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How to express your passion through innovation: pearls for young ophthalmologists


Murtaza Adam, MD, a vitreoretinal specialist with Colorado Retina Associates, shares a few principles he has found helpful when engaging with industry or trying to execute on your own innovation.

Video transcript

Note: This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Murtaza Adam, MD: Hello, my name is Murtaza Adam. I go by Mu. I am a vitreoretinal specialist in Denver, Colorado with Colorado Retina Associates. I'm also the Chair of Clinical Research at our private practice. I've been in practice now for approximately 5 years after fellowship.

I'm going to be giving a talk at AAO for the young ophthalmologists on how to express your passion through innovation. I've been very fortunate in my career to have mentors that have really embodied the spirit of passion and innovation in their work, in their clinical duties, and in their research. I've tried my best to harness those relationships with my mentors and to carry forward that tradition that they instilled in me through my training. When it comes to just general principles about engaging with industry, or trying to execute on your own innovation, there's a few principles that I think are very helpful.

One is being okay with a little bit of sleep deprivation. Nothing worthwhile gets done without losing a little sleep.

Two is being okay with failure. Many of the ideas that we have—whether it's in the shower or in the clinic—they can fall flat. And that's okay. For every 10 bad ideas, there's 1 or 2 that actually might have legs on them. It's important to try to follow through with all of them.

Three is a willingness to converse and collaborate. One of the great things about the American Academy of Ophthalmology meeting is that there are people from all over the country with all kinds of backgrounds to exchange ideas with. That simple, either whether it's engaging in a lecture, or talking with colleagues at an open paper session, or simply sharing a meal, you can learn a lot. You can generate ideas. As a retina specialist, I've borrowed ideas from cataract surgeons or from glaucoma specialists in how I approach my own surgical practice.

Finally, when it comes to collaborating, it's really about not saying no to any opportunity. You never know what, whatever comes knocking on your door, what could come of it. In my practice, and in my professional career, if someone from industry, whether it's an MSL [medical science liaison] or a sales rep for a company, I don't close my doors to them. I engage with them. Occasionally those interactions are not fruitful for either party. Sometimes we learn a lot about each other. We learn a lot about our passion to innovate, both within our clinic and then for the field in general. And those industry people are helpful in making connections to those that have more influence.

I view my work as work, but it's also a part-time hobby. When I go home, I give my time to my family and then sometimes I'll just work on a paper at night, or I will work on a collaboration that I have with someone at a university setting. It's important to always stay engaged, because if you let an idea go, it dies where you left it in your brain. If you share that idea, if you publish it, if you write, if you express your idea, and you follow through, one of those things will actually make a tangible difference.

For me, personally, I'm not looking to make a startup or retire early. I simply want to make changes in clinical practice that will reduce morbidity, mortality, and improve visual function for patients. For me, it's been very simple things.

I've cut out anesthesia from my surgical practice, because I think there's a lot of advantages to that. I'm publishing work on that. I'm using intravitreal antibiotics at the end of vitreoretinal surgery to reduce endophthalmitis risk. I'm switching from Betadine to chlorhexidine to reduce the risk of intravitreal injection endophthalmitis and reduce ocular toxicity associated with RBIs.

These projects that I've come up with come through reading papers or conversations. Most importantly, I'm collaborating with others so I can publish that data. I can actually prove that the idea has legs. And so, again, these are not ideas... they're not going to make a million dollars, but I think they're ideas that anyone can have and anyone can follow through on to make a meaningful difference in the lives of patients.

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