Dr. Swan practices at Vance Thompson Vision in Bozeman, Montana, and is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Utah, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, in Salt Lake City.
1. Please share with us your background.
I grew up in the small town of Grant, Nebraska, with two older brothers and spent many summers working on my grandpa’s and uncle’s farms. I attended medical school at the University of Nebraska, residency at the Moran Eye Center in Utah, and fellowship at Vance Thompson Vision in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. My wife and our three kids moved to Bozeman, Montana, just over 1 year ago to start our clinic. If I am not at work, you will likely find me exploring God’s creation with my family by foot in the summer and by skis in the winter.
2. What drew you to ophthalmology and, specifically, to your field of interest?
As a previous -6.00 D myope, my life was always blurry growing up. Each day I put my contacts or glasses on, I was reminded of the gift of sight and how much of an impact vision has on our lives. Having undergone PRK and receiving the gift of sight permanently, I knew I had found something that I loved. I was drawn to the opportunities to share that gift and to shape the future of eye care across the developing world in our lifetime.
3. Please describe your current position.
I currently run our practice in Bozeman, Montana, and focus my time on cataract surgery, laser vision correction, cornea surgery, glaucoma surgery, and complex anterior segment surgery. My clinic is a referral-based practice with a particular focus on complex medical and surgical care for Montana and northern Wyoming.
4. Who are your mentors?
I have been so blessed throughout my journey in ophthalmology to have outstanding mentors. I was introduced to ophthalmology and international outreach as a medical student by Mike Feilmeier, MD. In residency, I had the privilege of working directly with so many exceptional doctors, including Randy Olson, MD, CEO of the John A. Moran Eye Center; Jeff Pettey, MD, the director of education for the John A. Moran Eye Center; and many others who shaped my desire to pursue anterior segment surgery, including Alan Crandall, MD; Mark Mifflin, MD; Craig Chaya, MD; and Geoff Tabin, MD.
I am also grateful for my current partners Vance Thompson, MD; John Berdahl, MD; Alison Tendler, MD; Mike Greenwood, MD; Brandon Baartman, MD; and Deb Ristvedt, DO, who demonstrate daily the blessing we have to care for our patients in their moments of vulnerability.
5. What has been the most memorable experience of your career thus far?
Without a doubt, the most memorable experiences of my career so far have been my regional and international outreach efforts. My involvement began in medical school, when I helped establish a student-run free ophthalmology clinic in Omaha, Nebraska. As a medical student and resident, I spent 2 months in Nepal at the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology; there, I witnessed firsthand the transformational power of international work focused on education, skills transfer, and infrastructure development to create a sustainable eye care delivery system. Currently, I am working closely with Kevin Waltz, OD, MD, and many others to partner with Luis Lagos, MD, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to develop training and infrastructure support for San Felipe Hospital, the only ophthalmology training hospital in Honduras.
6. What are some new technological advances that you have found particularly exciting? Which advances in the pipeline are you most enthusiastic or curious about?
I think the continued improvement and refinement of IOLs is most exciting. Patient satisfaction with modern extended depth of focus and multifocal lenses continues to impress me. Couple this with innovations on the horizon, including the Light Adjustable Lens (RxSight), refractive index shaping (Perfect Lens), the IC-8 pinhole lens (AcuFocus), trifocal lenses, and fluid-optic accommodating IOLs, and the future looks bright for refractive cataract surgery.
In the glaucoma space, I have been closely involved in the early clinical development and research of negative pressure goggles by Equinox. The ability to treat glaucoma nonsurgically and nonpharmacologically in a titratable fashion is quite exciting.
7. What is the focus of some of your research?
I am currently serving as a principal investigator for the Glaukos iDose phase 3 trial. I firmly believe that sustained drug delivery will play a large role in the future of glaucoma care, and it is exciting to be able to participate in this project. I have also published and presented a number of papers on microinvasive glaucoma surgery.
8. What is a typical day in your life? What keeps you busy, fulfilled, and passionate?
A typical day for me starts with an early wake-up call from one of our three kids. I have a short drive to work with the beautiful Bridger and Gallatin mountain ranges as a backdrop. I am blessed to work alongside the most caring and fun work family. They empower me to see patients, some of whom travel 4 hours or more across the plains of the Mountain West, and deliver on the trust they put in us.
What keeps me busy, fulfilled, and passionate is my faith, my family, my work family, and the patients I get to take care of each day. I feel truly blessed every day when I wake up, and I am so thankful for the support, advice, and kindness so many wonderful people in this profession have given me.
9. What advice can you offer to individuals who are just now choosing their career paths after finishing residency or fellowship?
Take time to determine what drives you and what you value most as you begin your career. Then, find an organization or practice that will allow you to engage in this calling with purpose. Finally, take time to connect with others in the field. We have a tremendous opportunity as young leaders in our profession to continue to shape the future of ophthalmology in a positive way.
10. Tell us about an innovative procedure you are performing or a new imaging/diagnostic tool that has improved your practice.
The Yamane technique for secondary IOL placement has been a nice addition for complex aphakic patients. I am also excited to begin utilizing topography-guided PRK in conjunction with corneal crosslinking for patients with keratoconus.
On the imaging and diagnostic side, I am excited about the continued growth in our understanding of OCT angiography, and I am hopeful that we will find ways to more consistently image the Schlemm canal and collector channels to help guide microinvasive glaucoma surgery treatments.