AAO’s 125th president starts one-year term

January 8, 2021
David Hutton

Tamara R. Fountain, MD, will serve as president of the American Academy of Ophthalmology after being elected by the organization’s community of ophthalmologists during its recent virtual annual meeting.

After accepting the gavel from outgoing American Academy of Ophthalmology President Anne L. Coleman at the AAO’s virtual annual meeting, Tamara R. Fountain this week begins her one-year term as the 125th president of the Academy.

Dr. Fountain, a professor of ophthalmology at Rush University Medical Center and an oculoplastic surgeon who runs her own practice in Deerfield, IL, was elected to leadership by the Academy’s community of 32,000 ophthalmologists. She will prioritize recovery and diversity: Recovery for a specialty hard hit by the pandemic and diversity in medicine that charts a path toward closing health disparities based on race and socioeconomic status.

“2021 will be the year to ‘right the ship’ as we recover from a most devastating year, for ophthalmologists and patients alike,” Dr. Fountain said. “This involves rebooting the practice of ophthalmology, the education of our trainees, and the clinical care of our patients. I’m honored to support colleagues across the globe in putting our patients’ health first and protecting their sight.”

According to the Academy, during 2020 ophthalmology lost more patient volume due to the COVID-19 pandemic than any other medical specialty. As 2021 begins, ophthalmologists are facing the possibility of deep Medicare cuts. Advocating for fair physician reimbursement is a top priority this year to ensure quality care for patients, Dr. Fountain said.

Dr. Fountain has served the ophthalmic community in several ways over the last 25 years, including as Academy secretary for Member Services and at-large member of the Board of Trustees. She also is a past president of the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and the Illinois Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons. She was awarded the Academy Lifetime Achievement Award and the Orkan Stasior Leadership Award.

Dr. Fountain earned her medical degree from Harvard and completed her residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital’s Wilmer Eye Institute. She then completed specialty training in plastic and reconstructive surgery at University of Southern California’s Doheny Eye Institute.

Peter J. McDonnell, chief medical editor of Ophthalmology Times®, and director of the Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, lauded Dr. Coleman and Dr. Fountain.

“We at Wilmer are proud of both of these individuals, who first met while training at our institute (Anne was a fellow in glaucoma while Tamara was a resident), and delighted that for the first time in the history of the AAO a woman outgoing president is being succeeded by another woman president and that both are former Wilmer trainees,” he said.

Dr. McDonnell noted that as a resident, Dr. Fountain’s faculty quickly recognized not only her clinical excellence but also her emotional intelligence as demonstrated by her caring for her patients and her positive relationships with her physician colleagues.

“Throughout her career, when Tamara said she would do something she always delivered; she does what she says she will do and she does it well,” he noted. “Following her training Tamara proved herself a person who was inquisitive and eager to take on new challenges, who was always looking to make things better, and was always willing to volunteer for assignments such as Academy committees and board duties for the benefit of her profession.”

In addition to her outstanding interpersonal skills. Dr. McDonnell said Dr. Fountain is clearly a “paragon of effective time management,” as she has been remarkably adept at juggling the demands of a busy oculoplastics practice, her family and her daunting commitments to professional organizations.

“We are fortunate that during this time of remarkable challenges our profession benefits from the wise leadership of colleagues like Tamara Fountain,” he said. “I am also grateful that at a time when half of the residents training in our ophthalmology departments are women that we have such remarkable role models leading our Academy.”