For me, ophthalmology is an incredibly fulfilling field. Like many of my professional colleagues and role models, I have directed a great deal of effort to honing my surgical and clinical skills, conducting basic and clinical research, partnering with industry, publishing, and speaking at conferences. But, all work and no play makes Jay a dull boy! Over the years, my life outside of work has increasingly focused on family, travel, music, and giving back.
During my sophomore year in college, I met my wife, Susan, and we got married when I was in medical school at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is a professional economist. Our son, David, was born when I was an ophthalmology resident at the Wilmer Eye Institute at the Johns Hopkins University. I can clearly remember sitting David down for a talk—no, not the talk, another one—when he was 81/2 years old. I asked him how he would like to have a brother. He responded, “Dad, bad idea.” I said, “Good. I’m not done yet. David, how would you like to have two brothers?” Having been sure he would forever be an only child, he replied, “Dad, really bad idea.” I said, “Good. I’m not done yet. How would you like to have two brothers and a sister?” Finally realizing that I wasn’t posing hypothetical questions, his jaw dropped, and he looked like he needed a drink. He soon recovered, and after a few minutes of contemplation, he said, “Okay, Dad. Here’s the deal. There are three of us, and there are going to be three of them, so we each are going to get to name one, and I want to name the firstborn.” My wife and I agreed to his terms after setting two rules: no comic book character names such as Professor Xavier and the inclusion of at least one vowel. David named our firstborn triplet Max. Max bonded closely with David and would tell everyone that his older brother named him (Figure 1).
Raising four children, including a set of triplets (Figure 2), became the focus of much of my wife’s and my time outside of work, particularly during the first few years—we went through 21 bottles and 21 diapers a day! When our children got older, we would often travel with them. Sometimes, we would bring them to places where I was asked to give lectures, and other times we would go on trips purely for fun.
My wife and I enjoy traveling. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has put a major crimp in our adventures. In the past, however, we took trips to Denmark, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, French Polynesia, Italy, Iceland, and Greenland. When the triplets were studying evolution, we ventured to the Galápagos Islands, the location that inspired Darwin’s theory. Over the years, we have developed new friends and travel partners with whom we have shared some unforgettable experiences.
When the triplets left for college, we experienced severe empty nest syndrome. Our lives literally went to the dogs—our Cairn terriers started getting an awful lot of attention (Figure 3). My wife decided to find places with no internet service to travel to so there would be no work distractions for me. One year, she told me she had booked a cruise for us and that she would handle packing. We arrived in Oslo, Norway, and were invited to a preembarkation event. I was handed a glass of champagne and then met a geologist, an astronomer, a marine biologist, and a naturalist. I said, “I’ve never been on a cruise with so many scientists.” They all laughed and responded that this was not a cruise, that they were part of the National Geographic Society and that we were going to the Arctic on an expedition to search for polar bears. I looked at my wife in total disbelief. Since then, we have enjoyed expeditions to Antarctica (Figure 4), taken safaris, and had other exciting adventures on all eight continents.
My wife and I have always loved listening to live music. I enjoy playing piano and the guitar, and our daughter, who is fluent in five languages, is an aspiring opera singer. We delight in hearing her perform. For added fun, we have become rock ‘n’ roll groupies, following groups and attending concerts in many cities. In recent years, we have attended performances by Santana, Eric Clapton (Figure 5), the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Cher, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Garth Brooks, Bob Dylan, Diana Ross, Bob Seeger, Kris Kristofferson, AC/DC, and Aerosmith.
My career in ophthalmology has allowed my family and me to give back to our adopted community of St. Louis through various philanthropic endeavors, including creating the Proud to Be First program at the University of Missouri–St. Louis for first-generation college students and the 911 Vision Foundation, which offers free LASIK to first responders in our area. We have also supported several initiatives at our alma mater, Brandeis University, including funding a vision science lectureship and graduate student fellowship in memory of one of my mentors, John E. Lisman, PhD.
Finally, an increasingly important part of our lives has been our spiritual development along with our commitment to Israel. In this regard, we have developed philanthropic and scientific linkages with several important Israeli institutions, including the Technion. Through our children and these community efforts, my wife and I strive to leave a legacy that reflects our gratitude for all of the personal and professional opportunities we have enjoyed.