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Today's Practice | May 2011

5 Questions with Johan Blanckaert, MD

1.What is unique about the way you run your facility in Ieper?

The Eye & Refractive Center is a small facility, located in a small town, that is focused on providing our patients with quality eye care. I have been investing in quality ever since I started this practice in 1993. For example, I was an early adopter of topical anesthesia for cataract surgery because it improved patient satisfaction. Topical anesthesia may make things tougher for surgeons, but it is better for patients. The commitment to provide quality eye care has resulted in the steady growth of our practice. Our motto is: “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”

2. Since you first entered practice, what surgical technique has had the biggest impact on vision?

Since I graduated from medical school at UZ Leuven, Belgium, in 1993, I have witnessed refractive laser surgery take off. The ability to give patients freedom from spectacles and contact lenses was a game-changer in eye surgery. There has been a decline in laser-based refractive surgery more recently, but its associated technologies have paved the way for alternative refractive surgical techniques.

3.What was your experience participating in the European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons (ESCRS) Endophthalmitis study, which included 24 sites across Europe over an extended period?

The ESCRS board, in particular Peter Barry, FRCS; and David Seal, MD, did a terrific job simplifying reporting and clinical research form filing. The trial was conducted entirely via the Internet, which made all of the work computer-oriented. This design made it easy for the participating surgeons, which led to the success of the endophthalmitis study.

4. How would you like to see the Eye & Refractive Center evolve over the next 5 years?

We are located in Belgium, a country with fast-changing legislation. It is nearly impossible to foresee 5 years into the future. For example, in 2003 we invested in a new surgical facility with one operating theater dedicated to excimer laser surgery. In 2009, Belgian legislation changed, allowing partial reimbursement for eye surgery performed outside of the hospital. So we subsequently encountered space problems. We made the decision in 2010 to invest in a new facility with more room and a parking facility for our patients. In the near future, we will be able to separate the operating facility from the diagnostic eye center. These areas will still be at the same location, but they will clearly stand apart.

5.Who are your role models?

I was lucky in my early career to have met great surgeons who have guided me in my quest for quality. They invited me to their surgical facilities and trained me in the techniques I now perform. Naming specific surgeons is always tricky, because it is impossible to name them all. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to learn from my first professor, Bea Foets, MD, PhD, as well as from Steve Brint, MD; Camille Budo, MD, PhD; Philippe Crozafon, MD; Philippe Sourdille, MD; the late Paul Regnier, and so many others such as Stephen G. Slade, MD; Erik L. Mertens, MD, FEBOphth; Rudy M.M.A. Nuijts, MD, PhD; and Khiun F. Tjia, MD. I encourage every young surgeon to take the time to visit great surgeons. It is only through seeing them perform that young surgeons learn and advance.