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Today's Practice | Jan 2013

5 Questions With Simonetta Morselli, MD

1. What is your greatest motivator to practice ophthalmology?

The father of one of my best friends was the chief of an ophthalmology department. My best friend and I studied together every day, and his father would enthusiastically tell us about what was happening in ophthalmology. My impression was that ophthalmology was a fascinating medical field. At the end of medical school, it was easy for me to fall in love with the microscopic world of the eye. The eye is complex, delicate, and small, and the principles of optics and hydraulics that we learn in the physical sciences are applicable to the physiology of the eye.

I love the theories of mathematics and physical science. The eye is a complex dioptric system; visual perception and how the brain processes images are mysteries. It is a fascinating microworld. Ophthalmology does not require force but rather delicate, smooth, slow, and clean surgical movements.

2. What are the challenges and rewards of being chief of an ophthalmic unit?

I am 46 years old and became chief when I was 42. I am the youngest physician on my team, and I am a woman. Sometimes patients can be difficult because they do not believe that I am the chief. The positive part of being a young chief is that I can still remember when I worked with a traditional chief, and the stereotypical image was of a big, fat old man with white hair and glasses. I have long black hair and am small and thin, which is exactly the opposite.

3. What has been the biggest surprise of your career thus far?

I am 46 years old and became chief when I was 42. I am the youngest physician on my team, and I am a woman. Sometimes patients can be difficult because they do not believe that I am the chief. The positive part of being a young chief is that I can still remember when I worked with a traditional chief, and the stereotypical image was of a big, fat old man with white hair and glasses. I have long black hair and am small and thin, which is exactly the opposite.

3. What has been the biggest surprise of your career thus far?

It was a pleasant surprise to be accepted without prejudice by my male colleagues, most of whom are older than me. My goal was to understand what men want from a female boss. I quickly learned that everyone wants to play a different role. For example, some of my male colleagues do not want important responsibilities while others do, and a few want to be coddled like a baby, requiring daily feedback. The biggest surprise of my career has been working harmoniously with three other women. We understand each other perfectly and have seamlessly adapted to situations with patients, sometimes even without verbal communication.

4. What is your advice to young ophthalmologists, particularly women, who are new to practice?

I encourage young women to follow their passion for ophthalmology and not to be concerned that a career could hinder their personal or family life. There is time in a woman’s life to do both simultaneously. I also encourage women to understand the environment in which they work and remember that, as women, we are able to work with a female touch.

5. What is something most people would be surprised to learn about you?

I am a very good cook and a sportswoman. I like to prepare dinner or lunch with some of the recipes that I have invented or reinvented. For example, I like to prepare a buffet lunch, or dinner with raw fish, or a special themed dinner with asparagus or chocolate. As a sportswoman, I like to water or snow ski, depending on the season, and to sail. Windsurfing is my preference, but I also like to swim and ice skate. I like water in every form.