Roger F. Steinert, MD; Lauri R. Graham


November 16, 2015

Editor's Note:
During this year's American Academy of Ophthalmology meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, the Cornea Society presented the Dohlman Award to Roger F. Steinert, MD, Irving H. Leopold Professor; Chair, Department of Ophthalmology; and Director, Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, University of California, Irvine. The Dohlman Award is given to recognize a lifetime of teaching excellence in the field of cornea and external disease and for contributions to ophthalmology. Claes Dohlman, MD, PhD, the inaugural recipient of the award and for whom it is named, created the first formal corneal fellowship program in the United States and trained hundreds of fellows. Medscape talked with Dr Steinert about his own career in ophthalmology and the significance of receiving this award.

Medscape: What attracted you to the field of ophthalmology, and specifically to cornea and external disease?

Dr Steinert: When I entered medical school, ophthalmology was far down the list of specialties that I was interested in. What changed my opinion was witnessing the delicate and highly successful techniques (even using the older technology) in ophthalmic surgery. When I began my ophthalmology residency, I was quickly drawn to cornea and cataract surgery. The ability to transform a patient's vision overnight was miraculous and professionally rewarding.

Medscape: What are the things you most enjoy about practicing in your chosen subspecialty?

Dr Steinert: For over three decades, I have been blessed to be part of an ongoing revolution in microsurgery that continues to this day.

Medscape: You've been involved with numerous research activities, including being one of the first ophthalmologists to research the use of the excimer laser for corneal transplantation. What would you say has been your biggest achievement as a researcher? What has been the biggest challenge?

Dr Steinert: My biggest achievement has been to have the opportunity to take a new technology and to foster its growth from infancy to mainstream applications that are still developing. My biggest challenges have always been witnessing the slow pace of movement from reasonably solid technologies to finally have full approval at great expense and time.

Medscape: Throughout your career, you have received many awards. What does receiving the Dohlman Award for teaching excellence mean to you?

Dr Steinert: The Dohlman Award signifies a level of commitment, over many decades, to ensure that future ophthalmologists continue to build on the wonderful legacy of Claes Dohlman.

Medscape: What influenced your decision to teach and train residents and fellows?

Dr Steinert: For me, this decision was always part of a core belief in the benefit to us all to continue an ongoing thirst for knowledge and innovation.

Medscape: Describe a particularly rewarding teaching experience during your career.

Dr Steinert: To be honest, I can give many examples of rewarding experiences. The most important, however, has been the cumulative effect of seeing the impact of so many wonderful colleagues who continue to expand the field of ophthalmology.

Medscape: In your opinion, what characteristics must one possess to excel in ophthalmology, and specifically cornea and external disease?

Dr Steinert: A strong work ethic and superior fine-motor skills, combined with a passion to preserve and protect the most precious of senses: sight.

Medscape: What upcoming innovations in ophthalmology most excite you?

Dr Steinert: We have many exciting technologies that are in progress. However, what I am most excited about is the future of eye care that we have not even imagined.