Sandra Johnson MD

Hear from one of my mentors and the person who taught me cataract surgery! Dr. Sandra Johnson is a cataract and glaucoma specialist who has worked in every setting from private practice to program directing and taken her ophthalmology Talents all over the world. She has extensively worked with Orbis International with her last trip in 2020.

Read more Perspectives here.

What originally drew you to ophthalmology?

Before medical school I worked as a lab assistant in a lab that studies vascular complications of diabetes and had to dissect cow eyes and work under the microscope. I went back for a summer and needed to go obtain vitrectomy samples and was fascinated by the surgeon doing what I had been doing in the lab. That prompted me to do a two-week observer ship in ophthalmology, and I went on from there.

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

My lab experience exposed me to academic medicine as well as a 3-month research/clinical medical school rotation in ophthalmology. I enjoyed the environment, and frankly had more positive role models compared to the eye MDs in private practice that took care of my family as I grew up.

What challenges did you face along the way?

I had one faculty member who treated me as a scapegoat for two years, until he found a new one. Nothing I did was correct, and he constantly singled me out and criticized and graded me harshly. His prior scapegoat had transferred out to internal me, but I dug in and put up with the situation by keeping my eye on the goal.

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

I have surgery day, some time for lasers and clinic days I have a .25 day set aside per week for “scholarship” and ½ day for paperwork. Most of the time, I have learners with me that includes a fellow and residents. I also have episodes of interaction with medical students.

What are your favorite activities or hobbies outside of work?

I think everyone says family, but beyond that I love to garden and am trying to branch out from flowers to edibles. I also love being outdoors for things like a bike ride, trail walks and such. When more time is available, I love to travel and see new places and cultures.

What advice would you give to aspiring ophthalmologists?

Doctors work hard so follow your heart, finding a place you love working for given the balance of pros and cons. Also, it’s important that your spouse is in a happy place because doctors work so much that the spouse can enjoy the time spent without you.