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The Mentors | Mar/Apr '14

The Impact of Influence

There are a few people in ophthalmology that command our attention. I featured one of them, Dick Lindstrom, in a previous column. This article features another: Steve Slade. I have known Steve for more than a few years and consider him a friend and mentor. He taught me (and thousands of other surgeons) how to put those two pieces of a keratome together so that I could do LASIK. Steve has been mentoring young ophthalmologists for many years. A list of his fellows reads like a who’s who of current ophthalmology.

I was speaking at a meeting with Steve a while back, and I noticed something interesting. I was on the stage and in a good position to see the whole audience. Several people in the audience were multitasking during the presentations. A funny thing happened when Steve would make a comment—these audience members would look up and listen and then go back to their computers. This happened over and over. I’m sure it was a subconscious action, and I bet they were completely unaware of it. It underscores a point, though, that there are certain people we just know we should pay attention to. Steve Slade is one of those people.

The video that accompanies this article is an interesting 4-and-a-half minutes. On the surface, it looks like a former fellow, Greg Parkhurst, talking with his then chief about what his plans are for the future. In reality, it shows much more. It demonstrates just how much impact a mentor can have and how often we tend to emulate the actions of those who influence us. It also provides a glimpse into the friendship that forms between mentor and student. Finally, it gives the impression that, at some point, the roles will reverse and the mentor will one day learn from the student. That may be the most important point of all.

Mark Kontos, MD

Mark Kontos, MD, is the Senior Partner at Empire Eye Physicians in Spokane, Washington. Dr. Kontos may be reached at (509) 928-8040;mark.kontos@empireeye.com/