January 19, 2016
4 min read

A thankful beginning to the new year

Take the time to reflect on the good things in your professional and personal life.

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Happy New Year! How were your holidays? Did your team win its bowl game? How was New Year’s Eve? Did you manage to stay up late enough to see the ball drop? Now, here’s the kicker: How many of your new year’s resolutions have you already blown?

I definitely feel you on that last one. So much so that I am going to take an entirely different approach this year and not make any traditional resolutions. Instead I am going to begin my year, both professionally and personally, with a listing of some of the wonderful people and things for which I am thankful. Using that list, I plan to make a single, solitary resolution. Each time things get sticky or tough, every time life throws me a curveball, the first thing I will do is refer back to that list so that whatever reaction I have to a setback is launched from a place of gratitude.

Professional acknowledgment

Let me start my new year of gratitude with a couple of things in my professional life, starting right here with this column in Ocular Surgery News. It is not possible to express in just a few words how much enjoyment I have received from writing The Dry Eye. The simple act of sitting at a keyboard and emptying a tiny part of my “internal hard drive” is just plain fun. Interacting with the editorial staff at OSN, especially Senior Editorial Director David Mullin, has been unfailingly interesting and educational. The real joy has been getting the chance to meet so many colleagues who share at least my interest in dry eye. We may all be weird, but it is a good weird. Happy New Year, my brothers and sisters in arms.

Eye care in general, and the anterior segment in particular, is blessed to have some very fine leaders who continue to give of themselves to our community of physicians, and by extension to all of our patients. In particular, Dick Lindstrom and Eric Donnenfeld are examples of physicians who could quite easily let up on the gas pedal and go on cruise control, but instead continue to be forces behind many of the most important developing issues in our professional world. Both weighed in and put their considerable influence in play in the dry eye world this year, especially in the area of point-of-service testing. I am grateful that neither shows any signs of slowing down (even though I once wrote that I wanted to be “the next Dick Lindstrom” when he did) and that both show every sign of continuing to set a standard of professional excellence for each of us. Happy New Year, gentlemen.

It has been quite a year for industry in the eye world, has it not? Mergers, failed mergers, booms and busts ... and that is just Valeant! In all seriousness, we are blessed that our tiny part of medicine is so vibrant and has such an attraction to the business of health care. On a micro level, for the most part the industry representatives who visit SkyVision have been delightful people, and this is certainly something for which I am grateful. Heck, Shannon and Farley have called on me for pretty much my entire career. Happy New Year to you all, and don’t be a stranger.

On a much larger scale — OK, on a hugely larger scale — there are a couple of industry folks we are all fortunate to know. I am grateful for people such as Bob Dempsey of Shire, who has taken on the high-wire task of starting an eye care business from scratch. There is a huge upside for sure, for Shire and for all of us, but that is a job that looks a whole lot like that guy walking the tightrope between the towers. On the other side of the coin, I am grateful for Aziz Mottiwala and his boss Dave Lacasse at Allergan, for the steady hand they have demonstrated in guiding the most important established eye care franchise in big pharma. Allergan is about to merge with Pfizer, a company with not a lot of exposure in eye care. Knowing Aziz and Dave are there should give us all confidence in the new venture. A raised glass of champagne and a toast for a happy and successful new year to you all.


Personal acknowledgment

Lastly, we should not forget how fortunate we are to be not only physicians, but also ophthalmologists. We live in a world where what we do makes a large and obvious difference to the people we serve. Have you ever thought about why and how you became an eye doctor? Inspired by John Hovanesian, I recently penned a blog post about the people who inspired me to become a doctor, but I don’t think I have ever shared how it is that I became an eye doctor.

I entered medical school straight from college. All full of myself after 4 years of academic successes and a lifetime of athletic triumph, I was slated for one of the “hard” procedural specialties such as orthopedic or trauma surgery. It would be an understatement to say that my psychological makeup at the time fit those specialties perfectly. Unlike many of my colleagues who grew up in medical families, I am the only physician in my line. My Dad had spent his entire career running factories in ophthalmic manufacturing. Indeed, I had grown up around optometrists, opticians and optical fashion designers, and I was mildly surprised to find that there was an eye specialty in the department of surgery. Out of curiosity, and as a courtesy to my father, I took a flyer on a 2-week ophthalmology elective. I was blown away by how cool the whole ophthalmology thing was, and this was 1984!

My Dad passed away this fall after a lengthy illness. Every day I get to go to work as an ophthalmologist, I am grateful that he worked in the eye care industry and that this tiny little coincidence made me take that flyer on ophthalmology. For almost 30 years I got to share all of the cool new things we get to do with a father who understood the industry that supports our practices, and fortunately I did get the chance to thank him for his role in my choice of a specialty.

So Happy New Year, and thank you again, Dad. I really miss you, but I am grateful for the time I did have you here to share my journey.

Disclosure: White reports he is a consultant for Bausch + Lomb, Allergan, Shire and Eyemaginations and on the speakers board for Bausch + Lomb, Allergan and Shire.