Dr. Stephanie Baxter, FRCSC, maintains her Royal College certification as a practising ophthalmologist and program director in Kingston, Ont. In this interview, she shares her strategy for keeping her surgical skill set razor-sharp.
What’s your scope of practice?
I’m entering my 15th year as a practising ophthalmologist. I specialize in the cornea and other front-of-eye diseases. I’ve been a faculty member at Queen’s University for 14 years. Since taking on the residency program director role, I’d say that my clinical work occupies about 60 per cent of my time. Another 30 per cent is devoted to my program and its transition to competency-based medical education, with a small amount of time remaining for research and other departmental activities. My surgical practice consists primarily of corneal transplants, complex cataracts and other intraocular lens surgeries. I average about seven surgeries per week.
How do you fulfil your Maintenance of Certification (MOC) every year?
I have been involved with my national specialty society, the Canadian Ophthalmological Society (COS). I’ve come to rely on it for much of my MOC, particularly for my Section 3 assessment credits. I have been a reviewer for its journal but more recently I’ve participated as both a student and a teacher at its wet lab workshops (skills transfer courses) during its annual meetings.
How has your MOC changed over the years?
Since becoming a program director, it has become important to be efficient and strategic with the ways I keep my surgical skills up-to-date. I find the Surgical Skills Transfer Courses offered every year at the COS annual meeting are an excellent way to do this. The courses are inexpensive, have a low teacher-to-student ratio and utilize hands-on wet labs (surgical simulation) for practice and instruction. There is usually a brief introductory didactic portion to the session that involves instruction and videos to demonstrate the technique to be learned. Then two students (usually practising ophthalmologists) work with one expert teacher, who provides feedback and instruction while the students practice the technique. I’ve been doing these courses almost every year for several years and report the feedback I receive as Section 3 MOC credits.
What exactly did you learn at the wet labs?
When I completed my fellowship 14 years ago, I graduated knowing only one way to perform corneal transplants and one method to manage displaced intraocular lenses. Today, thanks to these skills transfer courses, I have learned a variety of newer techniques that have allowed me to keep my skills current, fresh and on the cutting edge.
How did this MOC opportunity make you a better doctor?
The skills transfer courses give me an opportunity for extra practice, with feedback from my colleagues. They supplement my skills and boost my confidence to allow me to go ahead and start performing these newer techniques as part of my practice. This, in turn, allows my patients to receive the most current surgical techniques and standards of care for their surgeries. These courses have also introduced me to a network of colleagues to contact later if I need more advice as I transition to a newer surgical procedure. As a sometimes teacher at these courses, it is nice to give back as I have had the occasion to teach colleagues who once taught me.
What would be your MOC tip to other Fellows of the Royal College?
From my perspective, a national specialty society meeting is a fantastic place to get all sorts of MOC credits. The Surgical Skills Transfer Courses were very ground-breaking and, for its ingenuity, the COS was recognized in 2014 with a Royal College Accredited CPD Provider Innovation Award. But the concept of offering one-to-one training at an annual meeting is very transferable to other disciplines. I’d encourage anyone to contact their own national speciality society and start a conversation about how it might be possible to integrate similar hands-on learning opportunities in their specialty. I promise you, it’ll become the highlight of your annual meeting!