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Cover Focus | Jul/Aug '15

An Interview With EYESteve

Last year, in the midst of AAO, I took a moment to catch up on the MillennialEYE Twitter
page. While perusing our notifications, I noticed we had acquired a new follower named
@EyeSteve. Upon visiting this profile, I read a few interesting tweets that prompted me
to click a link in the user’s Twitter bio, leading me to

Instantly, I was impressed by the quality of this website—the design was clean and sophisticated and the content engaging. Who is EyeSteve? I wondered. Always eager to engage new contributors for ME, I made a mental note to look into this when back in the confines of BMC.

Later that same day, I sat in a session called Funding Our Future: Making Investments in Ophthalmology. A few talks in, an ophthalmology resident took the podium, introducing himself as Steve Christiansen, MD. Within seconds, the now-familiar EyeSteve website popped up on the screen, and I had found my answer.

Evidenced by his social media pages and website, Steve has a true knack for observation and documentation, which comes artfully packaged under the EyeSteve brand. Further, Steve has succeeded in finding that sought-after balance of professional yet personable that’s been deemed one of the main keys to an effective online presence.

Fortunately, Steve decided to attend ME Live 2014, where we had the chance to become more familiar with him and his insights. So, when it came time to dissect the concept of building a brand image, I found it the perfect opportunity to finally go behind the scenes of EyeSteve.

-Callan Navitsky, Editor-in-Chief

1. Tell us about the inspiration to create your website, EyeSteve.com.

In the spring of 2012, I awoke in the middle of the night with the crazy idea of starting a website. The idea kept me awake for several hours, and when awakening my wife to share the idea did NOT result in a pillow stuffed in my face, I knew it was an idea worth pursuing (which I can’t say about all of my random 2 AM ideas). Below are a few reasons why I started EyeSteve.com.

Blogs as tools to further medicine.

When I started the site in 2012, blogs such as Huffington Post, Business Insider, and The Guardian were beginning to be recognized as legitimate news sources, and health care blogs such as KevinMD.com were providing a forum for physicians to share their ideas with the public. After finding only a handful of ophthalmology-related blogs, I recognized the potential opportunity to create a website that myself and others could use to promote our field. As a surgical specialty, ophthalmology is in the minority. Beyond our medical school classmates, many health care professionals and the public do not even realize that ophthalmologists are MDs, let alone understand the difference between ophthalmologists and optometrists. In a dynamic health care landscape, ophthalmology needs to ensure that its seat is reserved at the table with the more prominent specialties, lest we risk our opinions and interests becoming offered as novelty items featured on the menu for policymakers’ legislative supper.

Get a jump on your career.

When I awoke in the middle of that spring night, I had just a few weeks earlier decided to apply to ophthalmology residency and suddenly realized I would never again wonder what I would be when I grew up. I knew I would complete residency, find a job, and then eagerly hope for patients to call and schedule an appointment in my clinic. The thought then came, “If I hope that patients will one day find me online when searching for an ophthalmologist, why not get a jump-start on their search while in training?” I believe the days of simply advertising with a name in small print in the local white pages have long since passed for most ophthalmologists and that most patients now and in the future will use the Internet to research their physician before making an appointment. By establishing an online presence, trainees can get a jump-start on their career, and physicians at any stage can strengthen their personal brand. Having an online presence as a physician is an incredibly inexpensive but highly effective form of advertising in the Google white pages of today.

Blogging as a creative outlet.

When I began EyeSteve.com, I was nervous about what I would write—a fear shared by many novice bloggers. Very quickly, however, I realized that I enjoyed having a creative outlet where my posts are only internally reviewed, the artistic license is my own, and, within my own standards of personal professionalism and brand, I am free to write about anything. I wish that I had time to write and post more often; however, when I do find a few minutes to relax and have an insight or something I would like to share, I appreciate having a space to share my thoughts. The content that I post is not always perfectly cohesive, organized, or edited to perfection, but it represents my interests and thoughts at the present time. I enjoy writing, and having a forum on which to share my professional insights helps me find balance in the everyday stresses of life as a busy, sleep-deprived, overwhelmed resident.

2. What elements or features were most important to you when designing the site?

As I began developing my site, I visited many other sites to find design elements that I hoped to implement. Design is an oft-overlooked aspect of website development and marketing. Many sites have great content, but their design is lacking. The vision behind my design is the hope that first-time visitors come to the site and realize is not just another blog about cooking/dieting/parenting/etc. but is a legitimate, professional-appearing, physician-directed website.

For anyone interested, EyeSteve.com is based on a WordPress content management system with a themed template, which I purchased for a small cost and then had customized by a professional graphic designer. The advantage to using such themed templates is the ability to update to a new template when you have outgrown the prior one, without needing to start from scratch. The content can simply be transferred from the old to the new template and small adjustments made at a fraction of the cost, which would otherwise be required to pay a costly web developer.

The photos seen on the site are purchased from a stock photography service (I primarily use Shutterstock.com), where I purchase the legal rights to use the photographs for whatever purpose I desire. Each photograph costs about $10 to $20, but, like anything, I believe you invest in what you value, and, in my case, I value design and user experience; thus, it is worth it to me to periodically invest in these important elements of web design.

3. You are also active on Twitter and Facebook. When did the social media tie-in to EyeSteve.com occur?

Great question. I started the social media presence at the same time as the website. As soon as the website was up and running (even with just a few initial posts), I included links to EyeSteve.com in the profiles of my social media accounts.

I recently wrote an article in which I described my wagon wheel approach to developing an online presence, as shown below. The spokes of the wagon wheel represent the various social media channels and physician ratings sites, which can be used to share and publicize the primary web address to various target audiences. All of these channels should include links to your primary website—be it a practice website, personal blog, or academic/private practice profile—where readers can see the content you post.


A wagon wheel approach to creating an online presence.

4. The name

EyeSteve seems to be recognized in the Twitterverse and could be heard in the halls at ME Live. Were you thinking about building a brand image when you created the account?

In college, I studied business management and very much enjoyed my classes on marketing and brand development. In starting EyeSteve.com, I saw the opportunity to, in many ways, incorporate these skills into building a brand and further develop skills that I may one day need as a physician. With that in mind, the web page URL, social media handles, and even color schemes were definitely included in the brand image and initial brainstorming. While not affiliated with Apple, I liked the wordplay of Apple products (iPod, iPhone, iTunes), and EyeSteve seemed like a good fit both to promote ophthalmology and to build a personal brand.

5. What kind of maintenance does a strong web presence entail?

Quite honestly, there is very little maintenance beyond a small annual fee and graphic design costs. Having a strong web presence is like the practice many of us dream of having someday, where even when you are on vacation, your business is growing. After a busy week where I don’t have time to post, tweet, or share, I love checking the week’s webpage analytics and seeing that even in my absence, visitors continue to frequent (and hopefully enjoy!) the content they find on EyeSteve.com.

6. Can you tell us about any opportunities that have come your way as a result of creating EyeSteve?

Since starting the website and social media accounts, there have been a few highlights that help me stay motivated and feeling like some good can come from these efforts.

Earlier this summer, I saw a pediatric patient in the emergency department who had advanced leukemia and was suffering from a leukemia-related ophthalmic complication. In the course of completing the eye exam, this young boy shared with me his love for superheroes, which later inspired me to write an article called “What a Patient With Cancer Taught His Doctor About Superheroes.” I called the patient’s mother to tell her about the article and later discovered that she and her son were touched. The article was shared hundreds of times on Facebook, and, later that day, a close friend whose son also has leukemia messaged me saying that he loved what I had written. Having an online presence gave me the opportunity to make this young boy, and hopefully at least a few other children and their families, feel uplifted during difficult times.

You may also remember the worldwide controversy earlier this year concerning “the dress.” Millions of people were in disagreement about whether this garment was black and blue or white and gold, and news sources were in a frenzy for an explanation of this visual phenomenon. Recognizing this mayhem as a unique opportunity to educate the public about ophthalmology, I asked a friend of mine, Matt Weed, MD, who was then completing an ophthalmic genetics fellowship, to write a post explaining the visual phenomenon of the dress. The very next day, Kevin Pho, MD, Founder of KevinMD.com, messaged me asking if he could repost the article on his site. Within 3 days, the article had been shared more than 3,000 times via social media and had yielded more than 40,000 views. Simply by having a professional website and recognizing a well-timed opportunity, I was able to help thousands of people learn more about the visual system. Equally rewarding was the ability to help my friend and colleague vastly expand his professional network by sharing his insights into and knowledge on the truth behind the dress.

7. Do you have any final thoughts for those considering starting their own web presence and/or online brand?

The final thought I hope to leave with ophthalmologists-in-training and other readers is that this is something you too can do. My insights and experiences are no more interesting, unique, or different than yours. Medicine needs physicians who are willing to share their thoughts and experiences publicly, whether via blogs, editorial journals, research, social media, or interviews. Whether you have your own personal blog, practice website, or social media presence, consider adding an editorial section where you too can share your professional insights in order to educate the public, connect with patients, and promote ophthalmology.