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BOOK REVIEW: Saving Sight, by Andrew Lam, M.D.
by Dante Pieramici, M.D.

When I was in grade school, I thought the study of history was a waste of time. I enjoyed science and math, and figured that things that happened hundreds or thousands of years ago would be of little value to my future. Today I feel very differently–so much so that I probably should call and let those history teachers know I finally get it.

The history of medicine is particularly relevant today as we enter an era of rapid and dramatic change in health care delivery. Physicians’ central role is under attack as hospital administrators, insurance companies, and governmental agencies vie for control of health care delivery.

ASRS member Andrew Lam, M.D., in his book Saving Sight, links his own vitreoretinal clinical case vignettes with the stories of famous historical advances in ophthalmology and the physicians behind them. We have all heard the story of Harold Ridley, the development of the intraocular lens, and its relationship to World War II fighter planes. In Saving Sight, Dr. Lam presents this story and more in well-researched detail so even the most avid ophthalmic historian is likely to learn something new.

In addition to Ridley’s story, the book explores Charles Kelman and phacoemulsification, Charles Schepens and indirect ophthalmoscopy, Arnall Patz and retinopathy of prematurity, Judah Folkman and angiogenesis, the evolution of refractive surgery, and the story of Louis Braille and the Braille System.

With each of these stories, we are reminded of the difficulties these individuals faced trying to bring new developments to their patients. At times–as in the case of Harold Ridley–they were ostracized by the establishment to the point that most would have given in. Their perseverance and struggle to improve outcomes for their patients are inspirational and a theme that runs throughout the book. Saving Sight is well written and equally interesting for the layperson or the most hardened vitreoretinal surgeon.

Andrew Lam may be the Atul Gawande of ophthalmology, as his storytelling shines a positive light on the things we do for our patients every day. Saving Sight reminds us that the physician-patient relationship is the fundamental unit of medicine. We must continue to fight for our patients by advancing our clinical care and advocating to maintain this time-honored relationship.

Saving Sight: An eye surgeon’s look at life behind the mask and the heroes who changed the way we see. Bokeelia, FL: Irie Books; 2013. 232 pages.

Dr. Lam’s next book, Two Sons of China, a World War II novel inspired by true events, is being published in December 2013 by Bondfire Books.