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One To Watch | Sept/Oct '19

One To Watch: Evan D. Schoenberg, MD

Dr. Schoenberg is a cataract, refractive, and cornea surgeon at Georgia Eye Partners in Atlanta.

1. Please share with us your background.

I’m from small-town Alabama. I grew up next door to my high-school sweetheart, who is now my wife of 10 years. I attended Vanderbilt University, where I majored in neuroscience and minored in computer science. I then completed medical school at Emory University, residency at Tulane University, and fellowship at Price Vision Group in Indianapolis, Indiana.

I’m not so secretly a computer geek. During medical school, I founded a mobile software development company, Regular Rate and Rhythm Software, on which I continue to work when I’m not correcting vision. I also enjoy racquetball, running, scuba diving, and craft beer, although not simultaneously, as well as the delightful chaos of being home with my two girls, my wife, and our dog.

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

The balance between the OR and the clinic that is achievable in ophthalmology strikes me as perfect. In the clinic, I love the personal connections established when exploring patients’ visual goals—from freedom from glasses to restoration of sight—and the surprising emotional moments that result. The OR, on the other hand, is a zen-like space in which the surgeon and the patient interact through precise, fine manipulations. I wouldn’t be professionally satisfied with just one of those pieces, and few fields of medicine offer something similar.

My initial pull to cornea and refractive surgery is a common story. My own quality of life soared after I underwent LASIK for my moderately high myopic astigmatism. It’s fantastic sharing that experience with patients via LASIK and other procedures.

3. Please describe your current position.

I am a partner at Georgia Eye Partners, a multispecialty group practice with offices in Atlanta and its northern suburbs. My work there focuses on cataract, refractive, and cornea surgery, predominately on a referral basis. I enjoy tackling tough cases and staying on the cutting edge in order to provide my patients with the best care. I am also a surgeon at TLC Laser Eye Center in Atlanta, where I perform routine LASIK and PRK, laser treatment of corneal scars, and refractive keratoconus management via topography-guided PRK and intracorneal ring segment implantation.

4. Who are your mentors?

In residency, Ramesh Ayyala, MD, taught me so much about being a good and compassionate surgeon and led by example as an entrepreneur and leader. Miles Friedlander, MD, was my first refractive surgery mentor and also introduced me to corneal transplantation. I owe my love of complex anterior segment surgery to my experiences in fellowship with mentors Frank W. Price, MD; Matt Feng, MD; and Yuri McKee, MD.

We are fortunate to live in such a connected world, and I consider the mentorship of my colleagues in the Oracle Vision Council and the Refractive Surgery Alliance to be invaluable. I also greatly appreciate the mentorship of my partners in practice, particularly my senior partner Eugene Gabianelli, MD.

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

One of my patients with keratoprostheses was a 74-year-old Korean man who, when I met him, had bilateral corneal blindness with failed penetrating keratoplasty grafts. I will never forget the pure joy in his voice as he explained that, after his successful procedure, he had traveled home to South Korea to see his grandchildren for the first time, a trip he had delayed for many years due to his sight.

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’m particularly excited that modern techniques are moving disease management into the refractive space. For example, the results of Descemet membrane endothelial keratoplasty are so good that we can treat many cornea transplant recipients with a refractive mindset. Combining technologies such as CXL, topography-guided PRK, intracorneal ring segments, and toric implantable collamer lenses can open the door to a similar mindset for patients with keratoconus.

I’m also excited about upcoming advances in presbyopia management. On one hand, topical therapy for presbyopia will delay the need for—and therefore lessen the use of—reading glasses, encouraging more patients with cataracts to expect a full range of vision. On the other hand, I’m looking forward to true accommodating IOLs, which I think will eventually replace diffractive optics, our current state of the art, to provide a full range of vision.

7. What is the focus of some of your research?

I am looking at the outcomes of CXL with topography-guided PRK and other combined approaches to improve vision without the need for corneal transplantation, working toward treating ectactic corneal disease with a refractive mindset. Also, I will soon begin trials looking at results of Lenticule Intrastromal Keratoplasty in combination with topography-guided laser vision correction.

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

Every day is different. Depending on the day and the phase of the moon, I can be found at our practice’s Northside, Woodstock, or Johns Creek offices, where cornea and cataract consult clinics are punctuated by a variety of minor procedures; at one of two ambulatory surgery centers where laser cataract surgery, corneal transplantation, pterygium repair, and a host of other procedures fill my day; or at TLC, where I perform LASIK and other laser procedures.

As if that weren’t enough excitement, I come home to my daughters Leigha, 6, and Isla, 2, to run around in the yard, host dance parties, or play video games. Once my wife and I get them to sleep, I like to relax with her or, sometimes, with a thorny software programming problem. I always have a dozen projects in motion!

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

Seek happiness in this amazing field, and success will follow.

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

Dr. Sergio Canabrava’s T-position combined with Dr. Brian Kim’s direct haptic modifications to the Yamane technique (Dr. Shin Yamane’s transscleral double-needle IOL fixation) has made the procedure quick and reliable in my hands. It makes IOL placement in complex anterior segment cases substantially less stressful. I feel so fortunate to stand on the shoulders of giants in all of the surgical work that I do.

Neda Shamie, MD | Section Editor