Most ophthalmology residents would view an observership in refractive surgery at a prestigious clinic as being a wonderful opportunity. A week or two away from your center of learning, and you get to spend time with experts in the field and to see how others do it in the real world. The opportunities for learning are there for the taking: to gain that extra insight into how the surgeon manages to do something well that so many others find challenging, or in the case of complicated case management, how someone can get great outcomes for their patient, and at the same time, make a good living from doing something so challenging and time-consuming to plan and execute. The surgeon-in-training gets to extend their network, add a big name to their CV, and will return to their day job a more rounded and experienced surgeon. It’s not a bad proposition for the visiting doctor, is it?
ELZA takes observerships seriously. When we offer somebody an observership placement, we’ll plan that person’s time carefully to give them the maximum exposure to the clinical, scientific and administrative aspects of the clinic. Observers receive a customized schedule for the time that they are with us at ELZA. We make sure that they get to spend as much time as possible with the medical and surgical staff, observing as many surgeries as is practicable during their time at ELZA. We’ll expose them to how we interact with patients before and after surgery, at check-ups. We perform corneal biomechanics research at the University of Zurich, so we make sure that our observers get to spend at least a day at the laboratory at the University of Zurich’s Irschel Campus to see what we’re researching, and to understand why we’re doing it (which is to better understand how the cornea is built, what gives it strength, how disease states change this, and how cross-linking and laser ablation changes the cornea).
We try to make sure that these observerships coincide with visits from ELZA’s consultant surgeons too. This means that in addition to the refractive and therapeutic laser surgery, cross-linking and the general ophthalmology aspects of the practice, they get to meet with some other big names in the field. If Dion Paridaens is consulting, these young doctors get to meet one of the most gifted and experienced oculoplastic surgeons in the world. If Lamis Baydoun is present, they get to meet the person that’s trained more corneal surgeons to perform DMEK corneal transplantation surgery than anyone else in the world. If Kaweh Mansouri is consulting, they get to meet a glaucoma superstar and one of the pioneers of micro-invasive glaucoma surgery. This does come at a cost to ELZA – time. Our clinic is not a production line where patients pass through as quickly as possible (we offer a far more personalized and premium experience than that).
But time spent teaching – explaining to the observer why this choice was made, rather than that, or how this was the best way to approach this case or that patient rather than an alternative – isn’t time spent seeing more patients. It is, however, time spent educating the next generation of ophthalmologists on how to be a better doctor, which in itself, is worth it. But there’s another aspect to all of this. These up-and-coming, motivated young doctors will benefit from the learning and the networking opportunities at ELZA. But we do too. Every observer will walk away knowing what ELZA does and how well it does it. Every observer will know that they can turn to anyone at ELZA in the future for help, advice, consultation, or more. And it’s in this respect, that it’s a win-win. This is where research collaborations start. This is where careers are made. We form bonds of friendship and scholarship with our observers, and that’s truly what makes all of this effort worthwhile. We actively keep in touch with our former observers, and we intend to run small events at international ophthalmology congresses just to help our former observers to meet us again, meet each other, and meet other friends of ELZA.
ELZA observerships are highly competitive. We receive two or three applications a week, yet because when we offer observerships, we offer comprehensive, informative and well-planned observerships, there are only a few times a year when all of the stars align to permit this, once travel, Congress and other commitments are factored into the mix. Don’t let this put you off applying though. When we see a CV that excites us, we’ll make it happen. If you’re still wondering whether to apply – and you can do so by clicking here – then here’s what a recent graduate of our observership scheme, Dr. Luis Valdes, has to say about his experience: