WHO WAS YOUR MENTOR AT THE IEEI WHILE YOU WERE IN TRAINING?
Mentors make a world of difference, and we are fortunate to have so many great role models at IEEI. Drs. Dimitri Azar, Joel Sugar, Ali Djalilian, Sandeep Jain– all of the Cornea faculty were inspiring mentors to me during residency, but Dr. Elmer Tu was my primary mentor. I’m privileged to have worked with him from the start of my ophthalmic career. I first met Dr. Tu when I rotated on the cornea service as a medical student and he is the one who personally called to deliver the happy news that I had matched at UIC. He taught me the fundamentals of cataract surgery and I conducted my primary research project – Utilizing a Hydrophilic IOL as a Drug Delivery System — under his direction. Together with Dr. Larry Ulanski and Dr. Mansi Parikh, we performed over 200 cataract surgeries on rabbits before I performed one on a patient! I continued drug delivery work in fellowship, and this formed the basis for the clinical trial work I conduct in my practice today.
WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT TITLE/JOB? WHERE ARE YOU WORKING NOW AND FOR HOW LONG?
I opened Warrenville EyeCare and LASIK in 2012, a solo, boutique cornea, cataract and refractive practice in the western Chicago suburbs. I am also an Assistant Clinical Professor at the IEEI. I’m passionate about teaching and have been fortunate to be involved in numerous projects for the betterment of patient care and the profession of ophthalmology. Last fall, I created MDNegotiation.com to utilize my expertise as an MD/JD to help ophthalmologists improve their negotiation skills. I had been teaching contract negotiation workshops for the last several years at residency programs throughout the country and this was an opportunity to reach a broader audience. In doing so, I encountered many young ophthalmologists asking questions not only about negotiation, but also about entering practice. These questions led to the project I’m most proud of to date – the creation of Real World Ophthalmology (RWO). RWO is an educational resource that brings seasoned ophthalmologists together with young ophthalmologists to help increase their success in transitioning from training to practice. Experienced ophthalmologists share acquired knowledge to help young surgeons enhance their clinical skills, business acumen, and personal growth. With the help of UIC, our inaugural meeting, Top 10 Things I Wish I Knew Sooner, was a huge success. The next RWO meeting, Tell Me Your Secrets, is April 2, 2022 and we plan to expand educational content between meetings with a RWO podcast.
Dr. Nijm is also the first CEO of Women in Ophthalmology, leading growth of over 400% in membership, member benefits, sponsorship, and meeting attendance since her involvement. She is on the board of Directors of the American Academy of Ophthalmology Executives (AAOE), several ophthalmology editorial boards and is the Chief Medical Editor of OSDCME.
DO YOU HAVE ANY WORDS OF WISDOM FOR OUR FUTURE TRAINEES?
Strive to be the best version of yourself. Learn as much as possible during training, and get exposure to a wide variety of surgeries, techniques, and approaches. Clinically, be sure to keep your differential diagnoses broad, you will be less likely to miss that rare diagnosis. Nurture your mind, body, and soul – healthy doctors take better care of their patients. Above all, keep your kindness and compassion. Listen to what is really bothering your patients. Thank your staff. Be the kind of doctor you would want taking care of your parent, child, or yourself. Learning doesn’t stop when you finish training.