In what part of town do you live?
We live in Kendall.
How long have you lived in the area?
I was born and raised in Miami. I was here all through primary, secondary, graduate school, and even my internship. I left Miami for the Midwest in 2013. I was in Iowa city for three years, then I was in Cincinnati, Ohio for two years and we got back in the summer of 2019. And we’ve been here since.
What type of internship were you doing?
I’m a retina surgeon. I specialize in issues that can lead to blindness.
How did you choose this specialty?
I was sort of interested from an early age and then later on things came full circle. I’ve always been near-sighted, I could hardly see out in the distance with any clarity. I always found it fascinating that I could go to the optometrist and they could click the wheel a few times and all of a sudden, I would be seeing so much sharper with relatively simple technology. Then, my brother was born and he has oculocutaneous albinism. We quickly realized that he couldn’t see normally. That’s when I got interested in it from a more medical standpoint. I saw him go through all the different examinations and how visual aids helped him do his daily activities from early infancy to now in his twenties. Before medical school, I studied engineering at FIU and I was always interested in how things worked. My specialty is very mechanistic and very much in keeping with the way that I think.
What are common procedures that you might perform?
There’s different conditions that would warrant retinal surgery. Some of the more common things are membranes that form on the back of the eye that can distort vision. Sometimes those membranes come after a patient experiences an event that causes floaters or things that move around in their vision. A common surgery that we do is called a vitrectomy, which is where we we go into the patient’s eye, under anesthesia, and remove the gel inside the eye that causes the floaters. If there’s a scar tissue in the back part of the eye, we can remove that scar tissue. It’s very small. It’s about 15 microns in thickness. It’s really one of the more delicate surgeries in all of medicine. Another is retinal detachment, where you have an acute worsening or loss of vision. Typically it starts peripherally and then it works its way over to the center part of the vision. We can often fill the eye up with a gas bubble that puts the retina back into place and apply laser treatment. Over time, hopefully the patient can regain some or all of their vision.
When you’re operating on an eye, are your hands directly on the tools or are you controlling tools with a computer?
Everything is done manually by hand. It’s done under an operating microscope and whatever instrument you have inside the eye is controlled only by your fingers and your hands. If you’ve ever seen medical TV shows where they do laparoscopic surgery, where they put in small ports through the abdomen for example, we use little ports that actually go through the white part of the eye that allow us to access the inner compartment.
Did your medical training ever come full circle in a way that you were able to help your brother?
Not yet directly, but when I was in residency, we actually had him studied and they took a sample of his blood and skin for medical research. We found the exact mutation that he has in his body that caused him to not produce pigment. In the future, when treatments for gene therapy become more mainstream, he may be a candidate for that. There’s so much innovation that’s happening now and going to come out of the woodwork in the next decade or so.
Do you have hobbies that you enjoy – outside of your medical practice?
Definitely going to the Grovestand every weekend. I don’t know if you’d call it a hobby, but it’s definitely a pastime. We just like spending time with the kids. We like taking them to Fairchild, going to the zoo, or a local park. Once you become a parent, you see the world through your children’s eyes and whatever hobbies your children are into become your hobbies. You’re experiencing happiness through them.
Would you share with us a little about your experience coming to the drive through?
Obviously during the pandemic, it was a natural, easy thing, because it’s outdoors. It’s awesome to see all your local products and the new offerings that you guys have every week. The Rainbow Smoothies have both cosmetic and edible appeal. It’s a nice little outing, in the area, that brings us happiness. We really enjoy it.
What do you pick up when you come by?
Always the Rainbow Smoothie and we’ll often get the turmeric bagels and cream cheese, which are excellent. The Turmeric Hearts are also excellent. The avocados are just incredible. The fruit roll-ups are awesome as well. I mean, every single thing that we’ve gotten is amazing.
What other local places do you guys like that you might recommend?
We like places that have healthy options on the menu. We like Bolay, Grown, and Diced – they have several locations. Then, we like to go to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods for vegan or vegetarian options that we can make at home.
What is Miami’s best kept secret?
I think you guys are Miami best secret!
What for you is a worthy splurge?
Anything that would make that would bring a smile to a child’s face, my kids or any kid, I think that’s a worthy splurge.
Are there any community events or philanthropic groups are important to you that you might like to promote or share?
The Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired is a huge deal for me, both personally and professionally. They do a lot of good work for the community. There’s a lot of income disparity in this country and the world and a lot of patients who have blindness or visual impairment don’t have a ton of resources.
Is there a question you would like to ask us?
(PP) Where do you see LNB Grovestand in the next five years?
(A+W) That’s a good question and what we’re talking about now as a family. We have two paths, and maybe we can do both. We are talking about building out the farm as the destination and building a new commercial kitchen down there. We are also talking about renovating our store and bringing in more locally made grocery staples, like the yogurt, ice cream, and kombucha that we have now.
Is there a pitch about your practice that you would like to share?
Sure. At my practice, Center for Excellence and Eye Care, we are a premier ophthalmology practice here in Kendall. We really pride ourselves on being available to our patients and addressing their concerns. We’re located at Baptist hospital, which is convenient. We celebrated our 25th anniversary a few weeks ago.
What challenge, advice, or question would you like to pose to the community?
How can we do better? I think everything is about is about self-improvement and community improvement. How can I do better as a person and as a physician? How can my practice do better in serving the community?