This month RetinaLink is pleased to feature Lejla Vajzovic, MD, who is an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, at Duke Eye Center in Durham, North Carolina. Dr. Vajzovic is a member of the Duke Pediatric Retina and Optic Nerve Center. RetinaLink sat down with Dr. Vajzovic to find out more about her mentors, why she chose retina and find out about her latest projects.
RetinaLink (RL): Why did you choose Retina?
Lejla Vajzovic, MD (LV): Everything converged towards retina in my training. I went to Medical School at Mayo and then, did my Ophthalmology Residency and Ophthalmology Pathology Fellowship at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute (BPEI), in Miami, FL. My principal mentors were Drs. Sander Dubovy and Audina (Nina) Berrocal. I worked closely with both of them. They sparked my interest in retina and of course, the exposure at an academic institution like BPEI and their strong tradition of retina was impressive. Dr. Nina Berrocal said, “Since I first me Lejla during residency interviews, she has not stopped to amaze me. Lejla is focused, hard working and innovative! It is a real pleasure to see her career develop!”
RL: Please outline your work on ARGUS®II Retinal Prosthesis and your work with Second Sight.
LV: I’m the principal surgeon at Duke Eye Center and Duke was one of the initial centers in the USA to start implanting these epiretinal prosthesis. I also have been involved with several ARGUS surgical courses and have proctored ARGUS surgery for Second Sight. ARGUS is a bionic eye, epiretinal implant for patients with advanced Retinitis Pigmentosa.
RL: What one pearl would you share with your female retina colleagues?
LV: I have two pearls… One, collaboration and teamwork is vital for your success in your sub-specialty. You must be willing to continue to change and will need aspiring mentors, including female mentors, to provide informative guidance on a myriad of topics and decisions you will need to make. Secondly, you have to “pay it forward,” by mentoring, supporting and nominating other women in retina especially trainees. Honestly, the mentorship formula equals education and guidance.
Drs. Cynthia Toth and Sharon Fekrat have had a strong role in helping women with their careers at Duke. I had amazing teachers all around starting with Dr. Nina Berrocal. One consistent theme was with all three retina specialists was to maintain a healthy balance between family and your practice.
RL: What are your passions when working in Retina?
LV: I mentioned ARGUS earlier and one of my ARGUS surgeries was published in an article in National Geographic on their “Why There’s New Hope ABOUT Ending Blindness” that included “bionic eye”.
My true passion is working with the pediatric retina team at the Duke Eye Center. We are diligently working to increase the sub-specialty level of care at the Pediatric Retina and Optic Nerve Center at Duke.
Collaboration is key with our ongoing efforts and my colleagues include Drs. Cynthia Toth, Pediatric Retina, Sharon Freedman, Pediatric Ophthalmology Chief, and Mays El-Dairi, Pediatric Neuro-Ophthalmology. For example, ophthalmic imaging for pediatric patients has been somewhat archaic in the past. Duke has been a pioneer in developing a hand-held OCT that is a “kid-friendly” system. We work closely with Biomedical Engineering to have “kid-friendly” technology for pediatric care in the NICU, clinic and OR.
Additionally, I’m working towards spearheading and organizing courses with Drs. Cynthia Toth, ME Harnett, Nina Berrocal and Caroline Baumal to educate our peers about pediatric patients including eye anatomy, examination and surgical approaches in pediatrics. Last March, we hosted an inaugural meeting on Advances in Pediatric Retina http://dukeeyecenter.duke.edu/APR
There were 50 national and international speakers and an audience from around the globe.
Dr. Toth has been pivotal in my commitment to pediatric retina at Duke. She has been a remarkable mentor and assisted in fueling key decisions.
RL: What is your favorite place to vacation?
LV: Hilton Head Island is our favorite place to getaway for a few days. It’s a very family friendly place and a manageable driving distance from Durham with two small children. I enjoy the environs, the climate, beach and trees. I’m an outdoor person and it’s very relaxing for my family.
Dr. Lejla Vajzovic can be reached via e-mail – firstname.lastname@example.org
Featured Photo: Duke Photography