The Eyes are a Window
When Roman philosopher Cicero said, “The eyes are a window to the soul,” he couldn’t have known how well an ophthalmologist would someday agree.
“Your eyes have so many stories to tell, and there’s so much you can learn about a patient’s health just by looking at their eyes,” says Lisa Dang, M,D,, ophthalmologist at LSU Eye Center. “It’s my job to see the pathology and investigate any problems.”
For example, one of her patients was recently diagnosed in the emergency room as having had a TIA, or mini-stroke. Her eyelid was drooping and she was having difficulty swallowing. After hearing her story and performing a complete eye examination, Dr. Dang diagnosed myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune disease that causes neuromuscular weakness.
“The eyes are small but very complex organs, and most people don’t realize many diseases of the body include eye findings,” she says. Ophthalmologists can literally see disease pathology in the delicate blood vessels of the retina, which may be the same process taking place in the blood vessels of the heart or kidneys.
Dr. Dang is part of a collaborative ophthalmology team with multiple specialists, including cornea, uveitis, retina and oculoplastics. Dr. Dang joins another comprehensive ophthalmologist to round out the LSU one-stop eye care. They handle a huge range of diseases like droopy eyelids, glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy. They are constantly engaging in the latest and most advanced technologies to provide the best eye care, including laser-assisted cataract surgery for higher precision and better results.
“The trend after cataract surgery is to become less dependent on wearing glasses,” Dr. Dang says. As such, her group has creative ways of handling the problem for patients who can’t afford the pricey premium lens implants. They are able to correct one eye for distance vision and the other for near; or they try to correct for intermediate vision in both eyes so that vision falls within acceptable driving range and yet the patient can still read their cell phone. “I spend a lot of time with my patients discussing their vision goals — what is most important to them — and we go from there,” she says.
Dr. Dang also teaches residents and medical students, working as the medical student director. She encourages all of her students to have hands on learning. During wet lab, the students learn how to dissect and place sutures on cadaver eyes, and, in clinic, she teaches them how to use the ophthalmoscope to examine patients. Dr. Dang says that once students see the optic nerve and retina through the small pupil window, they are always fascinated. She feels if more medical students took this opportunity, there would be many more ophthalmologists in the world.
“Ophthalmology is very different from any other specialty,” Dr. Dang says. “It’s almost like a foreign language. In addition to knowing everything about the eye, you also have to have a very good base in medicine, neurology and even rheumatology. You also need good hands in order to perform surgery well.”
The challenges of the field never scared her. As a family medicine physician, her father had already inspired her to be the best doctor she could be. He said, “You must have genuine compassion for your patients. If you don’t have that, you shouldn’t go into medicine.” She reaches for that goal every day and she “strives for the best and nothing less” as her mother always taught her and her successful siblings.
Keeping medicine in the family, Dr. Dang married Mark Fujita, M.D., a family practice physician. They have a 7-month-old son, Giovanni, who melds their Vietnamese, Italian and Japanese heritage. The couple is planning a week-long medical mission trip to Grenada, Nicaragua, this spring to volunteer cataract surgery and primary care for the impoverished of that area. Since she was a college student, Dr. Dang says it has been a dream to travel to different locations around the world providing critical eye care and surgery to those in need.
“I feel very gratified and fortunate to practice ophthalmology because of the immense impact eye surgery can have on someone’s life,” she says. “It’s humbling when my patients tell me they can drive or read a Bible again. These simple things keep me excited about practicing ophthalmology every day.”
Undergraduate: Xavier University of Louisiana, Pre-medicine, Chemistry
Medical School: LSU Health Sciences Center, New Orleans
Residency: LSU Health Sciences Center and Ochsner Clinic Foundation, Department of Ophthalmology
The LSU Healthcare Network — LSU Eye Center
3700 St. Charles Ave, 6th floor
New Orleans, LA 70115