• How to Handle Awkward Questions About Ophthalmology

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    In 1972, I began a medical retina fellowship at Wilmer with Arnall Patz, MD. Fellows were invited to participate in all of the departmental teaching activities, including the Monday morning conference.

    Each Monday at 8 am, six to 10 patients came to the Wilmer Clinic, each having been asked by his or her ophthalmologist to attend the Monday morning conference for an “expert” examination. After examining all the patients, we would go to a conference room to discuss each patient’s problem, led by Ed Maumenee, MD, the Wilmer chief known as “The Prof.”

    After a resident or the referring community practitioner presented each patient to the audience, the Prof would lead a discussion about the case. In those days, 60 to 70 doctors typically attended each Monday morning conference, at least a dozen of them private practitioners from the community.

    While waiting in line to examine patients, residents, faculty and fellows would discuss the patients and other topics. During one of the first Monday morning conferences I attended, I talked to part-time faculty member Stewart Mackay Wolff, MD, a private practitioner who helped teach strabismus to the residents. Dr. Wolff had been a Hopkins medical student and Wilmer chief resident. He was wonderful about telling me about many of the Wilmer faculty members, most of whom I had not yet met.

    He said he regretted that I would not be able to meet Howard Naquin, MD, who had passed away quite recently. Dr. Wolff said that Dr. Naquin, in addition to being a talented eye surgeon and good friend, had a wicked sense of humor. “Give me an example,” I suggested, at which point he related the following story.

    One evening, at an elegant dinner party, a society matron who learned that Dr. Naquin was an eye surgeon at Wilmer gushed that it must be wonderfully gratifying to perform eye surgery and restore sight. After continuing to express her admiration for Dr. Naquin and his specialty, she asked, “What is the biggest challenge you face while performing eye surgery at the Wilmer Institute?”

    Without missing a beat, Naquin exclaimed, “It’s the flies!”

    “The flies?’ the woman asked incredulously.

    “Yes,” replied Naquin. “There is fly paper hanging from the ceiling on both sides of the operating table and there are always two nurses with fly swatters whose job is to keep the flies in the room from contaminating the operative field.”

    At that point, Naquin excused himself and wandered off, leaving his admirer in a state of shock.

    For more stories from Scope, download the spring Scope 2016 [PDF].