As the story goes, Isaac Newton was attending Cambridge University when the school was forced to close due to numerous outbreaks of the bubonic plague. It was during this time that he invented calculus, at the age of 23. A feat, certainly—and one that seems even more impressive as our time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic may feel more sourdough starter than mathematical theory. But, in truth, Newton’s work on calculus began years before the outbreak of the bubonic plague. Perhaps his newfound solitude provided the time he needed to finalize his theory, but it certainly wasn’t the productive plague we’ve been pitched.
For creative thinkers, however, great ideas can sometimes be conceived in a world turned upside-down. Despite the array of challenges and fatigues presented by COVID-19, the pandemic also provided many of us with a new supply of time—a true rarity for physicians. We gained more time at home, more time outside our once-regular routines, more time to think about the problems we face, and, perhaps, more time to consider potential solutions.
Although I myself mastered several bread recipes during the pandemic, I also worked with my colleague Preeya Gupta, MD, to launch a femtosecond laser arcuate incision calculator for astigmatism up to 1.20 D (www.LRIcalc.com). But don’t be fooled: This project has been years in the making, like most, and it was not solely the end result of a productive plague. As anyone working to take an idea from bench to bedside will tell you, the path of an invention is always long and rarely linear, no matter how much time you’ve been awarded.
In this issue of MillennialEYE, we hear from several researchers and innovators whose experiences are similar: interesting journeys filled with occasional wins but many more setbacks and pivots along the way. As you’ll see, inspiration for change often strikes when a problem seems glaring. As we experience one of the most tumultuous times in history, I encourage you to think creatively about any complexity you face, in ophthalmology and beyond. We may just come out on the other side with an arsenal of new recipes … and a supply of great ideas.