When I was in medical school, I failed the distance vision test when I tried to renew my driver’s license. This meant it wasn’t legal for me to drive, so I needed to get glasses. The ophthalmologist who worked with me, Dr. David MacMillan, was amazing. On the very first day he fit me with contacts I was shocked to discover how much distance vision I had slowly lost over time. I had simply adjusted to not seeing people clearly up ahead; I accepted it as normal to see only their outline or to identify someone by the way they walked. I then recalled each of the times I chose to sit in the front row of my classes while assuming everyone who sat in the back must be goofing off because there was no way they could see clearly from that far away.
The day I got those contact lenses, I suddenly realized that what I previously thought to be normal, was not. When this ophthalmologist’s exam revealed all that I had been missing, I lit up. I couldn’t believe the difference, the improvement, and I kept thinking how wonderful it must be to work in that medical field, how great it must be to help a patient in that same way.
“At the end of those two years, they gave me a humorous plaque that said I suffered from the ‘Syndrome of Inappropriate Enthusiasm.’”
Up to that point in medical school, I felt as though we had barely any training when it came to the eyes. There might have been one day with eight hours of lecture that focused on that part of the anatomy, but that didn’t seem like it was enough. So, when I failed that vision test, I decided I would do some studying on my own. The prospect of making an impressive change in someone’s life — by restoring or improving their vision — got me excited about the field of ophthalmology.
From there, I applied for and got accepted to a residency program in New York City’s Manhattan Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital. I did a three-year study in ophthalmology and, in my final year, one of my fellow residents and I were selected as the Chief Residents. During that same time, I was blessed by being exposed to a multitude of eyelid plastic surgeons (oculoplastic surgeons) and even worked with Dr. Byron Smith. He’s known among the oculoplastic surgeons as “the father of oculoplastic surgery.” It was always fascinating to get his take on certain patients or issues when other surgeons would ask him for his opinion or advice.
It was a wonderful time, and while I was already excited about ophthalmology, I became even more enthusiastic about this sub-specialty. Because of this added interest, I then continued my training with a two-year fellowship at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, Florida and trained exclusively in eyelid plastic and reconstructive surgery. During that time, I also oversaw the teaching of ophthalmology residents. Each week I gave a lecture on a different subject within oculoplastics. Apparently, I was so thrilled by what I was sharing in my talks, at the end of those two years the residents gave me a humorous plaque that said I suffered from the “Syndrome of Inappropriate Enthusiasm.”
The enthusiasm those fellow residents pinpointed and that I’ve felt for my chosen field has carried through these years and has never wavered in the least. Even with over 20 years in this field, I feel as though I’m just getting started. I’m still just as excited now as I was the first time I heard Dr. Byron Smith speak about oculoplastic medicine and the first day I opened my own practice in this wonderful field of surgery.