Eyeworld

DEC 2012

EyeWorld is the official news magazine of the American Society of Cataract & Refractive Surgery.

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February 2011 December 2012 Innovation: A look ahead EW FEATURE 35 Innovators in ophthalmology by Ellen Stodola EyeWorld Staff Writer Two ophthalmologists extend their work beyond the eye I n ophthalmology���s ever-changing world of technology, Steve Charles, M.D., and Stephen Wilmarth, M.D., are two doctors who have managed to stand out as innovators with their respective work with master-slave robots and the new Aganocide compounds (NovaBay Pharmaceuticals, Emeryville, Calif.) thought to be an alternative to antibiotics. Both have made a name for themselves through various devices and new technologies, and both stressed the necessity and value of being able to work with others to develop new methods and products. When it comes to innovating, ophthalmology can benefit from techniques and skills from other fields to complement the research and development in eyecare. EyeWorld spoke with these doctors to find out more about their current work and how they are constantly evolving and thriving in their field. Steve Charles, M.D. As one of the world���s top vitreoretinal surgeons, Dr. Charles has been a pioneer in his field. He is the CEO and founder of the Charles Retina Institute (Memphis, Tenn.) and the CEO and co-founder of CamPlex LLC, as well as a clinical professor of ophthalmology at the University of Tennessee. Dr. Charles received his medical degree from the University of Miami���s School of Medicine, after doing his undergraduate studies in mechanical and electrical engineering. Dr. Charles credits much of his success to his background in engineering. He went to engineering school before deciding to go to medical school, and even though he knows people who followed a similar path, Dr. Charles said many of them did not keep up with engineering and are no longer well versed in it. ���The key to my success is that I did engineering all through medical school, internship, and residency, and every week, every year of my 37 years of practice,��� he said. ���That���s what I think has distinguished what I do,��� Dr. Charles said. He said his background is in both mechanical and electrical engineering, and he also has experience with optics and software development. He finds it important to know the parts, assembly, and commercialization that go into making a product, and he said he frequently does factory tours and engineering meetings to become familiar with parts and facilities for making products in his field. ���I know parts, and I know how parts get built and how you build assemblies, and that���s what makes me a better designer,��� Dr. Charles said. Over the years, he said many projects and plans for building devices have become more complex, but the general idea has stayed the same, and being able to work on a team is an important factor. However, Dr. Charles��� career has not been without challenges. ���The game changed a little bit about 20 years ago,��� Dr. Charles said. ���My dad died of a brain tumor some years before that and on his deathbed, he said, ���Steve, you���re a mechanical and electrical engineer, you need to work with the neurosurgeons and help people like me.������ Dr. Charles said this helped him realize that microsurgery made more sense for these types of procedures, which led him to work on master-slave robots. He ended up selling MicroDexterity Systems to Stryker (Kalamazoo, Mich.) for neurosurgery and spine work. One of the points Dr. Charles was most adamant about was his reason for doing what he does. ���All of this is about helping patients, not doing things to be famous,��� he said. ���No machine has my name on it because I don���t believe this is supposed to be an ego game where you name devices after yourself.��� Dr. Charles said his goal is to make a contribution by bettering himself as an engineer and teacher. ���I don���t take vacations. I don���t watch movies. I don���t play golf. I don���t hunt. I don���t fish,��� Dr. Charles said. ���I work and see patients, operate, teach, do engineering, and repeat, and that���s all I do.��� Dr. Charles said he has several things occupying his time currently, including his work with Alcon (Fort Worth, Texas), which is in the research and development stage, continued on page 36 AT A GLANCE ��� Working as a team often leads to even more success because cooperating and bringing together each other���s strengths is often better than what one person can do alone ��� Keeping current on your skills is one of the most valuable tools. Just because you have experience in something does not mean you can still utilize it without keeping up on it ��� According to Dr. Wilmarth, ���A day without disaster is a total loss.��� He finds the constant challenges and bumps in the road help him learn and move on with his work

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