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Department of Ophthalmology
Mayo ClinicVIEW PROFILE
Andrea Tooley, M.D. (I ’15, OPH ’18), says she didn’t foresee a role for herself in education. But she took advantage of an opportunity that came her way and is now associate program director of Mayo Clinic’s Ophthalmology Residency Program. She developed an annual anatomy course and skills check-off event for ophthalmology — Ophthalmology Olympics. She also started a much-needed virtual ophthalmology mentorship program to assist medical students across the country who missed out on away rotations and networking at conferences due to the pandemic. Dr. Tooley also is an ad hoc national media spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and active on social media to educate followers about ophthalmology and other medical topics. Sounds like she’s deep in the education shield to us.
“The absolute jewel in the crown at Mayo Clinic is collaboration. It’s best for the patient, fosters education, helps me learn from my colleagues, facilitates collaborative research across specialties and helps me be a better provider. That level of collaboration is unique to Mayo Clinic.”
I lived in Florida until I was 16 and then moved to New Harmony, Indiana.
I loved science and began considering medicine in high school. I didn’t have any mentors in that area and wasn’t aware of the various subspecialties. I got my pilot’s license in high school and met a pilot who flew for Orbis International, an international NGO dedicated to saving sight. That mission captivated me and caused me to fall in love with ophthalmology.
I love being able to affect positive change in people’s lives. The pathologies, surgical techniques and technologies are fascinating. The eye is a small organ, but ophthalmology offers a broad scope of procedures. I like the short duration of ophthalmologic surgeries. The patients are generally healthy but need help with a specific problem.
I was naïve about the residency application process. I was very involved in an ophthalmology interest group and research at Indiana University.
I fell in love with Mayo Clinic during residency and was completely awestruck by everything Mayo offered. I know I’d be surrounded by people who were much smarter than I was at Mayo Clinic and knew I’d have to work very hard. I’d be out of my league, and it would be a challenge. While my colleagues were brilliant, it was such a supportive environment that I never felt less than. The environment fosters education and growth. I’ve always felt valued and part of the team. We learn from world experts who are famous for their contributions to medicine. That environment made me want to read more, study more and be better for my patients. I was inspired by these incredible consultants who made me feel like I belong.
In college and medical school, I was usually the one teaching my study group. But I never thought I’d be interested in a role in education.
I loved my residency experience. Dr. Andy Barkmeier (OPH ’10) was my program director. He encouraged me to get involved with the Graduate Medical Education Committee, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I wouldn’t have a role in education if not for his guidance. I’m passionate about working with the residents.
In the entire U.S., there are only about 25 oculoplastic surgery fellowship spots each year. My amazing oculoplastic mentors at Mayo Clinic encouraged me to go to Manhattan Eye and Ear, which is one of the best. They knew the preceptors there and were excited about the opportunity for me to train there. I learned a ton to bring back to Mayo Clinic.
Mayo has a fellowship, but it’s every other year and was on an off cycle.
The absolute jewel in the crown at Mayo Clinic is collaboration. It’s best for the patient, fosters education, helps me learn from my colleagues, facilitates collaborative research across specialties and helps me be a better provider. That level of collaboration is unique to Mayo Clinic.
Soak it all up. You’re experiencing so much that it’s easy to miss things. This is a valuable time in life to get incredible learning opportunities. When one comes your way, take it.
You never know what doors will open to you, so you have to be ready to say yes. Work hard, and exciting things will present themselves to you.
I’ve had a handful of publications that were true labors of love and collaborative efforts. I’m proud to see my work in print.
I’m an oculoplastic and orbital surgeon. I do reconstructive surgery around the eye. My true passion is orbital surgery for neoplastic, malignant and inflammatory diseases. I collaborate with neurosurgeons and ENTs, using new surgical techniques to treat orbital disease.
Oculoplastic surgery has a heavy patient volume. We need exceptional women leaders to mentor women to enter this field.
I’ve been involved with the AAO since residency. Two years ago, they asked me to be a spokesperson. At the annual meeting, they provide communications training. Then, you’re put on a list of spokespersons. When I was doing my fellowship in New York City, I was on “20/20” and did some magazine interviews.
Due to the pandemic, many away rotations and networking opportunities for medical students were canceled, leaving them with no way to gain experience in ophthalmology. I saw a tweet from a medical student that said, “I don’t have a home ophthalmology program. How will I match in ophthalmology?”
I’m passionate about mentorship, and that tweet hit me hard. I wanted to help students who would be applying. I reached out to two friends in the American Academy of Ophthalmology and asked for their help. We put a survey on Twitter asking for ophthalmology mentors and seeking those looking for mentorship. We heard from more than 600 medical students and 150 mentors.
We focused on 100 fourth-year medical students and hand-paired them with mentors across the country. We hosted a webinar about mentor-mentee relationships and how to be the most from them. Mayo Clinic Department of Ophthalmology Chair Sophie Bakri, M.D. (OPH ’05), was a panelist. We had about 700 participants — a huge response.
The program is in its second year, and we’re exploring how to make it sustainable. It’s too much for three people to handle, but the interest and need are there.
To continue to be involved in resident education, be the best oculoplastic surgeon I can be and put out new research. Mayo Clinic is the best place to do those things.
I have lots of hobbies. My husband (a physician assistant) and I bought a 16-acre hobby farm after my fellowship. We have chickens and a large vegetable garden. I like to spend time in the garden and cook. I try to prioritize being home. That’s hard to do when you’re new on staff — you want to be available 24/7.
For me, life at home is a priority too. When I’m home, I’m home. I try not to check my email. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to keep that up.
See past New Chapter stories here.