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Up Front | Jan 2003

5 Questions With Y. Ralph Chu, MD

Dr. Chu discusses the importance of good practice management and the future of refractive surgery.

What is your secret to maintaining high LASIK volumes?
I am a strong believer in the team approach to patient care. I dedicate a lot of attention to patients' satisfaction and experience while they are visiting our clinic, and I invest in education and support for my staff members. I believe that a practices' staff members are equally as important to its success as the physician.

How do you think the next 5 years will change refractive surgery?
I believe that noncorneal refractive surgery such as phakic IOL technology will gain popularity. With some of the new IOLs becoming available, the lines between cataract and refractive surgery are beginning to blur. I believe that a spectrum of refractive eye care will evolve with an armamentarium of available procedures. Refractive surgery will become increasingly specialized with more individualized care and a greater push toward quality of vision. A technique must satisfy a patient's quality of vision before it can be successful.

How will you adjust your marketing in response to this shift?
We are addressing it now through patient education. I see us moving away from one-procedure centers back toward a medical educational process for the patient. We will take the time to explain a patient's condition to him and then describe the modalities that will best treat that condition. The patient will have more input in his treatment, as opposed to simply buying a commodity. This treatment approach will not be easy for practitioners, and it will require additional education for doctors, staff, and patients. You can't say it all in an ad. We are also trying to conduct more seminar-type forums and give more lectures locally.

Why do you believe in keeping your cataract skills sharp?
I have never stopped performing anterior segment procedures such as cataract surgery and transplants for a couple of reasons: I simply love doing them, but I also believe that, moving forward, a corneal procedure will not be the best treatment choice for some patients. I feel that refractive surgeons must maintain their skills inside the eye, because many of the new techniques will demand intraocular skills.
I think lens technology and techniques will evolve to where they become refractive surgery, and refractive surgeons will have to be able to perform intraocular and extraocular procedures in order to be true, comprehensive practitioners. I believe strongly in the comprehensive refractive surgeon.

Do you have any hidden talents?
I am a classical violinist. I have played since I was 5 years old and have had the opportunity to perform in front of Pope John Paul II at the Vatican, as well as at Carnegie Hall. I was involved in chamber groups throughout my residency. I still enjoy playing, but unfortunately not as regularly due to the demands of my clinical practice.
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