Where did you grow up?
I grew up in St. John, New Brunswick, on the east coast of Canada. My mom was a nurse, and my dad is a civil engineer. I always wanted to be a math teacher, and my parents had desires for me to become a doctor. So I did a math degree, but to make them happy I also did a biology degree. I didn’t have a faculty member who could answer the question of what I was going to do with my math degree other than teach. So I looked at my biology degree, shadowed a lot of medical professionals, and spent a day with my optometrist. He loved his job, and he loved his life. I said “You’re happy. I want to do what you do because I want to be happy in life.”
What got you into contact lenses?
At Southern California College of Optometry, Dr. Sunny Sanders worked with prosthetics, and I loved what she was doing. So, I went in on weekends to spend time with her, and I saw the impact she had on her patients. I hung out more with my faculty members who were strong in contact lenses, and the passion grew.
Why are you interested in gas permeable (GP) contact lenses?
Because of how they can transform vision. When patients are unable to get good correction with glasses and surgery is their only option, they are able to achieve better results with a gas permeable lens. We reshape the cornea by putting on this hard piece of plastic, and we can completely transform the optics, saving someone from needing a corneal transplant. So, for someone post-surgery or post-trauma or with corneal disease who has been told, “There’s not much we can do”— gas perms can change his life.
Previous OD Q&A: Jeffrey J. Walline, OD, PhD
How does practicing in Canada differ from the U.S.?
Billing is the big difference. I think it’s much simpler up here because we don’t have as many insurance difficulties. Most of our billing is direct billing to the patient, so it’s easier. From an optometry standpoint, we can do the exact same things as ODs in the U.S.
What keeps you in private practice instead of going into academia or industry?
Lecturing and working with students helps me to keep on top of materials which I bring back to the practice to help my patients. I bring my clinical experience into my speaking engagements to for a real-world perspective to share what is happening clinically. So, I think having a bit of both complements each other.
What’s something your colleagues don’t know about you?
Years ago, my dad used to have a motorcycle. One day, I was on the bike of friend and I tapped his shoulder and said “I want you to know the next time we go out riding together, I’m going to be driving.” He laughed at me. I started taking lessons the next weekend, and I was hooked. It was the thrill of learning something new after residency. Being out on the road is liberating. Right now I’m riding a Suzuki GSX-R750. It’s fast enough, it’s big enough, it does everything I need it to do.