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Outstanding Female Leader in Ophthalmology | Sept/Oct '19

Outstanding Female Leader in Ophthalmology:
Priyanka Sood, MD

Dr. Sood is an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at Emory University and the Chief of Service at Emory Midtown Hospital.

1. Please share with us your background.

I grew up in Buffalo, New York, with my parents, older sister, and younger brother. I was part of the combined 7-year Honors Program in Medical Education at Northwestern University. I then completed my residency training at Emory University, followed by my fellowship at Weill Cornell Medical College. My background is fairly unique in that, after training, I was fortunate to stay on as faculty at Cornell for a few years before joining a private practice in Boston for a couple of years. I subsequently returned to Emory to take on an administrative role and return to a wonderful department and thus have been exposed to the unique perspectives of an academician, a private practitioner, and an administrator.

Another unique aspect of my background is that both of my siblings are also ophthalmologists. My sister is a glaucoma specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, and my brother trained in uveitis and is now completing his final year of a surgical retina fellowship. We never planned to all pursue ophthalmology, but, with such a phenomenal specialty, how could we not?

2. What is the focus of your current research?

My research focus is currently evolving. After transitioning into an administrative position at Emory, I became very interested in better understanding the challenges that physicians face in practice. Burnout rates among physicians have risen dramatically in the past decade, compared with burnout rates in the general working population.

Although most people assume that ophthalmologists are immune to burnout, I was interested to find that a 2019 Medscape survey showed that ophthalmologists had a burnout rate of 34%.1 With one in three of our colleagues currently experiencing burnout, I am hoping to understand the sources of this moral injury. Some causes, such as EHR and loss of autonomy, may be universal to all medical subspecialties; however, I am interested to see if there are specific aspects of the practice of ophthalmology that can be addressed.

3. What has your experience been collaborating with industry?

Fantastic! I enjoy collaborating with industry members and getting to be involved in conversations about the future of ophthalmology. Collaborations between physicians and our industry partners are paramount to achieving our goal of taking superior care of patients and providing hope for innovations in diagnosis and treatments.

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

The faculty of Emory’s department of ophthalmology is now 50% female, which is phenomenal and one of the reasons that I was so excited to return. We have many female faculty members who have been promoted to the highest levels of academia, and I am fortunate to have strong female mentors such as Maria Aaron, MD; Nancy Newman, MD; Purnima Patel, MD—among many others! Our role is evolving in that there are now more women in positions to serve as role models for younger generations to learn from and look up to.

5. What, if any, hurdles do you feel women in health care still face?

There are still many hurdles, including work-life balance, compensation inequities, and career advancement, to name a few. Imposter syndrome is felt by both males and females, but it is far more prevalent among female physicians and affects all of the aforementioned hurdles. We need to recognize that our achievements did not happen by accident and to believe in our ability to complete the long-term goals we have worked so hard to accomplish.

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

Seek out your “people.” I am not referring only to mentors but to peers and mentees as well. Make sure to form a community—as women, this is where we thrive! Sometimes work, family, or community obligations make it more challenging to attend national meetings and stay connected to our former mentors and coresidents; however, there are so many ways to build community.

When I first moved to Boston for private practice, I found it a bit isolating. I was fortunate that Bonnie Henderson, MD, had become a mentor and friend, and, with her guidance, we reenergized an organization that she had started called Women Ophthalmologists of New England (WONE). This organization provided an opportunity for local women ophthalmologists to gather periodically and support one another personally and professionally. Additionally, online groups such as Ophthalmology Moms Group (OMG) and Physician Moms Group have been a source of community for many of my friends. However it is accomplished, being part of a community of supportive individuals is vital to our success!

7. Can you propose a unique or creative idea that may help women in ophthalmic practices?

It is not a unique idea, but my advice is simply to stay curious. My path in work and in life has been anything but planned, and I have been fortunate to have had amazing experiences that happened only because I stayed curious!

1. Kane L. Medscape National Physician Burnout, Depression & Suicide Report 2019. Medscape. January 16, 2019. www.medscape.com/slideshow/2019-lifestyle-burnout-depression-6011056?faf=1#3. Accessed October 23, 2019.


1. Tucker S, Sood P. Flap complications from femtosecond laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis. US Ophthalmic Review. 2019;12(1):21-27.

2 Sood P. I don’t have a femtosecond laser; what strategies work best for a white cataract? Cataract & Refractive Surgery Today. October 2018.

3. Beckman KA, Rocha KM, Sood P, Stephenson PDG. Fluctuating vision. Cataract & Refractive Surgery Today. September 2018.

4. Katsev DA, Rowen S, Schultz T, Dick HB, Sood P, Talley Rostov AR. Cataract surgery after 32-cut radial keratotomy. Cataract & Refractive Surgery Today. June 2018.

5. Crandall AS, Donaldson K, Greenwood MD, Sood P, Wolsey DH, Talley Rostov AR. Monocular diplopia 15 years after surgery. Cataract & Refractive Surgery Today. June 2017.

6. Wang Y, Kornberg DL, St Clair RM, et al. Corneal nerve structure and function after long-term wear of fluid-filled scleral lens. Cornea. 2015;34(4):427-432.

7. Ciralsky JB, Chapman KO, Rosenblatt MI, et al. Treatment of refractory persistent corneal epithelial defects: a standardized approach using continuous wear PROSE therapy. Ocul Immunol Inflamm. 2015;23(3):219-224.

8. Sood P. One to watch. MillennialEYE. January/February 2015.

9. Sood P. Apple shmapple? This is about Google Android. MillennialEYE. September 2013.

10. Fernandez AG, Radcliffe NM, Sippel KC, et al. Boston type I keratoprosthesis-donor cornea interface evaluated by high-definition spectral-domain anterior segment optical coherence tomography. Clin Ophthalmol. 2012;6:1355-1359.

11. Sood P, Woodward M. Patient Acceptability of the Tecnis multifocal intraocular lens. Clin Ophthalmol. 2011;5:403-410.


  • American Academy of Ophthalmology | 2008 to Present
  • American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery | 2008 to Present
  • Cornea Society | 2011 to Present
  • New England Ophthalmologic Society | 2015 to 2017
  • Georgia Society of Ophthalmology | 2008 to 2011