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URMC / Flaum Eye Institute / About Us / FEI News Blog / October 2023 / Class of ’89 Alumnus Reflects Upon His Year as American Academy of Ophthalmology President

Class of ’89 Alumnus Reflects Upon His Year as American Academy of Ophthalmology President

Briceland Express

Flaum Eye Institute alumnus Daniel Briceland, MD, has dedicated his career to advocating for ophthalmology and training the next generation of specialists. Now, as president of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, he’s in a unique position to drive change. Vision for the Future recently caught up with Briceland to see how the year as Academy president has gone and to ask his thoughts about the direction of the specialty.

Engaging the Ophthalmology Community

Flaum Eye Institute alumnus Daniel Briceland

Briceland began his term in January as the Academy’s 127th president. His goal: to rally a community of passionate, engaged professionals to fight scope of practice battles, improve Medicare reimbursement and provide the best eye care to patients.

His calls for engagement have roused the ophthalmology community after years of isolation during COVID-19. This year’s Mid-Year Forum, when some 400 Academy members go to Washington, D.C., to advocate for their patients and profession, included 273 in-person meetings with congressional offices and a record-breaking 205 advocacy ambassadors – residents and fellows who advocate alongside seasoned Academy leaders. And this year’s international ophthalmology society meetings, held in person after four years of staying home, assembled representatives from about 85 countries.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” Briceland says. “The Academy brand is incredibly respected both here and abroad. Everywhere I travel, ophthalmologists ask what’s going on at the Academy and what the latest innovations are.”

Long Live the Solo Practice

For most of his career, Briceland has enjoyed success in Sun City West, Arizona, as a solo practitioner — a pathway that fewer young ophthalmologists are choosing.

He credits much of this success to an emphasis on patient-centric care, instilled in him by his mentor, Gwen Sterns, MD, a longtime chief of ophthalmology at Rochester General Hospital who died earlier this year. The approach has shaped the personality of his solo practice.

Despite what the ophthalmology community may think, solo practice is still strong and may even be expanding, he says. “It’s true that there was some consolidation during the past 10 years, including private equity groups, but solo is surprisingly stable.” About 26% of Academy members practice this way, according to a 2021 member survey.

A solo practice allows for flexible hours and a comfortable work-life balance. It also allows for other sources of income, such as real estate, optical, surgery centers and other endeavors that are more easily achieved by a solo practitioner versus a group.

“Ophthalmologists, as a rule, are entrepreneurial, leader types. Sometimes these traits don’t flourish in large groups,” he says.

As the landscape of ophthalmology evolves, solo practice will continue to be a viable and attractive option, he notes.

Training Future Leaders

Ophthalmology faces myriad challenges in the years ahead, Briceland says. Physicians must meet the demands of an aging population and improve health care access for under-represented minorities, projected to outnumber the white population in years ahead.

“Our patients are getting more diverse and coming from the ranks of the underrepresented,” he says. “We need to make sure that we are training people ready to take on new challenges.”

For the past 20 years, Briceland has been involved with the Academy’s Leadership Development Program, for which he is a senior instructor. He’s a strong supporter of new residency programs and Academy initiatives that address America’s changing demographics.

The Academy’s Minority Ophthalmology Mentoring Program, for example, pairs underrepresented minorities in their first year of medical school with practicing ophthalmologists. The students receive career counseling, interviewing skills training and access to educational resources such as test preparation.

“The Academy Foundation raised a little over $1 million to seed the program,” Briceland says. “Last year, 16 of 16 medical school seniors who applied to ophthalmology programs were accepted through the match, and there are currently 250 enrolled. This year, we anticipate 35 seniors will apply to ophthalmology programs. It’s great!”

Ophthalmology is an attractive specialty for today’s generation of medical students because it welcomes innovation, with AI screening and office-based cataract surgery not far off. The field also embraces team-based medicine – between other ophthalmologists, optometrists, technicians and allied staff – and allows for a healthy work-life balance.

“The demand for the specialty is unquestionable. It’s a great profession,” he says. “Whether residents pursue fellowship, group practice, academic medicine or solo practice … for the most part, they get to work with happy patients. Whenever I meet residents, I tell them, ‘Congratulations! You’ve made a great choice.’”

Looking Forward

But even as the field is propelled forward by new technologies and enthusiastic trainees, ophthalmologists must rally against burdensome administrative demands, including prior authorization and step therapy. And the fight for fair compensation is at a critical juncture as Medicare reimbursements are down 26% over the past 22 years due to inflation.

During his 36 years as an Academy member, Briceland has been a vocal advocate for change on both fronts. “We advocate for change based on what’s best for the patient – and that often wins the day. But in the end, it comes down to convincing the budget-makers in D.C. We need to work collaboratively with all of medicine to make something that’s sustainable for physicians to practice.”

Briceland remains optimistic that the ophthalmology community will rise to meet these challenges. Ophthalmologists and the Academy are nimble and innovative, he says. When “ophthalmologists see a problem or need, we engage to find solutions.”

The field has gone through incredible changes since he graduated residency in 1989. And the pace of change is only going to accelerate, he says. The future is bright for both mid-career ophthalmologists and those just starting out.

“There is incredible demand for eye care,” he says. “As we move forward, the opportunities will be fantastic.”


Daniel Briceland, MD, completed his residency in ophthalmology at the University of Rochester in 1989 along with co-residents Kenneth Lindahl, MD, and Steven Rose, MD. He has fond memories of his classmates as well as faculty members like Steve Ching, MD, Scott Searle, MD, Department Chair Henry Metz, MD, and Gwen Sterns, MD, an exceptional group of people, he says, who really cared about the residents.

A native of Rochester and Buffalo, he remembers Rochester as a special place and says the city’s personality is great for residency training. He is pleased to follow the overall growth at FEI and its ascendance to a regional eye care center, as well as attaining a national profile in research.

Zachary Laird | 10/23/2023

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