Score 76 points in Scrabble with “Ophthalmologist” — The Canadian Ophthalmological Society: See the Possibilities

If I asked most of you what an ophthalmologist does, I’d likely see a lot of blank stares. (Some ocular humour for you there!) But you wouldn’t be alone. Despite a family history of glaucoma, it honestly wasn’t clear to me, either. I mean, I know what my optometrist does—I stop in every couple of years, make sure my eyesight’s still good, and fill a prescription for my latest pair of specs.

But my eyes aren’t all that bad—at -2.00 each, I can live most of my day without wearing my glasses, preferring to have them on for fashion over function. But what about those who aren’t so lucky? Consider the cornea, the transparent dome that covers the front of the eye. With the most densely integrated set of nerves in the body, the cornea requires an immense degree of precision and symmetry to fix it if it ever ends up diseased, and that’s where ophthalmologists come in!

As the only eye care professionals who are also medical doctors, ophthalmologists help navigate Canadians through numerous eye diseases that they’re woefully unaware of. I recently had the chance to scrub in and shadow Dr. Clara Chan, an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Toronto, a specialist in cornea and cataract surgery, and a member of the Canadian Ophthalmological Society who opened my eyes to what ophthalmologists get up to at Toronto’s Kensington Eye Institute!

When I told some of my peers I’d be sitting in on some cross-linking and cornea transplant surgery; it left them with mixed feelings!

I’m not a gambling man, but I’d wager scalpels and sutures are some of the last things that come to mind when you think of bloggers, yet there I was, watching as tissue donation helped restore sight and cross-linking helped maintain it. Sure, it was an experience that might not be for the squeamish, but I have so much more appreciation for why we need ophthalmologists now! Imagine having to sew stitches with sutures one-tenth the width of human hair. Or needing to slice just enough of the cornea off to improve vision and not inflict permanent damage by preserving the remaining half-millimetre of tissue. These are things ophthalmologists need to do every day, and I’m glad that we have such skilled and adept professionals at the helm for this work!