In reading the features for this month’s issue I realized that, in a way, we’re continuing a thread we started with October’s feature on ergonomics. That one dealt with your personal, physical and emotional well-being as you interact with your environment as a surgeon. This month’s features do more of the same, but with an expanded emphasis on the well-being of the profession and practice of ophthalmology.
It’s common to find the literature on physician dissatisfaction referring to the middle of the last century as the golden age of the physician, and just as common to hear many of our typical readers decry having arrived on the scene just in time to miss that boat. The managed-care era of the later 20th century, the continuing plague of malpractice gone wild and its disproportionate impact on surgical specialties, and the increasing deterioration of the health-care system in general all led to widespread reports of physician dissatisfaction. Starting around 2000, by simply extrapolating the number of articles posing one ubiquitous question, you would deduce that by today, residents would be hell-bent on starting a family just so they could tell their children not to go into medicine.
Maybe things aren’t so bad, at least in ophthalmology. One factor that one of those earlier studies revealed as vital to ophthalmologists’ satisfaction remains a hallmark of the specialty. The study compared general internists, cardiologists and ophthalmologists and the key reason for satisfaction in each. Eye surgeons rated the highest of the three and attributed it to being able to achieve “medical success.” Pretty hard not to be satisfied when you can preserve and in many cases restore a patient’s vision.
But the oft-predicted decline in interest in medicine as a career that was so prevalent in those turn-of-the-century articles also seems to have been off target. As our cover story shows, interest in medicine as measured by medical school applications remains robust. Today’s students and residents are certainly not what they were 20 years ago, but what is? If you want an antidote to medical doom and gloom, see page 18.
Another frequent prediction in past articles was the coming exodus from private practice by physicians of every stripe. It turns out that, historically, other than during the aforementioned golden age, this is not all that unusual a sentiment and has long been noted among private practitioners. We’re not here to downplay concerns about the serious and legitimate challenges that face private practice ophthalmologists. But as our article on page 30 suggests, there are paths to success, some well-worn, some new. Again, same as it ever was.
As we enter another holiday season and start a new year, we wish you well, we thank you for reading the Review, and we hope that this month’s features leave you feeling a little better about your profession.