In it for the long haul

Time spent in the car can be productive. You just need some simple prep work.

By Allen Chiang, MD

Many retina practices have evolved in recent years to incorporate multiple offices, including satellite locations that often span wide geographic areas, in order to meet the demands of referring physicians and expanding patient populations. As a result, many retina specialists across the country contend with long commutes, either on a regular or rotating basis.

In contrast, most retina fellowship programs are geographically centered at a main academic hospital or institute. Even for programs that have satellite hospitals, fellows typically rotate through those remote locations only for a limited time interval. Because of this difference in geographic range, new retina practitioners typically face a period of adjustment during their transition into practice.

Here are some starter tips to help ensure a productive and safe commute.


Many cars are now equipped with integrated hands-free Bluetooth systems. If your car lacks one, invest in a high quality Bluetooth wearable so that you can make phone calls to family, colleagues, and referring doctors and conduct business involving your home, investments, and research. Look for brands, such as Jawbone, that provide stellar performance due to noise-cancelling technology that can filter out background and road noise.

Mechanical Issues

Be prepared for unexpected car trouble. Perhaps this goes without saying, but keep your car serviced and maintained regularly. Even if you do this, however, bad things can still happen on any commute. One of the best investments you can make is an American Automobile Association (AAA) membership, which comes in handy if you experience battery trouble or a flat tire. The AAA card also provides useful discounts at businesses such as hotels and restaurants. It is also prudent to keep an emergency kit in the trunk that includes jumper cables, first aid kit, blanket, flashlight, foldable shovel (useful in snowy climates), and extra water. You hope that you will never need to call AAA or use these emergency supplies, but you do not want to be caught unprepared.

Stimulate Your Brain

Subscribe to interesting podcasts that you can stream via your smartphone. We spend so much of our time focused on our craft; I have found the long commute to be a valuable time to mentally unwind by learning something new, outside of medicine and retina. In my opinion, examples of outstanding podcasts and podcast producers include the following: Revisionist History (author Malcolm Gladwell), National Public Radio, TED Talks, and This American Life. Alternatively, you could try learning a new language from audio CDs. Once you feel more refreshed, you can update yourself on current topics in ophthalmology via a podcast from Bryn Mawr Communications. NRMD’s upcoming podcast, New Retina Radio, will examine topics particular to retina specialists, and Eyetube’s Ophthalmology Off the Grid explores the world of the anterior segment via long-form interviews.


Download the Waze traffic app. Some cars now incorporate built-in GPS units, including Google Maps and other systems, but in my experience none of them work as well as Waze. This app is effective because it is based on crowdsourcing technology. It updates your travel route constantly, in real time, and will warn you of upcoming hazards, such as an object in the road, a motor vehicle accident up ahead, or a hidden police car. It can even help you locate nearby gas stations and compare gas prices.

Food and Drink

Invest in a good quality cooler and vacuum bottle. A cooler is a nice perk during the warm summer months—or any time for those who live in warm climates. Nothing makes a summer commute more tolerable than having a nice cool beverage and some healthy snacks. A bottle of cold water, a can of Diet Coke, and a crisp piece of fruit or similar snack are usually in my cooler. Conversely, a good vacuum bottle can keep beverages such as tea or coffee hot; top brands such as Yeti and Thermos Nissan can keep liquids warm for the whole day.

Go Hands Free

Stabilize your smartphone so that you can see it and not fumble with it while driving. Products such as Airframe (Kenu), a portable car smartphone holder, work exceptionally well. This device can accommodate a variety of smartphone models, and it attaches easily and quickly to any air vent louver.

• attending surgeon, Wills Eye Hospital retina service; physician, Mid Atlantic Retina; assistant clinical professor of ophthalmology, Thomas Jefferson University, all in Philadelphia

From the BMC Archive

Ophthalmology Off the Grid

Hosted by Gary Wörtz, MD

Subscribe via your phone’s podcast app by searching Ophthalmology Off the Grid

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Contact Info

Bryn Mawr Communications LLC
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Wayne, PA 19087

Phone: 484-581-1800
Fax: 484-581-1818

Michael Jones
Senior Editor

Janet Burk

About New Retina MD

New Retina MD delivers cutting-edge content to retina specialists in their first 15 years of practice. Each issue provides fresh insight from younger physicians plus established mentors on clinical and nonclinical issues affecting ophthalmologists in the earlier stages of their careers. NRMD features surgical pearls, clinical research endeavors, practice management, medical reimbursement and policy, continuing educational requirements, financial planning, innovations, and more.