5Q With Nancy M. Holekamp, MD
Nancy M. Holekamp, MD, is Director of Retina Services at the Center for Macular Degeneration, Pepose Vision Institute in Chesterfield, Mo.
How did you come to choose retina as a profession?
Although most medical students skip the 1-week ophthalmology rotation, I am a rule-follower, and I attended every day. That week was life-changing for me: I saw ophthalmology as a chance to do everything in the medical field—medicine, surgery, basic research, clinical research, international health—without compromise. So I picked ophthalmology. Then I chose retina after a summer rotation with Stuart L. Fine, MD, at the Retinal Vascular Center at the Wilmer Eye Institute of Johns Hopkins University. He made practicing retina look fun and interesting. And it is!
What surgical cases do you find most enjoyable to perform and most rewarding once they are successfully completed?
I love a retinal detachment (of any kind) or a tough diabetic case with traction, membranes, and hemorrhage. These cases are truly satisfying because, without surgical intervention, the prognosis is very poor. With surgery, I feel I am truly making a difference in someone’s life. Also, no two cases are the same, each one presenting a unique challenge in how to reach a successful outcome in the most elegant way.
What advice would you offer to future ophthalmologists?
Love what you do, and you will never work a day in your life. Even though the field of medicine is changing and no one knows what the future holds, if you enjoy making a meaningful difference in the lives of patients with retinal disease you will always be happy. Take time to talk to your patients. More important, take time to listen to them and hear their stories. The practice of medicine is a unique human interaction that we are privileged to be a part of.
How do you balance your time between your professional duties, research, and personal life?
Working women don’t balance, we juggle! We devote our time and full attention to whatever demands them at the time. It may be caring for our kids, reviewing a manuscript, planning a family vacation, or jumping on a teleconference call—we switch back and forth among priorities. Here are my tips: Always leave time for fun and adventure, exercise regularly, and, to squeeze the most out of every day, do not watch TV.
If you could choose to live anywhere in the world, where would it be, and why?
I need variety, so it would have to be two places. When I was on the American Academy of Ophthalmology Ethics Committee, we had a meeting in Whitefish, Mont., near Glacier National Park, and I fell in love with the mountains, the clear air, and the long flight path of a golf ball after a drive. But, during those long Montana winters, I would need a place in Scottsdale, Ariz., to keep up with my tennis, biking, and hiking. Of course, living in the United States would require frequent travels abroad!
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