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YoungMD Connect | July/Aug '21

Seven Practical Pearls From Mentors in Ophthalmology

Highlights from one medical student’s first month as a member of YoungMD Connect, a community for building meaningful relationships in ophthalmology.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created many new challenges for individuals pursuing an ophthalmology education, one being the ability to develop relationships with ophthalmologists whom we admire. This moment in history has required us all to search for and adapt to new ways of connecting with one another. One new avenue that has allowed for such connection is YoungMD Connect, an online mentorship and educational platform for aspiring and young ophthalmologists.

YoungMD Connect is, in part, designed to help foster new connections, and preserve existing ones, among medical students, residents, fellows, ophthalmologists, and administrators within the eye care community. A variety of mentoring sessions and educational workshops are available through the platform, allowing members to listen to and engage with leaders in the field. Having this dedicated time and forum for mentorship has helped me to not only learn about innovative treatment approaches but also to grow professionally and personally, exceeding my expectations of how interinstitutional collaborations can work. Although I have been a member for only a short time, I have already discovered many valuable perspectives and effective tools through the YoungMD Connect community. This article details some of the pearls I’ve gained from these superb encounters.

1. “If you take good care of people, the financial rewards will flow naturally.”
—Robert Melendez, MD, MBA

As Dr. Melendez noted, aspiring and young ophthalmologists should make it a point to study interesting cases to ensure that we are providing the best patient care possible. This practice can help us to build rapport with potential employers, elevate our clinical and theoretical knowledge of challenging subjects within ophthalmology, and increase the quality of care we provide.

2. “It’s an exciting time for ophthalmology; we’re constantly learning more about new management options to improve the health care needs of our patients.”
—Audrey Talley Rostov, MD

Dr. Talley Rostov reiterated the importance of staying up to date on innovations in the field, such as new surgical techniques or less-invasive management approaches. If this is an area you are passionate about, don’t be afraid to show your enthusiasm, she said.

3. “Relationships matter most;
be nice to people.”
—R.V. Paul Chan, MD, MSc, MBA, FACS

Great physicians and administrators are, above all else, people. Remember to give everyone a fair, warm welcome, and offer support to fellow colleagues during difficult times, advised Dr. Chan. Connecting with individuals on a personal level provides a golden opportunity to bond over similar experiences.

4. “Make it about everybody else during your first few years of practice; understand roles and rhythms of the practice because you don’t want to disrupt that and make moves from the start.”
—Blake K. Williamson, MD, MPH

When visiting different institutions or during your first days as a resident or a fellow, familiarize yourself with the schedule of that provider and the nuances of the practice, said Dr. Williamson. When given the opportunity, make your interests known and share your unique skill set; doing so could potentially benefit you in building your career.

5. “Life throws you curveballs; establish what is important and be flexible with the other things. You need support, but give yourself a pass emotionally.”
—Julie Schallhorn, MD, MS

Dr. Schallhorn reminded us that hardships and challenges are bound to occur, but acting with integrity and being true to ourselves will help in the face of adversity. Be open to new approaches during your journey, and be persistent. Establish possible back-up plans and get comfortable with unexpected realities so that you can be prepared for every scenario presented to you, she said.

6. “Think strategically about ways to become successful in ophthalmology.”
—Eric Donnenfeld, MD

Establish relationships with various mentors and reflect on their perspectives in order to build an environment of continuous growth and remain adaptable, suggested Dr. Donnenfeld. Engage with local and regional leaders in person and through online platforms, and take advantage of these meetings to sharpen your abilities, he said.

7. “Always be true to yourself, and be allies for each other.”
—Cathleen McCabe, MD.

I found this advice from Dr. McCabe to be particularly poignant because it aligns with my core values. Ophthalmology has a powerful and transformative role in medicine as a specialty that can directly affect a patient’s quality of life. As we carve out our own paths, we can pay it forward by helping others along the way—a beautiful notion of a continuous cycle of appreciation.

Carolline Menezes
  • MD candidate, Federal University of São João del-Rei, São João del-Rei, Brazil
  • carollinemenezes@outlook.com
  • Financial disclosure: None