August 07, 2018
2 min read

Contemplating retirement and the years surrounding it

Richard L. Lindstrom, MD, explains his challenge of passing the baton while remaining active in ophthalmology.

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Those who know Dick Lindstrom — and I have been blessed to be able to call him a dear friend for many years — know him to be indefatigable in every area of his life. Whether it be in the OR, on stage moderating a panel, lecturing, working with industry, on the tennis court or on the golf course, Dick leaves nothing behind. Recently I spoke with him regarding his challenge in ophthalmology, and it was of no surprise to me that after 50 years in medicine, and 45 of those spent in ophthalmology, he is now focusing his innate drive on the next phase of his life: passing the baton to the younger generation. His latest challenge.

As is the case with many aging and active ophthalmologists, Dick’s joy and friendships are directly related to his work. He has built a robust social network over his 45 years in practice, and the idea of completely stepping away from everything he loves is inconceivable. I am sure it is not unique to ophthalmology, but ophthalmology is all I know, and I can tell you that I have heard this concern voiced many times from other dynamos in our field. How does one remain engaged and relevant while stepping out of the operating room and seeing patients?

Dick stated that he began to contemplate his retirement at 55, and it is his opinion that most surgeons are in their prime from the age of 40 until 65 to 70. He explained, “There’s a time when even though you still feel competent and facile in the operating room, you should begin to think about your transition. It’s better to choose to pass the baton rather than to have someone tell you that you should have done so years earlier.” Since then, it has been his objective to “age gracefully in the field.”

Dick is the founder and attending surgeon at Minnesota Eye Consultants and OSN Chief Medical Editor, and he made it his mission to surround himself with the “best and the brightest.” Dick states that he is now “happily moving into his 70s” and has been open with his partners about the handover of his surgical cases by 2020; however, he may still perform YAGs and LASIK procedures and see patients in the clinic on a limited basis. Dick has already begun grooming his partners for the transition; he has been equally as transparent with his patients regarding his intentions and has reassured them that his partners are “as good or better than he ever was” and that they should feel as confident in his partners’ abilities to care for them as if it were him.


Dick believes that staying engaged in ophthalmology means “stretching yourself in different directions” and developing different skill sets and expertise — perhaps getting involved in mentorship, teaching, philanthropy, research, serving on advisory boards, and seeking out and developing innovation within our field. Dick also told me that he “receives as much joy teaching the next generation as he does doing the surgery himself.” And that a joyous life is “when you have someone to serve and people to share it with. A spouse, friends, colleagues and the community you are a part of.”

My takeaway from our interview is that if you keep an open mind and wish to stay active, there is space for you, but you must be willing to adapt and accept change. Not an easy task, but achievable if you accept the inevitable and proceed with mindfulness and intention.

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Dan Millman

Disclosure: Steinert reports no relevant financial disclosures.