At the podium: Be seen, be heard


In this quartery column in association with Ophthalmic Women Leaders, Beiting launches the series with five pearls for anyone seeking more exposure from the podium.

Editor's Note: In association with Ophthalmic Women Leaders (OWL), Ophthalmology Times introduces this quarterly column in line with the organization's core principles of leadership, advancement, and community. Jan Beiting launches the series with five pearls for anyone seeking more exposure from the podium, male or female. First, some background about OWL.

OWL is the pre-eminent nonprofit organization for the professional development and advancement of women in the ophthalmic industry. Led by accomplished women executives and industry experts, OWL members-both women and men-are from the medical, corporate, and academic communities.

As an organization, OWL has come a long way since it was founded in 2003. We have a strong board, dedicated staff, and effective partnerships with our sponsors. The range of educational and networking opportunities that OWL offers has grown tremendously over the years (see OWL Programs, below).

When it comes to the "share of voice" at major medical meetings, it makes sense to seek out a range of views, clinical experience, and practice styles. It also seems intuitive that women's participation ought to parallel their representation in the field. That proportion is clearly growing, with women now holding more than 40% of ophthalmology residency slots.

But a glance at the faculty for almost any educational session will quickly reveal that women are far from having a 4-in-10 presence at the podium. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that, as a group, women ophthalmologists skew younger and more junior than the typical group of speakers and consultants. I asked some prominent female speakers, as well as colleagues in industry, to offer their best advice for residents who are just beginning to climb the ladder in their ophthalmic careers. Their top five pearls:

1. Do research. You don't have to head up a major NEI-funded multicenter study to get noticed, but you do have to have something to say. Valuable post-market research can be done on a smaller scale by anyone willing to design a study and gather data in their own clinical practice. Ask for research grants to pay for a statistician or writer or to provide the drugs or supplies you'll need for the study.

2. Submit abstracts. Some of the biggest names at the podium have a lot of help in keeping track of abstract submission deadlines and preparing abstracts and slides. But the process is clearly defined and open to all, so put the dates in your calendar and just do it.

3. Network. Beyond free paper sessions, there are many invited speaking opportunities, ranging from local medical society meetings, subspecialty sessions, and corporate-funded symposia. Product managers, marketing executives, and association, publication, and medical education company staff often have significant influence over who is selected for these opportunities. While they are always looking for fresh faces, caution and familiarity also play a role. Get to know these decision-makers and express an interest in speaking.

4. Be seen and heard. Blog, write articles, or volunteer to serve on clinical committees or editorial boards. In medicine as in politics, name recognition is key.

5 Hone your speaking skills. A speaker who can "hold a room" with humor or a commanding presence and deliver a message clearly and succinctly is always highly desirable.

Jan Beiting is a co-founder of Ophthalmic Women Leaders and its current president. She is also principal of Wordsmith Consulting, specializing in writing and educational content development for clients in ophthalmology and optometry.

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