In his debut blog, Joshua Mali, MD, gives advice to his fellow residents on how to secure a stellar ophthalmic career.
Editor’s Note: Welcome to “Eye Catching: Let's Chat,” a blog series featuring contributions from members of the ophthalmic community. These blogs are an opportunity for ophthalmic bloggers to engage with readers with about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The series continues with this blog by Joshua Mali, MD, a vitreoretinal surgeon at The Eye Associates, a private multispecialty ophthalmology practice in Sarasota, FL. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of Ophthalmology Times or UBM Medica.
It's a long journey for us. Four years of undergraduate education. Four years of medical school. Four years of residency training. Possibly even another year or two of fellowship (in my case a two-year vitreo-retinal surgical fellowship). All you can think is: finally done and ready to start!
After just completing my first week of my career as a vitreo-retinal surgeon, I felt compelled to offer a few words of wisdom and ideals that have guided me to a successful start and hopefully a rewarding career in ophthalmology.
1) Have confidence in your training
Now you're on your own. No attending back up. You are solely responsible for every single patient. At first, this may seem daunting. However, have trust in your training and your surgical abilities.
Coming from Albany, New York, I was blessed to receive excellent training during my residency and fellowship. Our practice and regional medical center managed essentially any and every pathology imaginable. Therefore, I feel comfortable with anything that comes my way. Whether it is the bread and butter retinal detachment repair or the metallic intraocular foreign body case, my training has prepared me well for any scenario. For me, this gives me the confidence to handle any surgical case or unusual patient presentation.
Especially when starting out, make yourself available to utilize all the techniques and treatment strategies in your arsenal so that you can offer your patients (and referring physicians) a wide range of services to demonstrate that you are a versatile clinician and surgeon. This will ensure a continued flow of referrals and demonstrate your confidence in managing your patients.
It is important to go visit the operating room or surgery center you will be working at prior to performing any scheduled surgeries.
Make sure to inspect the equipment, meet the staff you will be working with, be familiar with the instruments they have, and feel free to request particular instruments that you have utilized in your training. Try to form a comfortable environment in which to operate so that you can perform to the best of your abilities. Also, continue any of the traditional routines and good habits that you picked up during your residency training and/or fellowship. For example, I still do my typical pre-surgical routine since I was a resident and expanded upon it during my fellowship. It gives me a sense of consistency and focus that makes my surgery days go smoothly.
Photo credit: ©Lorena Fernandez/Shutterstock.com
Starting your career is a continuation of the success you had during your training. This is my opportunity to put into practice what I was trained to do. Now the overwhelming feeling turns into excitement about delivering high quality eye care to all my patients here in Florida.
2) Always be polite and courteous to your staff and colleagues
While this may seem obvious, it cannot be stressed enough. Remember, you will probably see these people more than your family, so start treating them as such. These relationships will be lifelong and it is important to put in the time and effort to cultivate each and every relationship with all technicians, front desk staff, OR staff, nurses, and other physicians in the practice. Go the extra mile and help your staff in every way possible. Take the opportunity to make their lives easier and I guarantee they will make yours even easier. Spend the time to get to know them on a personal level.
Practicing medicine is a team game, every player is important!
3) Be available to your practice and patients
This is a critical point as you must be available in order to build your practice. Someone once told me “if the doctor is not available when the patient needs them the most, then what good is it having a doctor.” It is vital to show your worth early on to your colleagues and patients in order to build a strong foundation of trust and responsibility.
Take the time to develop strong relationships with your patients as this will be your first meeting them so you want to make a great first impression. I usually try to write something in their chart that is memorable or interesting they mention to me about their lives so that next time I see them I can mention it. Patients are very impressed when you can recall something about their personal life and it helps build that personal connection.
Although our profession is still bogged down by government regulation and insurance companies, the one thing that has not changed is the physician-patient relationship. It is built on trust, compassion, and the Hippocratic oath. Honor and cherish this relationship and you will have a rewarding practice.
4) Market yourself
Especially when moving to a new area or building your own practice, advertising can go a long way. Market yourself as if you were trying to build a business. Billboards, TV ads, newspapers, and social media are ways to establish yourself and get your image in people's minds. It's a great feeling when your patient sitting in the exam chair says “Dr. Mali, I saw you on TV this morning”. Not only is it a nice conversation starter with the patient, but gives you legitimacy right off the bat.
Furthermore, if you can live up to your reputation, they will tell all their friends about you as well. Other things that may help: consider taking call at the local hospital to get your name out there to local physicians, go out and meet referring physicians, develop relationships with industry, and engage in community activities and social events to spread the word about your new practice.
Reach out to your local pharmaceutical representatives as they will be your liaisons for obtaining up-to- date information about products for your patients. Try to meet with them (even during your first week) to establish this relationship. They are an excellent resource and can be an asset to your practice. It is important to establish yourself early on and be knowledgeable about all the treatment options in the marketplace.
5) Make sure to have balance in your life
Building your career is important but equally important is building yourself. Make time for your family. Continue spiritual pursuits and recreational activities that make you happy and give you a sense of purpose. Incorporate an exercise routine into your day. In order to help your patients, you must keep yourself healthy: mind, body, and soul.
All the sacrifices were well worth it. Now you can see the light at the end of the tunnel and it feels fantastic. This is the start of your career.