Peter Lombard MD

To start off our series is a short interview with Dr. Peter Lombard. A Harvard and Navy trained comprehensive ophthalmologist that finds himself with a wide scope as one of a handful of eye doctors and the only to take call on the U.S. Territory of Guam.

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What originally drew you to ophthalmology?

The combination of a robust continuity clinic with clean and precise microsurgery was attractive. The happiness and smiles everywhere in the ophthalmology department was a clear sign that this was a unique specialty to be part of.

What was your path to where you are now in ophthalmology?

I graduated from the US Naval Academy, then attended Johns Hopkins School of Medicine on the HPSP scholarship.  Like many Navy doctors, I had a training hiatus between PGY-1 and PGY-2 during which I spent 3 years serving the military as a flight surgeon for a US Marine Corps Helicopter squadron.  I was based in Hawaii, but also deployed to Japan and to Iraq. The years spent caring for Marines remain near and dear to me. After finishing ophthalmology residency, I immediately assumed the department head position at US Naval Hospital Guam, as the sole ophthalmologist. For me Guam wasn’t a “hardship” location as it is for some other service members.  My family is here, and this is where I was born and lived through grade school.  After my commitment to the military was served, I opened a private practice here, and we have grown to include 2 ophthalmologists and one optometrist.  In total there are only 6+ ophthalmologists in Guam at any given time, but I am the only one to take call at our local hospitals. Given we have limited access to specialist care, I tend to do a lot more medical retina, glaucoma surgery, and oculoplastics than most US comprehensive ophthalmologists.

What challenges did you face along the way?

It’s not easy starting a practice from scratch and there is no formal training to adequately prepare you for this. I also had the unfortunate pleasure of being sued by another eye clinic not long after opening our doors. This was an expensive but valuable experience that ultimately ended in our favor. The arduous 3+ years of litigation revealed the potentially ugly side of private practice and competition.

What does a typical week in your current practice look like?

4 days of clinic, one day of surgery.  Approximately 25+ clinic patients per day, which seems light to me compared to other comprehensive ophthalmologists, but either our patients are super complex on average, or I just like to talk to patients!  We have only one ASC in Guam so I do almost all my surgery cases there. When I have a single room blocked, I can book up to 18 phacos, or fewer with combinations of oculoplastics or glaucoma surgery.

What are your favorite activities or hobbies outside of work?

Family time! Guam is great for beach and ocean activities. I’ve become an avid cyclist, and raced professionally for a few years. I represented Guam at the Rio Olympics in the cross country mountain bike competition. Now it’s less serious and competitive and more for the love of it!

What advice would you give to aspiring ophthalmologists?

Get experience shadowing a variety of ophthalmologists in a variety of subspecialties, in a variety of settings (private practice, academic, mixed).  Don’t be afraid to ask questions about average salary and compensation. There are ways to phrase this question respectfully!  Find a mentor you really enjoy working with and foster that relationship, and make it a two way street.