University Medical Center, and I maintain a private practice specializing in oculofacial plastic surgery in Chicago’s northern suburbs. I am also the 2020 President-Elect of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).

Can you tell us about your involvement with organized medicine?

My extra-clinical professional outlet has always been involvement in organized medicine. It started with an invitation to join the fledgling Young Ophthalmologist (YO) committee as a fellow and grew to leadership roles at the Ophthalmic Mutual Insurance Company (OMIC), the Illinois Association of Ophthalmology (now Illinois Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons), the American Society of Oculofacial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (ASOPRS), and the AAO. Along the way, one opportunity organically led to another, and I’ve been fortunate to be in the “room where it happened” and to learn from many exceptional organizational leaders.

In your opinion, how is the role of women in ophthalmology evolving?

We are approaching 25% in overall female representation in ophthalmology. More telling, women comprise about 40% of young ophthalmologists. We will see more women on the podium, more women committee chairs, more women awardees, and more women in key leadership positions. Women will shape workplace policies, priorities, and processes in ways that will affect work-life balance for all ophthalmologists, regardless of gender.

What hurdles do you feel women in health care still face?

The biology of childbirth will always distinguish a woman’s professional journey from a man’s, no matter how progressive or equal the parental partnership. In a typical heterosexual two-parent family, it will more typically be the woman who makes the professional sacrifice when familial obligations arise. Although women are shattering many glass ceilings and most patients readily accept (if not outright seek) female doctors, there are still subtle and not-so-subtle biases and gender norms that women must navigate.

What advice can you offer to young female ophthalmologists who are still in training or just beginning their careers?

Many young women struggle with how to manage marriage and parenthood at the same time as they are expected to begin and build their own clinical practices. There is no one path, and everyone will face different challenges. I look back on those years as the most stressful of my life. But they were also some of the most joyful. There is nothing quite as exhilarating as early childhood parenting and getting one’s practice off the ground—it’s just too bad that they both usually happen in the same 5 to 10 years!

I’d also encourage young ophthalmologists to craft their own personal and professional mission statement. What are your priorities in life? What are your goals? What do you want your legacy to be? Once you have this road map, refer to it when you reach that fork in the road and have to make major personal and professional decisions. This is your guide for life’s journey.

Can you propose a unique or creative idea that may help women in ophthalmic practice?

If I had an idea that unique or creative, I could probably retire from the practice of medicine and become an independently wealthy influencer. How about this stab: Your success inside ophthalmic practice will be determined by your fulfillment outside ophthalmic practice. It is hard for one’s professional life to be full if one’s physical, emotional, and spiritual tanks are empty. Maybe not unique or creative, but perhaps words for women and men to live by.


  • American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) | 2020 President-Elect
  • American Society of Oculofacial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (ASOPRS)
  • Chicago Ophthalmological Society (COS)
  • Illinois Society of Eye Physicians & Surgeons (ISEPS)
  • Ophthalmic Mutual Insurance Company (OMIC)
  • Women in Ophthalmology (WIO)


  • AAO Lifetime Achievement Award | 2018, 2001
  • Oral Examiner, American Board of Ophthalmology | 2017, 2013
  • Alumni Fund Chair, Harvard Medical School | 2016 to 2019
  • Distinguished Alumnus Award, Doheny Eye Institute, University of Southern California | 2016
  • Women in Ophthalmology Honor Lecture Award | 2015
  • Distinguished Alumnus Award, Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins University | 2015
  • ASOPRS Orkan Stasior Leadership Award | 2012
  • America’s Top Ophthalmologists | 2010 to Present
  • AAO Secretariat Award | 2009, 2005
  • AAO Senior Achievement Award | 2008
  • Best Doctors | 2005 to Present
  • AAO Leadership Development Program, Inaugural Class | 1998
  • Fellow of the Year Teaching Award, Doheny Eye Institute | 1996
  • National Eye Institute Grant | 1992
  • Commencement Class Marshall, Harvard Medical School | 1988
  • Aesculapian Club, Harvard Medical School | 1988
  • National Achievement Scholar | 1982
  • Alpha Kappa Alpha Scholastic Achievement Award | 1982


  • Azad AD, Rosenblatt TR, Chandramohan A, Fountain TR, Kossler AL. Progress towards parity: female representation in the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery [published online July 13, 2020]. Ophthalmic Plast Reconstr Surg. doi:10.1097/IOP.0000000000001764
  • Christiansen SM, Oetting TA, Herz NL, et al. Twitter at the 2014 and 2015 annual meetings of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Ophthalmology. 2016;123(8):1835-1837.
  • Fountain TR. Ophthalmic malpractice and physician gender: a claims data analysis (an American Ophthalmological Society thesis). Trans Am Ophthalmol Soc. 2014;112:38-49.
  • Marcet MM, Lemke BN, Greenwald MJ, et al. Eyelid eversion for visualisation of the upper eyelid lamellae: an anatomical cadaver study. Br J Ophthalmol. 2011;95(10):1376-1378.
  • Georgescu D, Epstein G, Fountain T, et al. Müller muscle conjunctival resection for blepharoptosis in patients with poor to fair levator function. Ophthalmic Surg Lasers Imaging. 2009;40(6):597-599.
  • Georgescu D, Cole E, Epstein G, et al. Müller muscle-conjunctiva resection for blepharoptosis in patients with glaucoma filtering blebs. Ophthalmic Plast Reconstr Surg. 2007;23(4):285-287.
  • Fountain TR. Re: "Long-term follow-up of porous polyethylene spherical implants after enucleation and evisceration”. Ophthalmic Plast Reconstr Surg. 2007;23(6):500; author reply 501.
  • Fountain TR, Goldberger S. A case of bilateral cryptophthalmia and euryblepharon with two-stage reconstruction. Ophthalmic Plast Reconstr Surg. 2001;17(1):53-55.
  • Fountain TR, Goldberger S, Murphree AL. Orbital development after enucleation in early childhood. Ophthalmic Plast Reconstr Surg. 1999;15(1):32-36.