As we embark on another AAO meeting, I am reflecting on what drives us to do what we do and how we do it. How do we manage our careers and our busy lives? Can we achieve the holy grail of work/life balance? What inspires us, and what allows us to re-charge?
CREDIT GOES TO TEACHERS AND MENTORS
Several people inspired and challenged me to become the surgeon and clinician I am today. In medical school and residency at Washington University in St. Louis, Mort Smith, MD, taught me not just ophthalmology but also the importance of teaching, learning and how to be an effective educator. I hear his words echo in me as I teach fellows and colleagues and present at the podium, infusing humor and humility into presentations.
In residency, Jay Pepose, MD, PhD, introduced me to cornea, combining clinical with basic science research and maintaining high ethical standards in all aspects of research and patient care.
During fellowship, my mentor, Dick Lindstrom, MD, furthered my clinical knowledge and surgical skills, encouraged excellence, provided me with a first-hand look at the cycle of innovation working with industry, supported me and helped me achieve confidence in the face of adversity. He continues to provide me with wise council.
BALANCING DUTIES WITHIN EYE CARE
I have a busy private practice with five partners, 24 doctors (MDs and ODs) in six locations with four ASCs, and I perform cornea, cataract and refractive surgery. I am also actively involved in global health and have worked for the last 10+ years with SightLife, an organization committed to eliminating corneal blindness worldwide. As a surgeon trainer and a global medical director at SightLife, I teach and train cornea surgeons, provide consulting and curriculum development. Additionally, I work with a prevention program training female community health-care volunteers in India and Nepal in the early diagnosis and treatment of corneal injuries. I thrive as a lifelong learner in a culture of continuous improvement.
This work inspires me and challenges me to be a better surgeon and emphasizes the importance of reducing the global burden of corneal blindness through a sustainable system of teaching and training. My private practice provides the economic means that allow me to volunteer my time and efforts in my “other” global health career. This balance of my practice and global work inspires me to continue to learn and develop new techniques in corneal care.
Other aspects of ophthalmology that fill my professional time are industry consulting and serving on review and editorial boards of professional journals. The innovation that can be achieved by working with industry partners is mission critical for the advancement of our field. My research interests include advanced and presbyopic IOLs, applications of femtosecond lasers and innovations in corneal transplantation.
Also, my involvement in societies and committees furthers my knowledge and enjoyment of ophthalmology. I have met amazing colleagues through board participation in Ophthalmic World Leaders (OWL), CEDARS/ASPENS and SightLife. These connections have afforded me new research opportunities, practice management solutions, global health involvement and friendships.
TIME FOR FAMILY AND SELF CARE
Aside from my roles in ophthalmology, I am also a spouse, partner, mother of three children and an athlete. Making my family a priority has been of primary importance. My spouse is an equal partner who has made this possible. When my children were younger, my husband’s schedule allowed him to get the kids to school in the mornings, and my schedule allowed me to finish work in time to pick up my kids from sports or music practice and be home for them in the evenings. I also cut back my schedule to a 4-day work week and limited time away at meetings so that I could have more family time. Emphasizing family time while also sharing with them the joy and importance of a rewarding career and the value of service has not always been easy to balance; however, leading by example and sharing core values has hopefully helped guide our kids into adulthood.
My two younger children and my husband have traveled with me to India and witnessed the need for health care in underserved communities. My daughter Micaela has done community service at LV Prasad in Hyderabad, India and worked with Peace Corps volunteers in Senegal; she’s also studied in Cuba while in college and is currently a Fulbright scholar in Mexico City working in economic development promoting Latina women in underserved communities in the tech field. My son Aaron has been to India four times, spent a summer doing research at LV Prasad in Hyderabad and is currently in his first year of medical school in New York. My husband inspires me to be my best self and is my most ardent supporter. We are active travelers for both work and non-work trips, which allows us to enjoy quality time together. Spending time with family and creating and sharing meaningful experiences both domestically and abroad produces cherished lifelong memories.
Making time for self-care is also important. I start my day around 5:40 a.m. and run, swim or work out with my trainer on a daily basis. Starting with exercise allows me to increase my metabolism and focus and provides me with energy for my day.
I also take breaks during surgery day for yoga and even introduced #corneawarriors yoga breaks to surgical teams in India and Nepal. Yoga helps to improve focus, provides a break from the intensity of surgery and helps us care for our bodies as well as our minds.
Another AAO is here. What can we learn, what can we take home and how can we continue to inspire and be inspired? Remember to have gratitude for our teachers and mentors, appreciate our spouses and families and take time for ourselves to exercise, recharge and reflect. OM