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Guest Editorial

Ode to innovators — and the risk-takers who help them

Ophthalmology is the best profession within medicine. Perhaps the biggest reason for this is all of the different solutions we have for our patients’ problems. The miracles of phacoemulsification, foldable intraocular lenses, corneal transplants, vitrectomy, anti-VEGF therapy, minimally invasive glaucoma surgery, LASIK, IOP-lowering medications and others are all the result of a healthy innovation cycle within ophthalmology.

When I speak with business leaders who have worked in other professions and then joined this field, the response is unanimous: There is something special in ophthalmology when it comes to innovation.

AN IDEA IS GREAT … BUT IT’S NOT ENOUGH

All of the innovations described above were developed by ophthalmologists — and all of them would have died on the vine had these individuals not taken extraordinary reputational, financial and emotional risks to see their ideas turn into products.

The ideas would have also died had there not been someone willing to risk enormous capital to fund the development of an idea into a product and, ultimately, a business.

There are way too many DWIs (doctors with ideas) in our profession. Ideas are the seed, but it takes fertile soil and a lot of hard work to grow and cultivate them.

Brainstorming an idea, after all, is just a small part of the ultimate product and company … and while ideation is the most fun part of the entire process, the rest is mostly work.

It can be gratifying, like any task that leads to a good outcome. But, make no mistake, it is hard and it comes with enormous frustrations.

“SUCCESS IS 10% INSPIRATION AND 90% PERSPIRATION”

As doctors, we have healthy practices that provide a stable income and the gratification of helping patient after patient after patient. But, it’s those people who dedicate their lives and livelihoods to a start-up idea ­— the engineers, scientists, regulatory experts and business people — who take a level of risks that most doctors will never know. Because of those ideas and the hard work that brings them to fruition, our profession reaps some of the greatest solutions known to modern medicine.

So, while I am deeply impressed by the doctors who have come up with creative and ingenious solutions to some of our most vexing problems, the unsung heroes in our profession are those who risk their livelihoods day in and day out to make our technologies a reality. I want to thank them on behalf of a grateful profession. OM