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Physician Q&A With Dr. Allen Chiang

Allen Chiang, MD, one of PAMED's 2017 Top Physicians Under 40, is an ophthalmologist at Wills Eye Hospital Retina Service in Philadelphia. He is actively involved in teaching and training ophthalmology residents and retina fellows at Wills Eye and is a clinical professor at Thomas Jefferson University.

He is also engaged in numerous clinical research projects, including clinical trials for novel therapeutics for conditions such as diabetic macular edema and wet macular degeneration. PAMED recently caught up with Dr. Chiang:

Q: Why did you become a physician?

Dr. Chiang: I was fortunate to have a father and many others in my extended family who were physicians or surgeons, so throughout my childhood I had some tremendous role models who made a great impression on me.

The realization that they were doing amazing things each day to help alleviate peoples' suffering or improve their health was deeply impactful. From an early age, I developed an immense respect for the dedication they had to their patients and their craft.

However, I also saw the many sacrifices and experienced them firsthand. Yet in the end, because of those positive impressions, I still felt compelled to pursue the medical profession.

Q: What inspires you in your practice?

Dr. Chiang: Inspiration seems to pop up in different places all the time. The specter of losing one's vision or coping with vision loss on top off trying to battle an associated systemic illness can be so overwhelming. Therefore, it is often my patients who inspire me the most with their courage and determination.

Sometimes inspiration comes from my patients who volunteer to participate in our clinical trials because they want to not only potentially help themselves, but they desire to help us find new therapies that may one day help others.

My staff and colleagues also inspire me. Patients sometimes do not realize that there is an army of people working both right next to me and behind the scenes to help me deliver the care that they need, and these folks work tirelessly with little recognition.

More than ever, medicine is a team sport.

Q: What are the biggest challenges of being a young physician?

Dr. Chiang: I think one challenge in particular is learning how to manage a patient's perceptions. For example, I have found that some patients find it disconcerting to meet a younger physician or surgeon.

Perhaps they equate experience with white or silver hair. Whatever the reason, it is immensely satisfying to win them over by showing them the kind of compassionate care, dedication, and skill that they may have been missing out on.

Another challenge is to continue learning and growing. One of the best things about my practice is that we are fortunate enough to conduct one of the premier retina fellowship training programs at Wills Eye Hospital.

The fellows we recruit each year are brilliant and continually push me to grow and learn because in order to capably teach something you really need to master it.

Finally, I believe the greatest challenges are yet to come for those of us who are still in our first decade of practice. Health care in the USA has been changing at a furious pace in the past few years and the future of medicine is unclear.

Many of the facets of medical practice and the doctor-patient relationship that are valued by doctors and patients alike are being threatened. We have to stand up and protect our profession and our patients.

Q: What do you do to achieve work/life balance?

Dr. Chiang: I chuckle a little bit whenever I get asked this question. I don't think anyone goes into medicine thinking that they will have a good work/life balance, but it is certainly still something that all physicians and surgeons all strive to achieve.

In addition to seeing patients, all of the retina surgeons in my practice are involved with clinical trials and research, teaching, lecturing locally and abroad, managing the nuts and bolts of our practice, and training the next generation of ophthalmologists and retina specialists. It's a very full plate.

So I try to spend every moment outside those duties making memories with my wife and three children. I also try to paint whenever I can; I have always loved art and architecture.

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