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Interview with Dr. Alan Robin: "Improving Glaucoma Care"

Alan L. Robin, MD delivered the Robert N. Shaffer Lecture at AAO (the American Academy of Ophthalmology Annual Meeting) in October 2014, Chicago, IL.

Dr. Robin is Professor of Ophthalmology at University of Maryland and University of Michigan, and an Associate Professor in International Health at Bloomberg School of Public Health and Ophthalmology at the medical school of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD.

Video transcript

The topic of my lecture is “Global Collaborations and Improving Glaucoma Care.” I started out in glaucoma back in 1978, many many years ago, and I was going to create a cure to glaucoma. Obviously I still haven’t done that, but I would love to do that and put myself out of business. Over the years I have realized you can learn a lot from individuals in developing countries that are applicable to the United States.

Why is global collaboration important?

I think often many of us work in islands, or silo our work, and one of the most important things for me was collaborating with individuals in both Nepal and areas of India that have taught me much more than I’ve ever taught them, and we’ve been able to do projects that nobody would ever be able to do in the United States.

What did it mean to you to deliver the Robert N. Shaffer Lecture?

I think that Dr. Shaffer was probably one of the most influential people in many ways, both in his work, and the people he developed. If you look at people like Dunbar Hoskins, Paul Lichter, Don Minckler, who where his fellows, among others who were really influential, Mark Lieberman, these are people who are true leaders. Dr. Shaffer did have an influence on me personally. I was a fellow, and I remember working with my mentor at that time, Irvin Pollack, and Bob took the time to personally thank Irv for all his work and congratulate him. And I realized what a great guy Shaffer was. And he was really a consummate teacher and gentleman, and he tried to develop people. And part of what I do is try to develop people, and I’ve really been very impressed by him. So Dr. Shaffer has meant a lot to me.

The Shaffer Lecture was sponsored by Prevent Blindness and Glaucoma Research Foundation. Why are organizations like this important to glaucoma care?

I think that the Glaucoma Research Foundation and Prevent Blindness as nonprofits have a tremendous impact on the future of better patient care. Both foundations are very active in patient education and supporting research to those individuals who are doing great projects that will impact care - especially at a time when government funding, for various reasons, really isn’t as great as it could be.

How important is patient education?

I think one of the main roles of physicians, nonprofits, and the government, is to really strive to better educate patients. There are many topics that we have to think about: what the disease is (what is glaucoma?), how to treat it, what the role of the therapies are - a lot of patients come to me and don’t know why they’re taking their eye drops or what the disease is, even that it’s treatable. I’ve changed my way of talking to patients; when I talk to patient I’ll say, “Are you having trouble getting your drops in your eye? Are you having trouble remembering them? Are you having trouble affording them?” And I think we have to be better at educating people and talking to them about that.

Who is at high risk for glaucoma?

The high risk groups at this point - the major one is family history of glaucoma. If you have someone in your family who has a positive family history of glaucoma they definitely should be screened. And the other groups are African Americans who have a four times higher risk; older individuals - the older one is the more likely they are to develop glaucoma - and if you look at individuals over 74, which is a growing part of our population, the risk in whites is over 10 percent, and the risk in blacks is over 20 percent, of those individuals having glaucoma.

End Transcript

Last reviewed on September 14, 2015

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