Making the Most of Meetings

William Wiley, MD, and Neda Shamie, MD, speak with Gary Wörtz, MD, about what drives them to go to meetings and which meetings they most enjoy. Listen as they discuss how big meetings compare to boutique meetings, how to use these events to make meaningful connections, and what's in store for ME Live 2018 in Austin.

Gary Wörtz, MD: Why do we attend meetings? What makes a meeting appealing?

Part of the draw is the content—meetings give us a chance to learn, and some of us a chance to teach. But, meetings can offer much more than that. Beyond the lecture hall, there are opportunities to have discussions, share ideas, and build connections.

While larger meetings have their benefits, making time for meaningful interactions can be a challenge. Smaller events often provide a better platform for participation, close interaction, and even friendships.

MillennialEYE Live is one meeting where younger and older generations alike can benefit from the opportunity to learn from one another and build relationships.

Here today to give their thoughts on meetings are two of my fellow ME Live Program Chairs, Drs. Bill Wiley and Neda Shamie. First, Bill and I talk about how large meetings sometimes give us the feeling of being alone together, while smaller meetings offer a great way to form lasting relationships that can carry over to the bigger meetings. Later, Neda talks about how larger meetings give her a great opportunity to teach, but smaller meetings like ME Live offer more opportunity to learn.

Coming up, on Off the Grid.

Speaker 1: Ophthalmology off the Grid is an independent podcast supported with advertising by Alcon.

Gary: Welcome back to another episode of Ophthalmology off the Grid. This is Dr. Gary Wörtz, and I am now being joined by one of our frequent guests on Off the Grid, Bill Wiley. Bill, thanks for joining us.

Today, we're gonna talk a little bit about meetings. Why do we go to meetings? What meetings do we really enjoy? And also, I'd like to tell the folks, when we get a chance, about a special meeting coming up, MillennialEYE Live in Austin this year. And so, that little preamble aside, Bill, how have you been lately, bud?

Bill Wiley, MD: Hey, doing great, Gary. Thanks for having me on.

Gary: Excellent.

Bill: I appreciate it.

Gary: You know, it's kinda funny. Bill and I met, actually, at the airport. Do you remember this, Bill? It was, I think, 4 years ago, maybe 3 years ago, and it was one of these chance encounters that was very interesting. We met through a mutual friend, Daniel Chang, and it was actually because we were both coming home from a meeting, but we didn't meet at the meeting, we actually met at the airport. Do you recall that?

Bill: Yeah, no, I remember, and I remember you had Omega lens, like the original Gemini capsule, a prototype of that, and I remember, I was like, gosh, yeah, I've gotta learn more about that. Daniel Chang, as you know, a big optics guy in our field, and I thought, okay, I've got Gary Wörtz with this new platform that's gonna potentially change the nature of ophthalmology, and Daniel Chang as sort of a staple in optics and IOLs. You've gotta sit there at the airport, coming off of ASCRS or AAO, I can't remember which one it was, but that was one of the best parts of that meeting. It was interesting, as we're going home, leaving, we had this great conversation.

That kind of sparked sort of the idea of, “Why do we go to meetings?” and you had kind of asked me before, “What drives you to go?” And I think most of it is just the people that you run into, and some of it is the content their putting on, but the content is more of just sort of a framework to spark discussion that often, and most often, continues, you know, outside the lecture hall. And when you get a chance to interact with people that are putting these great ideas out there, putting content out there, and to talk personally with them and build a connection, and often, a lifelong connection, I think that's where the true value of these meetings comes from.

Gary: Bill, I couldn't have said it any better than that. You know, I was so busy in the first part of my career, I hardly was able to get away to go to meetings, but what was interesting is, as soon as I did, I actually started by going ... you know, I did the Academy and ASCRS, but it was like being alone together with 10,000 other ophthalmologists. I really didn't know anyone, and I ended up, for years, just sort of being by myself walking around the convention hall, and it wasn't until I went to a small meeting, actually, the first small meeting I went to was Kiaweh, where I actually met some friends—I met George Waring IV and Bill Trattler—who became really dear friends who I could then call and talk to about interesting cases or just commensurate with about something that was going on in my practice, and it was from there that I got introduced to some of the other meetings like AECOS meetings in Deer Valley and the AECOS meeting in Aspen, and eventually all of that has transpired into me really taking a more active role in the [ME Live] side of the meetings, and we've got this [ME Live] meeting coming up.

What's so great about that is, and the reason I'm kind of passionate about this meeting in particular is, I really feel like if we can get younger ophthalmologists—and it's not just for younger ophthalmologists, but I'll speak to them, just in particular—if we can get younger ophthalmologists to start engaging in the betterment of ophthalmology in their early part of their career, they don't have to be lonely together at these big meetings.

They can start finding other people who have a similar interest, and like you said before, it's not just about the content, although content is great, wet labs are great, we're gonna have all of that at [ME Live] this year, but it really, like you said, it's the spark of a conversation that may start in the lecture hall, but carry on outside the lecture hall. And to be honest, that's why I started Ophthalmology off the Grid. I really wanted to have a way to get these great conversations that typically happen outside of the lecture hall more to the masses, and I hope that [ME Live] in Austin this year is going to be one of those special meetings where we do have great discussion. And you're gonna be there, am I right?

Bill: Yeah, yeah. I'll be there and helping to frame some of that content and working with part of the team. And when you look at the individuals that are going to that meeting in particular, a lot of the young leaders in our field and the up-and-coming leaders within our field, and it's just the energy alone that's in that room is contagious, and I think it's a great experience to be there with people that are truly passionate about our field, and it helps to carry those sort of relationships onto some of the bigger meetings, like you mentioned.

I never really looked at that or thought of it, that sort of, alone together feeling, but you're right. Early in my career, same thing. I’d go to the Academy or ASCRS and just kind of walk around, just sort of overwhelmed, not really knowing anybody, and it wasn't until some of the more boutique meetings where you build these friendships and often lifelong relationships with people that you then carry onto the big meetings and make those actually more meaningful once you make those connections.

Gary: Yeah, and I've got a confession to make, and it's kind of embarrassing, but I think it may speak to what the larger meetings have become. I have been to almost every Academy and ASCRS meeting, and I have yet to be able to find the Binkhorst lecture, and am I alone in that? Have you attended a Binkhorst lecture?

Bill: I think you and I spoke about that, and, in my mind I said, okay, when Gary mentioned that, I think the first one he'll attend is maybe the one that you present at ASCRS.

Gary: Right. It's possible, but no one will be there, because no one can find it. So, I’ll be giving it just to a row of empty chairs, I fear. But, I say that kind of in jest, but, it can be at big meetings, sort of so overwhelming. There's so many things going on at the same time that it's really hard to plot your course at these bigger meetings to hit all of the lectures that you want, and what's nice about these smaller meetings in my mind is, things are not going on necessarily simultaneously, and one lecture may not be quite as applicable to your practice as the next, but what's nice about it is you're sort of going through this experience together and I feel like, actually, I get a lot more educationally out of a small meeting that does provide that sort of start-to-finish educational curriculum. I guess I'm just not a very good choose-your-own-adventure kind of guy.

Bill: Yeah, that's a good point. You're right. You can get lost in the crowd at the large meetings. I feel like, you know, from colleagues, but even industry aspects, if you want to sit down and have that discussion with one of the key individuals with a company that you're working with, often, that's hard to do at the large meetings, but you can get really meaningful interactions and work done at some of the smaller boutique meetings.

You can set up longer meetings or interactions that will get things done rather than just something quick or in passing that may occur at the large meetings, so, those are all good points.

Gary: Yeah, so if any of you are looking to go to [ME Live] this year, it is September 7-9. We're going back to the original home base for [ME Live], which is Austin, Texas. If you're interested in ophthalmology and anterior segment and you'd like to see what the energy is all about, we'd love to have you there.

I'm gonna be there, Bill's gonna be there. A lot of the young leaders in ophthalmology are gonna be there, and this is, I think, a great chance to come and get connected. If you'd like to sit down and talk about a case, talk about what's going on in your practice, there's gonna be time to do that with some of the people that hopefully a lot of people look up to and look to as mentors.

And so, we're actually gonna have some specific sessions about mentoring, and like I said, also, there's gonna be some great wet lab opportunities there also. Bill, thank you so much for giving us your perspective on meetings, what they mean to you, and, hey, without meetings, we would've never gotten a chance to meet and I'm so glad that we have. We've had a great friendship and I look forward to many years of sharing lots of interesting cases with you, bud.

Bill: Yeah. Thanks, Gary. Thanks for having me on. I really appreciate it.

Gary: Next, I speak with Dr. Neda Shamie, to get her thoughts on meetings and how she decides which ones to attend. A co-chair of ME Live, Neda talks about her role in the meeting and describes what this event offers that others cannot.

Gary Wörtz, MD: This is Gary Wörtz again with Ophthalmology off the Grid, and I have the distinct pleasure of speaking to my good friend, Neda Shamie. Neda and I go back a ways, but Neda is one of the co-chairs of [ME Live] this year, and I thought it would be a good idea to get Neda's opinion, not only about the things that she likes about [ME Live] and the things that she's excited about this year, but also just more generally what she looks for in a meeting.

So, Neda, with that little intro, thank you for coming on, and why don't give us a little bit of a background on the type of meetings that you like to go to. What kind of attracts you to a meeting?

Neda Shamie, MD: Of course. Thanks, Gary, for asking for me to come on this, and I always love chatting with you.

It's a very good question, and I actually recently have revisited my old thoughts as to what leads me to certain meetings and not others and why some meetings I'm much more excited about going to and not others. And I'll just kind of give a little background. I've been going to the American Academy of Ophthalmology and ASCRS every year since I was a resident, so that is almost a given. I think I only missed one throughout the years, and I think it was when I was in labor for my second child. I think I had a good excuse.

Gary: Yeah, that's a good excuse.

Neda: For those meetings, I feel like they're excellent meetings. It's a great opportunity for me to teach. I'm involved in a lot of kind of high-level advisory boards there and also just involved with the leadership in addition to courses and such, but I have come to realize that I go to those meetings, leave completely exhausted, and feel like I didn't leave with a whole lot of learning. And it was a lot of teaching, which I love to do, but the interactions were very short-lived, and it's almost like a job, like going to American Academy of Ophthalmology and ASCRS.

Gary: Right.

Neda: It's wonderful, and I'll continue to do it, but I was missing a lot. I was missing opportunity for networking. I was missing opportunity to really sit down and bounce ideas off of my colleagues or meet new people, learn new things, and so I then had to revisit my plan and what meetings to go to.

And in that, obviously [ME Live] was front and center for me. I mean, I was involved early on in the inception of the whole idea, with Tammy Bogetti and BMC really spearheading this and taking an idea or feedback from us as to what our needs were as ophthalmologists and what we're missing in the bigger meetings. And, as they do with everything they put their hands on, they [bring] it into fruition and really create something that absolutely answers to our needs, and that's exactly what [ME Live] has become.

And what it is, is everything that all the other meetings are not able to offer to me. And what that is, is a smaller size meeting that has opportunities for networking, and networking not just with industry, because there are a lot of meetings that are very industry-driven, this has that aspect to it, most definitely, but they've also somehow, I think through the use of technology and small group meetings and just the very interactive platform for presentations, they create a real opportunity for networking and interacting with colleagues.

And I think it was actually through [ME Live] that you and I really got to spend more time together, and I can't tell you how insightful the whole going to the meeting and sharing ideas with colleagues ... we all know how insightful our friends are, we just never have a chance to talk to them.

Gary: I totally agree. And just, not to interrupt, but I kind of hear what you're saying, and I'm thinking about my own experiences, and it seems like a lot of meetings, we go and we feel like we give a lot but don't necessarily get a lot from it. And I think the bigger meetings, there's a lot of giving, and that's fantastic, but you kind of know what you're getting into when you start signing up for those sorts of things.

Neda: Yeah, absolutely.

Gary: I think [ME Live] is kind of nice because, for some, it's a nice balance of give and take where you're maybe doing some lectures, but you're also learning a lot. But I think for younger ophthalmologists, this is something I spoke to Bill about as well, it's really hard in the giant sea of big meetings to find one or two new colleagues or new mentors or someone who's maybe just one step ahead of you in life to connect with and form a friendship and form a bond. And I find that the smaller meetings, I really end up not only with great clinical information, but I always come away with a friend or two.

And you go to enough of these meetings, and you really start developing a nice network of friends who are there for you when something's going on clinically, or even personally, with business or otherwise.

Neda: Yeah. No, absolutely. And I think if I can comment also, just going back to the presentation style, is that at the larger meetings, the presentation styles are a lot of kind of ... because just the sheer size of the meeting doesn't allow for interactive presentations as much, it's a lot of spoon-feeding. Even my lecturing style is very different at the Academy or ASCRS versus [ME Live].

[ME Live] really creates a platform of interactive lecturing, whether it's interactive lecturing among those who are on stage and presenting on a topic … there's a lot of kind of different opinions that are shared and controversies that are brought to the surface, and so you really get a sense that you see and hear all different aspects. And even when I'm presenting at [ME Live], I feel that I walk away having learned something new.

Gary: Absolutely.

Neda: And then obviously the audience feels much more involved in that process. And then I agree with you, with the younger generation, but also I'm not one of the younger generation anymore. It's been a while since I've been considered younger generation.

Gary: Oh, fake news. That's fake news. I disagree.

Neda: I have to tell you. I walk away from a meeting like [ME Live] being exposed to the younger generation who sees things differently than I did and I do now, and I walk away completely energized and infused with a whole new set of ideas and excitement about what I'm doing because they either reinvigorate my excitement about our field, but also give me ideas that I would have never thought about.

Gary: Right.

Neda: How to bring technology into my practice, how to use iPhones and iPads, and how to really kind of optimize my practice to fit the needs of the younger generation. You don't get that anywhere else.

So it's symbiotic. [The] younger generation most definitely gets mentorship out of that close interaction with the older generation. And then us, I get the benefit of really learning from the younger generation, all their really exciting ideas that my old brain just doesn't think of nowadays.

Gary: Well, listen. I totally agree with you, and again, at the larger meetings it seems like you have to achieve a certain level of success before you're invited to participate and really have a voice.

Neda Yes, that's true.

Gary: But that doesn't necessarily mean that younger folks, or even residents or just out of residency ... they have so much to give. They have so many fresh ideas, and, for me, I feel the exact same way, Neda. I am so excited not only just to see my friends who I've known for a while. I am so excited to meet the next generation while they're still in training or maybe when they're just getting out of training because there's so much energy, there's so much passion, and it's almost just like they are the ones with the great ideas. And it's really important, I think, for us to use [ME Live] as a platform for the younger generation to feel like they have a voice so they can get these great ideas out there before they're stale.

Neda: That's true. That's true. Yeah.

Gary: Before they've gone through their practice and are in 10 years, so.

Neda: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I learned how to tweet at [ME Live]. I started my Instagram account at [ME Live].

Gary: Right.

Neda: And it was one of the, kind of, the newer generation that was sitting next to me. We met and we chatted and I said, "Show me how to tweet."

Gary: Right.

Neda: And then my Instagram account and my professional Instagram account [were] built on [ME Live]. And just hearing how others have taken advantage of it and how they use it for marketing and social media and such, and this is truly the force of the younger generation. I mean, I can't teach the younger generation about how to use social media for marketing. They have mastered it.

Gary: Right. Right.

Neda: And so I can learn a lot from them. I think the other thing is it is really a progressive meeting. It's incredibly responsive to ideas, and I think maybe because they haven't become ... they're still growing and they're evolving, but just because of the premise that it was built on, it's continued its culture and it’s continued its identity in the sense that it responds to the needs of its audience and the ophthalmology world at large and industry also.

And so it's really fun to have a voice and give ideas and see your ideas be implemented in the next year's meeting. And, I don't know, I get so excited when [ME Live] is coming around, and I can't wait to be a part of it. And honestly, it's really a breath of fresh air. You sense it from the minute you start, from the social events, from the way, again, the stage is set up, the way you walk in and music is playing in the background. If I remember correctly, one of the sessions had a DJ, and it's just created in such a way that it's conducive to collaborative, just, social fun, but also [an] incredibly productive type of meeting that you leave energized, but with a whole new set of ideas.

This is the other thing I wanted to add: It's not just about clinical practice, but as we discussed, we already alluded to it with social media and social marketing, but there's a lot of discussions about business development.

Gary: Right.

Neda: And if you were interested in starting ... I left one practice and I had joined another practice as a partner and bought in to the practice. I can tell you, probably 80% of the ideas on how to negotiate this transition came out of my discussions I had during the social hours of [ME Live], and it's really amazing. I really wish more and more people would really be exposed to this because it just will reinvigorate the incredible field that we're in with ophthalmology.

Gary: Well, Neda, that is a wonderful synopsis. I completely share your views. I'm so excited about his year. Once again, it's in Austin, going back to where it started, September 7-9. And one thing that's a little bit different this year is there's actually going to be a number of wet labs.

There's going to be a phaco wet lab, there's going to be a MIGS wet lab, and there's also going to be a diagnostics wet lab. So, I think this is going to be just a fantastic meeting, and, for me personally, I get so excited, like you said, not just about meeting other colleagues but meeting the younger generation and learning from them.

So, thanks, Neda, for giving us your thoughts on this. I really hope to talk to you again soon. I know I'll see you at [ME Live], September 7-9

Neda: I'll see you there.

Gary: Meetings are about so much more than content. They’re also meant to foster discussion and interaction and help us build genuine connections so that we don’t have to feel alone among a sea of people.

ME Live will offer you the opportunity to get outside the convention center and truly get to know and learn from your peers. Join us in Austin this September.

This has been Ophthalmology Off the Grid. Thanks for listening.

Speaker 1: Ophthalmology off the Grid is an independent podcast supported with advertising by Alcon.