written by: Joel Hunter M.D.
Posted on February 26th, 2014
Sometimes, patients will ask me, “If you were getting LASIK, who would you go to?” and my answer is always the same, “I did have LASIK, and I did my own, using a complicated system of mirrors.” Every once in a while someone won’t realize I’m joking and then I’ll feel bad because I have to immediately confess that I was just trying to say something entertaining, but I don’t want them to feel silly for believing me. It’s the same reason I would make a terrible magician. “Sorry everyone, you see, my assistant just scrunched her legs up into this first box and I never cut her in half with this big saw. This saw isn’t even a real saw. I apologize for deceiving you.”
The truth is, there are several LASIK surgeons who are incredible at their job and I wouldn’t hesitate to let operate on someone I care about. Lewis Groden MD, who operates in Tampa, FL, is the man who did my LASIK, and he is one of those people. He was my mentor through residency and was the one who built the foundations for my understanding of refractive surgery. And since I get the question a fair amount, and I thought maybe it could be helpful for people living other places in the country, here’s a “Top 5″ list (of refractive surgeons):
1. Dan Durrie MD
He’s the founder of Durrie Vision in Overland Park, KS. I did my fellowship with him. I quickly realized a few weeks in that I was right to have so desperately wanted to learn from him that I moved my family to Kansas. I realized it when all of the doctors that write articles in ophthalmology magazines, and speak at the big conferences, were coming to see Dr. Durrie to learn from him. This happened every week. Part of my job would there was to give some refractive surgery big wigs a tour or an explanation of the new technology we had.
2. Stephen Slade MD
His clinic is in Houston, TX and he was the co-writer of the study (with Dr. Durrie) that coined the term Sub-Bowman’s Keratomileusis (SBK) for the new, improved LASIK technique done entirely with laser. He is also very kind and has a voice that could be, and is, regularly used to make the most anxious patient feel like they are entering into hypnosis-level relaxation. Almost every new laser or technology goes to his clinic first for him to put it through the paces.
3. Vance Thompson MD
Many people south of the Mason Dixon line may never have heard of this great man without reading this blog, and that alone would make writing it worth it. He founded a practice in Souix Falls, SD that is one of the most amazing I’ve ever seen. Even the building itself is a masterpiece with huge, 3-story, floor-to-ceiling windows offering vistas for miles across the plains. But much more important, Dr. Thompson is a surgeon so brilliant and prolific surgeon that many patients drive hundreds of miles just to have him as a doctor. Also, he is the nicest guy I’ve ever known. I mean that literally. I may someday meet someone nicer, but I will only believe it after I verify that it is not him in a disguise.
4. Karl Stonecipher MD
He is the winner every year of the Coolest Name in Ophthalmology Award. His practice is in Greensboro, NC and he’s been involved in a lot of studies to advance LASIK technology. It’s also exceptionally rare to find a doctor who is a great researcher that is also a really talented public speaker. Most speakers in ophthalmology make you think, “Yes. Clearly this is a man who prefers math to speaking with people.”
5. Marguerite McDonald MD
She also practices in New York, but she was in New Orleans for years before that. She was the first in the U.S. to perform excimer laser on a person. Lasers have gotten a lot better since the late 80s and she has been there for all of it. Dr. McDonald also a world leader in dry eye treatment. While out at dinner with her once, she saw a picture of my son and said that he was very handsome. It was around that time that I objectively realized that she was not only a great surgeon, but also a delightful person.
There are a lot of other great LASIK surgeons in the country. They all have the same two things in common. They are very smart, and they care as much about your eyes as much as they would care about their best friend’s eyes. If those two qualities are there, everything else will generally fall into place.