Teaching at Wills is Its Own Reward For Dr. Epstein

Dr. Epstein has been teaching ophthalmology residents at Wills Eye Hospital for the past 10 years. Spending time in the Wills Cataract and Primary Eye Care Clinic and the operating room teaching cataract surgery is his way of giving back to his alma mater. Dr. Epstein derives great pride in knowing that his efforts ensure the next generation of cataract surgeons are as talented as the current one.

“It is such an honor and a privilege to teach at one of the top eye hospitals in the world” says Dr. Epstein of Wills. “The residents are so bright and eager and are sponges for knowledge. They constantly ask questions and listen intently. It forces me to be at the top of my game. Seeing their progression from pupils to star cataract surgeons is extremely rewarding.”

It is not always easy though. “Performing cataract surgery and teaching are two different skills but one reinforces the other,” according to Dr. Epstein. “I love the challenge of explaining how to do something that comes naturally – breaking it down into its component parts and simplifying it so it can be repeated.” Advanced technology used in cataract surgery is constantly changing and a surgeon needs to be able to adapt to these new technologies in order to offer the best care for their patients. “My job is not just to teach the residents how to use the currently available methods but to build a foundation of skills in order to continuously improve and utilize new technology as it becomes available.”

Asked why he would give up the equivalent of two weeks vacation a year to teach at Wills, the answer is readily available. “Ultimately, doctors go into medicine to help people. In a surgeon’s career, he or she will have the opportunity to restore vision and improve the lives of tens of thousands of patients. By educating the residents, I can amplify that impact to hundreds of thousands of patients. It’s a way I can maximize my positive impact on society.”

Teaching has another unexpected benefit. According to Dr. Epstein, “Teaching fundamental and advanced techniques makes you a better surgeon by forcing you to constantly re-evaluate your own mechanics and skills.” All of the doctors at Princeton Eye Group help to teach residents, medical and college students from Wills Eye Hospital, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and Princeton University.