Lou Catania: Always an inspiration

May 21, 2013

Dr. Ernie Bowling shares how Lou Catania’s final lecture before retirement spurs a memory of a great teacher.

By Ernie Bowling, OD

I was recently told by Dr. Elliot Myrowitz that Lou Catania gave what he described as his final lecture at a recent Pennyslvania College of Optometry at Salus University program. Dr. Catania is an icon in our profession with over 40 years as an optometric educator. “Dr. Catania has been instrumental in helping all 50 states pass scope of practice legislation and has helped optometry around the world,” said Dr. Myrowitz.

His textbook Primary Care of the Anterior Segment is one of the standards in our profession, and it helped me pass more than one state board exam. Hearing him lecture inspired me to attempt it as well.

Yet I could never pull off what he did a few years back. I do not remember which national meeting it was, but there was an absolutely packed auditorium that day to hear Dr. Catania lecture. He was about to begin when suddenly his laptop crashed. PowerPoint presentation lost. He and the tech crew attempted to restart his device, but it was hopeless. Having been on a podium a few times in my life, I can guarantee you that has to be the one greatest fear you have. I would’ve had a coronary on the spot.

Dr. Catania simply moved away from the podium and apologized for the technical difficulty. Then he began his talk. No notes, no slides, nothing. Just a 2-hour discourse off the top of his head about anterior segment ocular disease. He held the undivided attention of everyone in the room. No one was reading the newspaper in the back. I remember looking around the lecture hall and wondering what it would be like to hold an audience in the palm of your hand like he was doing that day. Watching him teach unscripted and unaided for those 2 hours remains one of my fondest memories. How the heck he did it is beyond me. But then again, the man is a natural teacher.

Thanks, Lou, for inspiring me and countless other optometrists over your long and prestigious career. Enjoy your retirement.