David A. Eichenbaum, MD
It may seem trivial, but one of my most memorable experiences was getting my first personal 90D and 20D lenses at the end of my internship. I remember being so proud to have their little black and gold vinyl cases in my coat pocket. I recall putting them on a desk or a shelf and opening them up just to see the fuzzy red “mouse hair” cosseting the clean new lenses. I felt like part of a small honorable brotherhood once I received my very own lenses, regardless of how cheesy it sounds now.
I still go back to that if I’ve got a busy clinic that isn’t running as smoothly as usual or if I’m examining a patient who’s developing proliferative vitreoretinopathy for the second or third time. Here’s how it goes: In the dimness of the exam lane, before I click off the slit lamp interlock switch and bring the lights back up, I push back slightly from the microscope, close my eyes, roll around the ridged edge of my 90D lens, and reflect that “I’m lucky to be here and do this every day.” The process takes no more than 2 to 3 seconds, and I emerge from it with collected, positive thoughts. I do that maybe once or twice a month, and it’s those first memorable moments with my lenses that gave me that tool.
David A. Eichenbaum, MD, is in private practice at Retina Vitreous Associates of Florida, Tampa Bay. He may be reached at email@example.com; tel: (727) 323-0077; fax: (727) 323-7627.
Colleen P. Halfpenny, MD
During residency and fellowship, I esteemed the relationships my mentors had established with patients and their families. I always found it a bit puzzling, though, when patients would call with personal questions like, “Who should I see for my bypass surgery?” or, “What dentist would you recommend for my mom?” I quickly learned that once patients relied on these doctors to protect and improve their vision, they became like the most trusted members of their family.
I came to know a patient with Fuchs dystrophy and his family very well after performing his DSEK surgery. He happened to be one of seven kids, and I recommended that any siblings see me for an examination as well. One of his older brothers had significant disease and unknowingly scheduled surgery the same day his brother had scheduled his second eye. The brothers had very different dispositions, and this really emphasized how we must personalize even our most routine surgery. I recently saw a phone note from one brother asking for medical advice unrelated to ophthalmology. I laughed to myself, feeling fortunate to now be treated like that trusted family member.
The other part of this experience that struck me was that these brothers happened to receive corneal tissue from the same donor. The opportunity for one donor to make a difference in two brothers’ lives was really touching. I have seen firsthand the difficulties involved in establishing an eye bank in an underdeveloped country, so this also made me treasure the donors and our eye bank system even more.
Colleen P. Halfpenny, MD, is an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at Jefferson Medical College and a member of the Cornea Service at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia. Dr. Halfpenny may be reached at (215) 938-7878; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jennifer Loh, MD
The recent disintegration of the parent company that owned my practice just 9 months after I joined the group has definitely been one of the most memorable experiences of my career thus far. Watching the closing of all but one of the offices and seeing many staff members and other doctors leave the practice was a difficult process. However, luckily, a few of us were able to come together and keep one of the offices open. The entire process has been a huge learning experience and took me from the role of an employed physician working for a large company to an active participant and more equal partner in a single office that is starting over again. While I never expected to be in this position at this stage in my career, I think in the end it could turn out be a positive event!
Jennifer Loh, MD, is a comprehensive ophthalmologist in practice at South Florida Eye Associates in Boca Raton, Florida. Dr. Loh may be reached at email@example.com.
P. Dee Stephenson, MD, FACS
I have been in practice for 25 years, and there have been many milestones in my career that have given me great pleasure and satisfaction. But, I have to say the most memorable one happened to me very early in my career. I had just moved to town and joined another ophthalmologist in private practice. He had been on call in the ER and was called in for an emergency and asked if I would go for him.
Well, to be honest, it was the very first time as a new ophthalmologist, all on my own, to have to take an ER call! I was extremely nervous, and I arrived to find a young man lying on a stretcher with a Dixie cup taped to his right eye. He was a master electrician, and a mercury lamp had exploded and lacerated his eye, severed the muscles, penetrated the lens, and tore the retina; his eye was full of blood. He was primarily repaired and told that he might lose his eye. He stated that he was so glad it was he who got injured and not one of the young guys that worked for him who had young children. Who says stuff like that when they are severely injured? To this day, not only is Gary my patient, but I am honored to call him my friend, and he is a constant reminder of why I am an ophthalmologist. After 25 years and a terrible injury, he is still 20/25. This is why I do what I do!
Keith A. Walter, MD
My most memorable experience in my 18 years of academic ophthalmology has to be my first major LASIK complication and being so worried about the outcome. It was back in the days of the Automated Corneal Shaper microkeratome (Bausch + Lomb), which occasionally caused a buttonhole flap; this was a flap with a literal buttonhole in the middle of it. The patient’s first eye had gone just fine, but the second eye was, to me, a disaster. I remembered my training and knew that I couldn’t do an excimer ablation because that would only make things worse. It was tough to do, but I had to be honest with the patient and let her know what had happened and what was the right course of action.
To my surprise, the patient wasn’t devastated, but she was cautiously optimistic. I was still terrified but relieved. We tried again 3 months later after the flap had healed, and all went fine. This experience taught me to be honest with my patients, coach them through their situations, and make them part of the team working to make them better. This scenario also makes me grateful for advances in technology, which are continuously making things safer and better.
Keith A. Walter, MD, is an Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Dr. Walter may be reached at (336) 716-4091;firstname.lastname@example.org.