Making the Switch
Is now the time to jump from academic retina to private practice?
I recently switched jobs. Out of fellowship, I thought I had the perfect position. I was part of the faculty of an illustrious academic retina service. I performed cutting-edge surgeries, participated in one-of-a-kind translational research, and trained top-notch fellows and residents.
With such a dream job, why did I decide to move? There were many reasons. My wife has a full-time career in finance, and we had a 2-year-old baby and no extended family nearby. Moving back closer to family and home in the New York City area had strong personal appeal, and NJ Retina was a perfect fit.
Equally important, I became increasingly frustrated with the inefficiencies inherent in any large academic institution. As is the case at many institutions, mandatory compliance with rigid and often seemingly silly institutional regulations, coupled with difficulty in maintaining strong ancillary staff support, placed additional burdens on the academic physicians. I began to realize that survival in academia required a tolerance for unreasonable inefficiencies and an acceptance of relinquished control, and those are not my strengths.
I’m now a few months into my new position. I’m fortunate to have joined a well-established, streamlined private practice. My practice partners are great people and second to none in surgical and clinical acumen. It has been a smooth transition, with practice patterns by the whole team (physicians and staff) geared to achieve unified goals. Seeing patients and my other day-to-day activities have become real pleasures, as I am able to spend my time doing what I should be doing (examining patients and talking to them) rather than making sure I click every box, fill out the proper paperwork, and hunt down the supplies I need.
Private practice is potentially more efficient and financially rewarding than an academic practice. Moreover, many private practices have robust clinical trial and research programs, and some even have fellowship programs. Although it takes initiative to carry out research projects or identify trainees to mentor, these are certainly possibilities within the right practice. I was fortunate to join such a practice.
Some people refer to the switch from academia to private practice as “joining the dark side.” On the contrary, a few months in, I would say it has been an enlightening experience and a win-win scenario. Ask me again in 5 years (and again in 20 years) how I feel. But so far, so good.
Paul Hahn, MD, PhD
• vitreoretinal surgeon, NJ Retina, New Jersey