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One To Watch | May/June '22

One To Watch: Amenze Osa, MD

Dr. Osa is a a cataract and glaucoma surgeon in Austin, Texas.

Please share with us your background.

I am a first-generation daughter of immigrants from Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria. My parents, James and Opral Osa, have served this country for decades within their fields of engineering and nursing, at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base and the US Veterans Affairs Hospital in Dayton, Ohio, respectively. I have two wonderful siblings as well. Our parents embedded in us the idea that education is the key to success. My daddy has been repeating his mantra, “Your brain is your weapon,” to us since we were in kindergarten. My mother introduced me to medicine. I was raised with a drive to learn and a deep love of music, and I have carried both of these principles into the parenting of my amazing baby girl, Ofure (pronounced “Off-Hooray”; nickname “Ofy,” which rhymes with “coffee”).

I was born in Nashville and raised in Dayton. I attended Northmont High School and graduated as the salutatorian of my class. I am a triple Buckeye, having attended The Ohio State University for my undergraduate education (majoring in biochemistry), medical school, and ophthalmology residency. I then moved to Texas for glaucoma fellowship at the University of Texas Southwestern Dallas. I have now been in private practice in the Austin area for 4 years.

What drew you to ophthalmology and, specifically, to your field of interest?

Ophthalmology, and specifically glaucoma, gave me the potential to build lifelong, life-altering relationships with my patients in a unique way. I wanted to be part of a field that would allow me the opportunity to make a positive impact on people’s lives. As a medical student, I would hear stories from my ophthalmology attendings about their patients, and I knew I wanted to build those types of connections with my patients. In addition, ophthalmology allowed me to work with my hands in the OR and in the clinic. The eye encompasses so many broad aspects of medicine: Diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, endocarditis, and sickle cell anemia all have ocular manifestations. I loved seeing how everything was connected. The technology in ophthalmology, and especially within glaucoma and cataract surgery, is constantly advancing with new treatment options and devices. I will never be bored in ophthalmology.

Please describe your current position.

I am a cataract and glaucoma surgeon in Austin. I serve a great deal of patients with glaucoma from Dallas to San Antonio. Although there are many ophthalmologists between those two cities, very few subspecialize in glaucoma and even fewer practice glaucoma. Given the disproportionate effect of glaucoma on people of African/African American descent, I feel both a sense of obligation to and pride in caring for the people of central Texas who may not otherwise see an ophthalmologist who looks like them for hundreds of miles.

Who are your mentors?

My first mentor ever was Anisa Shomo, MD, who works in family medicine. Two of my early mentors at The Ohio State University include Paul Weber, MD, who introduced me to ophthalmology as a medical student, and Gloria Fleming, MD, who encouraged me to apply to residency and then to fellowship in glaucoma. Oluwatosin Smith, MD, and Jess Whitson, MD, guided me during my glaucoma fellowship at the University of Texas Southwestern Dallas. Organizations such as the National Medical Association have allowed me to foster connections with so many Black powerhouses in ophthalmology, including Leon Herndon, MD; Constance Okeke, MD; Ninita Brown, MD; Daniel LaRoche, MD; Mildred Olivier, MD; Eydie G. Miller-Ellis, MD; Adrienne Scott, MD; Anika Goodwin, MD; Benjeil Edghill, MD; Charlotte Akor, MD; and Thandeka Myeni, MD, MPH.

What has been the most memorable experience of your career thus far?

My entire journey is filled with memorable experiences. Matching into my top choices for residency and fellowship, operating while pregnant, praying with my patients in clinic, singing to them while I operate, trying a new MIGS procedure for the first time, passing my board exams, and presenting—both to elementary school students interested in medicine and to my peers at national conferences—have all been memorable.

What are some new technological advances that you have found particularly exciting? Which advances in the pipeline are you most enthusiastic or curious about?

Glaucoma is such a fantastic field for innovation. The MIGS arena has seen so much growth since its early days when I was a resident: anterior chamber stents, goniotomy and canaloplasty, sub-Tenon and subconjunctival bypass stents, intracameral implants, dissolvable implants, and more. Although these treatments do not yet replace traditional incisional surgery, they can delay the need for more invasive therapies that often come with more risk of complication. In the future, I am interested in seeing greater utilization of dissolvable medicine, either intracamerally or via stent implantation in the angle.

What is the focus of some of your research?

The last research project I participated in involved light-adjustable lenses for cataract surgery, and those data are still being collected and analyzed for new refractive technology. I hope to get involved in more glaucoma research soon.

What is a typical day in your life? What keeps you busy, fulfilled, and passionate?

A typical day in my life starts with dropping off my daughter at daycare. Next, I get in my car and decide if I want to listen to afrobeats, 90s R&B, a sociology or finance podcast, or an Audible book on my way to work. I then see my patients (often at two different clinics) and head home to my family at the end of the day.

While in clinic, I see patients with glaucoma or possible glaucoma, significant cataracts, diabetes, and various eyelid lesions. I may sign up a patient for cataract surgery and MIGS in one room, do a glaucoma laser treatment in the next room, continue on to prescribe a new topical glaucoma medication, implant a dissolvable glaucoma medication at the slit lamp, and do a chalazion incision and curettage. Every room is different, and every patient is different. The balance of empathy and efficiency is important during a busy workday. What keeps me busy, fulfilled, and passionate is my daughter, Ofy. She’s my world.

What advice can you offer to individuals who are just now choosing their career paths after finishing residency or fellowship?

As a resident, be open to all subspecialty options. Residents and fellows should learn more about the business of ophthalmology in private practice, private equity, and academics. They should also learn how best to review and negotiate contracts. For the safety of patients, it would be great if more trainees could be involved in protecting and preserving the scope of ophthalmic practice by ophthalmologists. Keep learning! Education doesn’t stop at residency or fellowship. Learn what you’ve never known, and learn new ways to do what you’ve always done. Take on new approaches to cataract surgery, glaucoma surgery, or whatever your subspecialty of choice.

Tell us about an innovative procedure you are performing or a new imaging/diagnostic tool that has improved your practice.

Although the technology has been available for some time now, the Callisto eye (Carl Zeiss Meditec) device has helped make toric IOL placement much more precise for me. I also enjoy using the Xen Gel Stent (Allergan) and combination MIGS devices (eg, Omni Surgical System, [Sight Sciences] and Hydrus Microstent [Alcon]) as options for improved IOP lowering for certain patients with glaucoma. In addition, I believe OCT angiography can play a role in detecting early glaucoma in the glaucoma suspect patient population.