Advocacy in Ophthalmology


Discover how advocacy can impact your clinical work and ultimately patient care.

(Image credit: Adobe stock/ rh2010)

(Image credit: Adobe stock/ rh2010)

Real World Ophthalmology recently released a podcast with cataract and refractive surgeon Dr. Ravi Goel, an instructor at Wills Eye in Philadelphia and a leader in organized medicine. In this episode titled “Advocacy in Ophthalmology,” Dr. Goel highlights several benefits to being an advocate as a physician and how to do so.

We outline some of his main points here but be sure to listen to the full episode for detailed tips on the importance of advocacy in Ophthalmology!

3 Takeaways for Advocating in Ophthalmology:

1. The end goal of advocacy is to improve the health of our patients

2. What happens at the state and federal level, does affect ophthalmologists

3. As long as we stay true to the mission of improving our patients’ sight, we can move the field forward

Why advocate?

As physicians, we have the ability to advocate for our patients beyond the office. We can interact with our colleagues in other specialties and our lawmakers to improve healthcare for our patients.

Dr. Goel recounts his longstanding involvement in the American Medical Association, beginning with his time in medical school. However, adter going into practice, he describes a time where he fought optometrists wanting to perform laser eye surgery in his state through lobbying and advocacy. This incident pushed him to write a letter to the editor advocating for optometrists to go to medical school and learn surgery if they want to perform lasers. Scope of practice, he says along with Dr. Nijm, is one of the hottest topics in our field right now. He goes on to say that Medicare reimbursement and prior authorization are two of the other topics at the forefront of most physicians’ minds that need improvement.

Beyond Ophthalmology

Ophthalmologists have the opportunity to help other specialties and other fields within medicine as there is a lot of interplay with our issues, particularly scope of practice. Ophthalmologists might be 2-3% of physicians in the country, but within the AMA we make up 5-6% of voting leadership.

Ophthalmology, Optometry, Optician

The “3 O’s,” he describes: “What is the carve out, what is in the best interest of the patient.” Twenty to thirty years ago, Ophthalmologists already saw the scope of practice issue surface, which most subspecialties are now facing for the first time. So, using our experience with these “3 O’s”, we can help other fields by drawing on our experience and have them advocate effectively for themselves and for us, which ultimately helps protect our patients’ visions.

How to get involved in advocacy as a young Ophthalmologist

Mid-Year Forum, hosted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, is an event held every April where residents, fellows, and early career attendings can fly in to Washington, DC and get paired with mentors and peers from their state to talk to legislators about pressing issues within Ophthalmology. Young Ophthalmology is an active committee of the AAO for anyone interested who wants to get more involved.

While residency can feel like “drinking from the water hose,” there are still ways to be involved. Many states are looking for residents to become leaders. “No matter what you do and how you get involved, as long as we share that mission of protected sight, we can move the field forward.”

Ophthalmology is Groundbreaking

Artificial intelligence and telemedicine are still in their infancy stages, but we have a lot of potential moving forward. Much the research and growth in these spaces are funded through the National Eye Institute and grants, which are directly affected by the advocacy efforts we make on the Hill. It’s yet another reason way we advocate, and it trickles down to improving patient care through new treatments and innovations.

The advancement in the next 25 years is going to be massive. Look how far it’s come already with glaucoma treatments in the last few years!

Check out the full episode on Spotify, Apple podcast, Cast box or on our website for more detailed tips from Dr. Goel on getting involved in advocacy, how advocacy impacts the lives of patients, and more.

Aaishwariya Gulani is a PGY1 at University of Tennessee Memphis. Tune in to the Real World Ophthalmology Podcast to learn from the experts in the field. Real World Ophthalmology is a platform made for and by early career ophthalmologists and trainees to enhance education and practice.
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