The American Academy of Ophthalmology's future to be based on core values, responsibilities

December 15, 2008

Throughout his address at the opening session of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) annual meeting, President David W. Parke II, MD said that Ophthalmologists need to recognize that they have "a unique and critical duty to preserve sight where imperiled and to restore sight where impaired," he said. Dr. Parke also suggested ophthalmologists, as physician professionals, follow these "unassailable and majestic" core values: A commitment to patient safety and quality care first; a personal responsibility for patients' welfare; a pledge to respect the dignity of the individual; to be effective stewards of the profession in the service of the public good.

Key Points

Atlanta-Throughout his address at the opening session of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) annual meeting, President David W. Parke II, MD, quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., because of the relevancy his words still have on the challenges faced today, nearly half a century later, in the ophthalmic profession and as a world in transition.

Dr. Parke said that having read several speeches "by one of Atlanta's most illustrious citizens," he realized much of Dr. King's message was about human values, individual responsibility, and a hope for the future. One statement in particular was compelling to Dr. Parke, however: "Where do we go from here?"

"First, we must massively assert our dignity and worth. We must stand up . . . and develop an unassailable and majestic sense of values," he said, quoting Dr. King.

"We will not achieve our goals unless and until we understand our own professional dignity and community worth and we massively assert them to society," he said. Because society has questioned the worth and value of physicians, and some ophthalmologists trivialize their skills and surgical procedures and their impact, those factors may, in turn, eventually alter the perception of the public that major surgery is a minor procedure, Dr. Parke said.

Ophthalmologists need to recognize that they have "a unique and critical duty to preserve sight where imperiled and to restore sight where impaired," he said.

Dr. Parke also suggested ophthalmologists, as physician professionals, follow these "unassailable and majestic" core values:

"That's not a bad start," he said, adding, "For values to be unassailable, they must be values that we consistently define by action at every opportunity. Only then will these values survive the crucible of public scrutiny and will we establish the foundation to lead our profession into the future."

Those core values must be supported by a coordinated advocacy strategy, according to Dr. Parke, especially because during the next several years, health-care policy makers and politicians will debate the relative value of health care.

Although ophthalmologists face an evolving professional future, however, the values "are our roots as a profession and they will serve us well in the courts of public opinion and policy development," he said.

"Thousands of our colleagues already donate many hours of volunteer time, in service to our ideals and to our profession," Dr. Parke continued.

"The future requires that we must all make similar commitments, or our efforts will be in danger," he said. "But we will win. As Dr. King said, 'When people get caught up with that which is right, and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory.' "

Concluding his address, Dr. Parke said that he is proud to a member of the AAO and of the ophthalmic profession.

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