Industry Insider is a timely chat with an ophthalmic industry thought leader.
Lisa Nijm, MD, JD, has served as president since July 2018 of the international organization Women in Ophthalmology (WIO), which promotes the work and leadership of women in the ophthalmic field. WIO will hold its signature Summer Symposium Aug. 22-25 at Coeur D’Alene Resort in Idaho. Dr. Nijm also practices as a cornea, cataract and refractive specialist at the clinic she founded, Warrenville EyeCare and LASIK, in Warrenville, Ill., and serves on the teaching faculty at Chicago’s University of Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary.
Ophthalmology Management: What is the mission of WIO?
Lisa Nijm, MD, JD: WIO is focused on promoting and enhancing the personal and professional development of women ophthalmologists. WIO recognizes outstanding academic, scientific and humanitarian achievements in ophthalmology and provides education, support and networking opportunities for women to fulfill their leadership goals.
Presently, there are 40% to 50% female trainees in ophthalmology residency programs, but how many women department chairs, full professors, researchers, speakers or practice owners are there by comparison? Diversity in leadership has not yet caught up to the number of women entering the field in ophthalmology. WIO works together with academic chairs, industry partners and thought leaders to open the doors for women ophthalmologists to attain those leadership positions. Further, we strive to provide them with mentorship opportunities and educational resources to hone their professional skills for success.
Many businesses have recognized the importance and value of having diversity in the workplace, and that is reflective in the medical field as well. It is of critical importance to have leadership that represents the changing demographic of ophthalmologists and the patient population we’re entrusted to care for. Doing so brings a wider array of perspectives and skills to the field, and that only benefits patients. By making a conscious effort to increase diversity, we can all work together — men and women — to better serve our patients.
OM: What are your goals for WIO in 2019?
LN: We have been fortunate to experience exponential growth in the last few years. Our momentum began with the 2017 Summer Symposium, where we revamped the meeting content and doubled the attendance to over 300 ophthalmologists. We focused on a robust scientific schedule that offered more than 20 hours of CME, six wet labs, 100 research posters, daily networking events and five workshops on professional development. We now expect 400 to 450 ophthalmologists at the meeting this year, and our membership has increased 27% over the last two years. Given this growth, we are now dedicating our efforts to increasing our yearlong engagement of our members.
To that end, we will be starting a WIO Listserv electronic mailing list for our members, which will allow them to comfortably communicate between meetings internationally, share their thoughts on challenging cases, provide support, exchange resources and give feedback.
To provide further education throughout the year, WIO will also be engaged in quarterly webinars highlighting topics of key interest from the summer symposium. Further, we have greatly increased our scientific sessions and collaborative networking events at other meetings and with other organizations.
We kicked off the year with a joint reception with OWL at Hawaiian Eye, a networking event for our academic leaders at AUPO, a joint reception at the Envision Summit, scientific lunch symposia at AGS and networking partnership with Cornea 360. After the summer symposium, we will also have a scientific session at AAO on “Mobile Eye Technology to Enhance Patient Care in the Digital Age” and a large networking reception. Internationally, we have WIO chapters in Canada, India and Nepal that will be holding combined meetings later this year.
Next year, WIO will also have scientific sessions in conjunction with ASCRS, Cataract Surgery: Telling it Like It Is and the World Ophthalmology Congress. Our goal is that, whatever meeting our members are attending, we want them to know WIO will be there.
OM: How does your background as an attorney assist you in your current role?
LN: From the time I chaired the annual meeting in 2017, WIO has experienced outstanding organizational growth. My background as an attorney has helped me lead our board to strategically identify and implement the steps needed to evolve and expand our efforts to take WIO to the next level.
I pursued a six-year dual degree MD-JD program because I knew I wanted to practice medicine, but I also felt how important it was as a physician to advocate for patients both inside and out of the office. My dedication to serving on WIO and changing the demographics in leadership comes from the same passion to advocate for my patients.
I have been fortunate to work on behalf of patients through many endeavors on the state and national level. I presently serve as one of four delegates from the AAO to the American Medical Association to advocate for health policy on behalf of ophthalmology. For over 10 years, I have worked with other dedicated colleagues to advocate for policies that impact ophthalmic patients and physicians, from research funding to greater transparency in healthcare. It is a privilege to utilize my knowledge and experience in medicine and law for the betterment of our patients and our profession. OM
For more information on WIO, including registration for their Summer Symposium Aug. 22-25, visit www.wioonline.org .