Dr. Kim, you are a successful ophthalmologist and a respected member of the medical community. What motivated you to specialize in ophthalmology?
Many of us who go into medicine know that serendipity and timing have a lot to do with finding a specialty. In my case, I was fortunate to receive advice and guidance from my parents, who were both in the healthcare field. They were both graduates of Yonsei University and Yonsei School of Medicine and boldly emigrated to the U.S. in 1965 to pursue a new life. I witnessed firsthand the hardships that my parents experienced in raising my sister and I in a country that was foreign to them. My father, who was a very hard-working and well-respected community obstetrician-gynecologist, encouraged me to take a different path than he did and to look into academic ophthalmology as a specialty.
As a sophomore at Duke University, I had an opportunity to volunteer at Duke Eye Center where I met Dr. Robert Machemer. I was first exposed to ophthalmic surgery when he invited me to the operating room to observe him perform a retinal vitrectomy procedure. During the 3rd year at Duke University School of Medicine, I decided to pursue my research year in the laboratory of Dr. Gordon Klintworth studying corneal neovascularization with a grant from the Research to Prevent Blindness Foundation. This experience not only opened my eyes to the field of ophthalmology but also to the importance of translational research. Inevitably, I interacted with the residents, fellows, and faculty there, all of whom helped me decide to pursue ophthalmology as a specialty, and I haven’t looked back since.
As an acclaimed physician with more than 20 years of experience, what do you enjoy most about being in the field of ophthalmology? What have been some of the highlights and honors in your career? Also, what are the most challenging aspects?
One of the joys of ophthalmology that became evident to me was being able to benefit from the many advancements in technology and surgical techniques that are ubiquitous in our field. From Dr. Charles Kelman’s introduction to the revolutionary concept of phacoemulsification by using ultrasound energy to remove cataracts, to Dr. Ramon Castroviejo’s first series of successful human corneal transplants, and Machemer’s and Thomas Aaberg’s pioneering efforts to launch the vitrectomy procedure, the field continues to remain at the cutting edge of innovation as we now use femtosecond and excimer lasers for cataract and refractive surgical procedures as well as new microscopic devices for glaucoma surgery to help restore sight and prevent blindness.
Through the generous support of research grants from the National Institutes of Health, Fight for Sight/Research to Prevent Blindness, and the Heed Ophthalmic Foundation, as well as corporate support from Alcon and Allergan, I have also immensely enjoyed my research career, which focused on corneal wound healing and eventually led to the commercialization of a wound sealant to decrease the need for sutures in ophthalmic surgery. But to me, the single greatest joy of working in my field has been the pleasure and privilege of giving the gift of sight to many of my patients. Not only until one loses his/her vision does one really appreciate it, as I have personally witnessed the tears and emotions expressed by children who can see for the first time through their new corneal transplant, by adolescent military serviceman who can now see without contact lenses or glasses after their LASIK surgery, or by grandparents who with their restored sight after cataract surgery can resume their normal daily activities and hobbies.
Of course, some of the greatest challenges lie in treating the diseases for which we currently don’t have ideal therapies, such as macular degeneration. And for this, I’m confident that the field of ophthalmology will continue to advance and innovate to eventually eliminate blindness altogether.
As far as some of the honors in my career, I have been the recipient of the Achievement Award and the Senior Achievement Award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) Film Festival Award. I have also been invited to give numerous named lectures, including the Wilfred E. Fry lecture, the Don Boyaner lecture, the Dong Shin memorial lecture, the Edward Zirm lecture, the Richard C. Troutman lecture, the Gavin Herbert lecture, as well as several memorial lectures at Yonsei and Asan Medical Centers. Certainly, one of the highlights of my career include my nomination to the Executive Committee of ASCRS, where I’m excited to serve as President in the year 2020.
“I’m confident that the field of ophthalmology will continue to advance and innovate to eventually eliminate blindness altogether.”
Dr. Kim, you are currently the Professor of Ophthalmology at Duke University Eye Center, the Division Chief of Cornea and Refractive Surgery, as well as the former Director of the Residency Program and Ophthalmology Fellowship Programs. How do you view yourself as an educator? What are your principles or philosophies as a teacher?
It has been an honor and privilege to be part of the faculty at Duke Eye Center, which has consistently been ranked as one of the top 10 ophthalmology departments in the country by U.S. News and World Report for the last 20 years. An extremely rewarding part of my ophthalmology career here at Duke has been the role I’ve played in teaching and training many of the undergraduate/medical students, residents, fellows, and visiting professors and scholars with whom I’ve been so fortunate to interact. Just as many of my teachers and mentors have done for me, I have tried to learn by example and teach not only the diagnostic or surgical skills that are directly relevant to becoming a proficient ophthalmologist, but also the values and life skills that are important in becoming a caring and compassionate physician. I am still thankful to my residency program director Dr. Geoffrey Broocker and my fellowship director Dr. Peter Laibson for the ophthalmic education I received, but also and just as importantly, for all the valuable advice and guidance they have given me throughout my career.
I view education as a career-long and mutually beneficial and gratifying process, as I continue to learn myself from all the students, trainees, and faculty that teach and stimulate me with their questions, observations, concepts, hypotheses, and so on. One of the principles or philosophies I strongly believe in is a mentoring process where I encourage both my trainees and junior colleagues to find mentors on several levels, be it a fellow senior student, an upper level resident or fellow, or a mid or senior level faculty member. I also encourage them to seek out mentors in different fields or areas of interest, which may include a PhD in a laboratory or a CMO of an ophthalmic company. Under the leadership of my previous chairman Dr. David Epstein and my current chairman Dr. Edward Buckley, we have been able to maintain a successful mentoring department for our residents and faculty at Duke Eye Center.
You currently serve on the Executive Committee for the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) as Treasurer and are slated to be President in the year 2020. Please introduce ASCRS to our readers. What are your key roles and responsibilities in the organization? Also, what are the long-term goals and visions you hope to see at ASCRS?
ASCRS is an international, educational society with more than 8,000 members. Its mission is to advance the art and science of ophthalmic surgery and the knowledge and skills of ophthalmic surgeons by providing clinical and practice management education and by working with patients, government, and the medical community to promote the delivery and advancement of high quality eye care. Since its founding in 1974, ASCRS has led the field through significant advances in technology and clinical science through its educational programs, publications and online resources. ASCRS has become the surgeons’ primary source of up-to-date clinical information, published research, and regulatory information affecting the practice of medicine.
As a supporter and believer in ASCRS’s mission, I have served the organization in different key roles and responsibilities over the past 15 years and have so many people at ASCRS to thank for my involvement (but not enough space to list here). After working as an ASCRS Cornea Clinical Committee member for 4 years, I was chosen to serve as its Chair for the next several years. I was then nominated to the Executive Committee, fulfilling my duties as Secretary in 2017 and Treasurer this current year, followed by Vice President in 2019 and President of ASCRS in 2020. It has been a tremendous honor to serve an organization that has done so much for ophthalmology. My long-term goals include helping to expand ASCRS’s domestic membership base by specifically engaging the young to middleaged ophthalmologist and also expand educational opportunities, such as web-based learning and virtual conferences, that it offers beyond its annual meeting. I envision ASCRS to be the core organization that offers all the essential tools and resources for the cataract and refractive surgeon to become more proficient in his/her profession.
Dr. Kim, you have extensive publications in over 300 journal articles, textbook chapters, and scientific abstracts and 4 textbooks. As an eminent opinion leader in ophthalmology who has delivered over 300 invited lectures both nationally and internationally, what are some significant changes or trends you have noticed in the field of ophthalmology? What do you forecast in the next five years?
I have been fortunate to have collaborated with so many of my trainees and colleagues on clinical and research projects that have resulted in these scholarly publications. I am also appreciative of the numerous invitations I have received to lecture on my clinical and research work all over the nation and the world. Over the years, I have published and lectured on a wide variety of topics that encompass clinical observations, diagnostic modalities, surgical techniques and complications, technological advances and instrumentation, and management strategies. Some trends I have noted in our field is the increasing emphasis on outcomes based research and translational medicine. More than ever, patients have a higher expectation with their surgical procedures and seek out more information about the quality of the care they are receiving. Over the next 5 years, I envision that trend will only grow, and the medical field will need tools like electronic health records and registries and possibly even artificial intelligence to help improve patient care.
WKMJ has readers from over 10 countries globally, including current students who are pursuing their goals as physicians. Please share your final words with our readers.
Medicine is a wonderful field that can be extremely gratifying as a career. However, the path to becoming a physician is not an easy one and will demand a lot of your time and effort. In pursuing this path, my strong advice is to try your best to maintain a work-life balance, which includes your family life as well as your personal hobbies. I have 2 passionate hobbies, which include music and sports, which have interestingly evolved into related activities throughout my career. My musical interests started with studying classical piano for 15 years as a child and then somehow transitioned into DJing during high school. As an ophthalmologist, I resurrected this hobby in 2010, which has now grown into a major social event for both the annual AAO and ASCRS meetings. During these events, I (a.k.a. DJ Special K) spin to a crowd of about 2000 eye care providers that attend these meetings at major entertainment venues like the House of Blues. It has provided a refreshing way to diversify what I do at these busy conferences, and it also helps me connect with my colleagues in ophthalmology in a very fun and different way. My interests in sports started with a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and playing high school basketball and tennis. I quickly became an avid Duke basketball fan during my undergraduate years. When I came back on the Duke Eye Center faculty in 1997, I reconnected with the Duke basketball program by providing the eye care and an annual eye screening for the players and coaches. Though this initiative, I became the Consultant Ophthalmologist for the Duke Men’s Basketball Team and formed a close relationship with Coach K and his players and staff. It has been such a special treat to give back to the school that gave me so much, and also to bond with my older daughter Ashley, who is currently a sophomore at Duke. My wife Ellie is Associate Professor of Radiology at UNC and definitely deserves a lot of the credit for raising Ashley and my younger daughter Kayley, who plays on her high school varsity women’s golf team as an 8th grader. These are the kinds of accomplishments that you will really cherish and remember during and after your career in medicine
Terry Kim, MD
Vice President and President-Elect, American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) Professor of Ophthalmology, Chief of the Cornea and External Disease Service at Duke University Eye Center
Terry Kim, MD, is Professor of Ophthalmology at Duke University School of Medicine and serves as Chief of the Cornea and External Disease Division and Director of the Refractive Surgery Service at Duke University Eye Center. Dr. Kim’s clinical and surgical expertise has resulted in continual annual listings by Best Doctors in Terry Kim, MD Vice President and President-Elect, American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) Professor of Ophthalmology, Chief of the Cornea and External Disease Service at Duke University Eye Center America®, Best Doctors in North Carolina®, and America’s Top Ophthalmologists© since 2003 as well as featured stories on the Discovery Channel and The Wall Street Journal. Dr. Kim’s academic accomplishments include over 300 peer-reviewed journal articles, textbook chapters, and scientific abstracts as well as 4 well-respected textbooks on corneal diseases, corneal transplantation, and cataract surgery. His clinical and research work has earned him honors and grants from the AAO, ASCRS, National Institutes of Health, the Fight for Sight/Research to Prevent Blindness Foundation, and the Heed Ophthalmic Foundation. Dr. Kim serves on the Executive Committee of ASCRS, the Annual Program Committee of the AAO, and the Board of Directors of the Cornea Society. He also sits on the Editorial Board for several peer-reviewed journals and trade publications, including Cornea, Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, Ocular Surgery News, Eyeworld, Cataract & Refractive Surgery Today. Dr. Kim serves as Consultant to the Ophthalmic Devices Panel of the FDA, Consultant Ophthalmologist for the Duke Men’s Basketball Team, and Consultant to numerous ophthalmic companies.