Published in Non-Clinical

Advice for Early-Career Women Ophthalmologists

This is editorially independent content
7 min read

This article features a roundtable discussion between established women ophthalmologists discussing early-career advice for women in ophthalmology.

Advice for Early-Career Women Ophthalmologists
Getting established in ophthalmology practice can be a challenge for any early-career doctor, but for women—who still make up less than 40% of all ophthalmologists—getting their careers off on the right foot might seem particularly daunting.

Tips for early-career women ophthalmologists

Looking back at the start of my own career 5 years ago, I remember how the support and advice I received from other women was so valuable in helping me to create a strong foundation for my practice and build my confidence from the earliest days. Now that I’m well established in my career, I try to be intentional about passing along key learnings and good advice to other women who are just entering the field.
I recently had the good fortune of joining a couple of my EyeCare Partners colleagues, Linda Greff, MD, and Jessica Duddleston, MD, for a discussion about building a strong career in ophthalmology and the most valuable advice for early-career women ophthalmologists.
While the perspectives they shared were as varied as their experiences—Dr. Greff has been in practice at Cincinnati Eye Institute for more than 30 years and Dr. Duddleston just began practice last year at Alabama Vision Center in Birmingham—I believe their insights may be useful to women ophthalmologists at all levels, not just those who are at the beginning of their careers.
Here are some of the key takeaways from our discussion.

1. A strong network can be an essential resource.

Networking is often misconstrued as something people only need to do when they are searching for a job. In reality, a professional network is a tool that can be valuable at every stage of your career. A strong network can provide trusted counsel and feedback—particularly for those in small practices who may have a limited circle of colleagues.
“Networking can be helpful because you don’t always need to reinvent the wheel,” said Dr. Greff. “Your network can be an important source for new ideas and creative solutions.” For those who are new to practice, national organizations such as Women in Ophthalmology and events such as the Women in Medicine Summit can serve as great resources for making new contacts and expanding your network.
Dr. Greff, who was formerly the President of the Cincinnati Society of Ophthalmology, also recommends joining committees, whether they be in your practice or through regional or national organizations, as a way to continue learning and building new connections.
While networking with other ophthalmologists can have clear benefits, there is also value in having a diverse network that spans beyond the eyecare field. Connecting with colleagues who have different professional backgrounds can help you to broaden your thinking and see situations from new perspectives.
Networking outside of your specialty can also form beneficial relationships for you and your patients (thank you, infectious disease colleague for helping with that Lyme uveitis patient!). Mentorship delivers benefits at all career stages.

2. Understand the value of mentorship.

Like networking, the value of mentorship is also not always well understood, as it is often mistakenly seen as a tool only for those at the beginning of their careers. In fact, mentors—like a strong network—can be valuable throughout a career.
When I was a medical student and a resident, I was focused on getting to the next step, but now I’m thinking about what I want to accomplish in my career and what doors may be open to me in the future. As a result, I have sought out both men and women mentors with a diverse range of experience, backgrounds, and practice settings.
Dr. Duddleston commented that she has had several mentors who have helped her to not only strengthen her surgical skills as an ophthalmologist, but also have inspired her by providing positive examples of how to balance both work and personal life.
For women starting their ophthalmology careers, Dr. Duddleston suggests that mentor relationships don’t have to be extremely formal. She encourages early-career doctors to reach out to “people who inspire you or those who you are interested in emulating in some way” and ask to connect. In her experience, most doctors are more than willing to share their experiences and are just waiting to be asked.
Another misconception is that mentor relationships need to match an older, more experienced person with a younger, less experienced mentee. Dr. Greff said mentorship is about sharing knowledge and perspective, which can come from people of all levels—and generally creates a “win-win situation” for both mentees and mentors.
“As we become mentors, we learn as much from those we are mentoring as they learn from us—both personally and professionally,” she commented.

3. Embrace opportunities: Just say “yes.”

One key piece of advice that I regularly share with early-career ophthalmologists is to say “yes” to opportunities when they come along, even if they push you out of your comfort zone. Ophthalmology is a small community, and you never know what doors might be opened through new experiences.
In 2019, I was encouraged to register for the Millennial Eye LIVE conference that was taking place in a nearby city. I did not know anyone else attending but decided to take a day trip down to check it out. I had no idea what the conference was all about, but I ended up meeting a number of other physicians and industry partners that I have continued cultivating relationships with to this day. Saying “yes” to this unknown opportunity helped open many doors to where I am now in my career.
“Embracing opportunity may also mean finding ways to give back to the field of ophthalmology through service and eyecare-focused mission work,” said Dr. Duddleston.

4. Bring your true self to the profession.

All of the women in our discussion agreed that one of the most important pieces of advice for any ophthalmologist, but especially for women, is to bring your authentic self to work.
“As women, we have a very unique perspective we bring to the table. We can listen, communicate, and problem-solve in ways that are different from our male colleagues. We should embrace and be confident in our abilities and understand how these qualities benefit our patients and our practices,” said Dr. Greff.


“In short, be who you want to be.”

Learn more about Women with Vision. Also, listen to the full podcast discussion between Drs. Early, Greff, and Duddleston by clicking here.

Editorial note: Alison D. Early, MD, practices medical and surgical comprehensive ophthalmology, including management of cataracts, glaucoma, diabetes, and macular degeneration, at the Cincinnati Eye Institute, an EyeCare Partners practice.

Alison D. Early, MD
About Alison D. Early, MD

Alison D. Early practices medical and surgical comprehensive ophthalmology, including management of cataracts, glaucoma, diabetes, and macular degeneration, at the Cincinnati Eye Institute.

Dr. Early grew up in Avon Lake, Ohio with her parents and three siblings. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Cincinnati where she graduated magna cum laude and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biopsychology. She then earned her medical doctorate at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. She went on to complete an Internal Medicine internship at Cleveland Clinic-Akron General followed by three years of ophthalmology residency at The Ohio State University Havener Eye Institute.

During her time at Ohio State, Alison performed hundreds of cataract surgeries and other procedures including various laser surgeries to treat glaucoma and retinal disease, intravitreal injections to treat diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration, and more. In addition to her clinical work, Alison was nominated by her peers and was inducted into the Gold Humanism Honor Society in her final year of residency. She has presented research on the regional and national level including at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology annual conference.

Outside of ophthalmology, Dr. Early and her husband enjoy spending time together with their children and dog. They enjoy spending time in the outdoors and have gone on backpacking treks in New Hampshire, Montana, Wyoming, and the Inka Trail in Peru.

Alison D. Early, MD
Linda Greff, MD
About Linda Greff, MD

Linda J. Greff, MD, specializes in adult and pediatric glaucoma. She is a graduate of the Honors College of the University of Michigan and received her Medical Degree from Ohio State University. After completing an internship at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, she returned to Ohio State University for her residency in ophthalmology.

Dr. Greff joined the Cincinnati Eye Institute (CEI) in 1991 after completing two fellowships in glaucoma at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Harvard Medical School, and the New England Glaucoma Research Foundation.

Dr. Greff has written a variety of peer-reviewed articles and has co-authored ophthalmic textbook chapters. She has organized educational symposia and has regularly lectured at national scientific meetings. As a volunteer Associate Professor at the University of Cincinnati, Dr. Greff is involved in the education of ophthalmology residents.

She has been an investigator in a number of national clinical trials evaluating new modalities in glaucoma therapy, including the use of antimetabolites during surgery. In addition to her work in glaucoma, Dr. Greff also performs cataract and implant surgery.

Linda Greff, MD
Jessica Duddleston, MD
About Jessica Duddleston, MD

Dr. Jessica Duddleston, MD, is a comprehensive ophthalmologist specializing in cataract surgery, laser eye procedures, medical and surgical glaucoma, diabetic eye exams, and macular degeneration, among other things.

Dr. Duddleston completed her ophthalmology residency at the distinguished University of North Carolina, where she was elected chief resident during her senior year and received the Resident Teacher of the Year award. Her work is published in the Ophthalmology Retina journal, and has presented her work at ophthalmology conferences including Women in Ophthalmology and the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Jessica Duddleston, MD
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