Sat, 10/04/2014 - 7:00am | Tim Mitchell
TUSCOLA — Dr. Gregory Skuta is a rock star in the world of eye surgery. One of the leading specialists in glaucoma care, Skuta is president and CEO of the Dean McGee Eye Institute in Oklahoma City and president of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Today, back where it all started, he'll add another title — Tuscola High School Hall of Famer.
In the third and final Q&A with this year's honored ex-Warriors, we talked to the Class of '74 valedictorian about a local doctor helping him choose a career, his days singing with the UI Varsity Glee Club, how he met his Michigan Wolverine- loving wife, and more.
Take us back to your high school days. What are your most vivid memories?
I was in band, choir, school plays and the French club, wrote sports for The Tuscola Review, and ran cross country a bit. I was honored to be valedictorian in 1974.
I am very proud of the fact that Tuscola is my hometown and had great memories there. I love the people of Tuscola. Even through I have been away from the community for 40 years, they still know my family and me. I always enjoy the opportunity to see my friends back at home and have a Monical's Pizza.
How did you become interested in a career in ophthalmology?
I was always interested in medicine while in high school, so I became a pre- med student at the University of Illinois. When I finished high school in Tuscola, I fully expected to be a family practitioner in a small town in Illinois.
After my first year in medical school, I spent time with Dr. Victor Feldman, who was an ophthalmologist with Christie Clinic. I saw what he did, how he treated his patients and how he was revered by his patients. He literally inspired me to become an ophthalmologist.
Did anything or anyone at Tuscola High prepare you for your career?
We had great teachers in the sciences. My biology teacher my sophomore year was Anita Brown, who was very impactful. Then I had a teacher named Kay Kleiss serve as my chemistry and physics teacher during my junior and senior years in Tuscola. Later on, during one of my college chemistry classes, she opened up her classroom for me to complete one of my projects.
What was it like being president of the UI Varsity Men's Glee Club?
I sang bass and knew the bass line for all the Big Ten fight songs. I had been in the concert choir and band at Tuscola High School which influenced me to be to be a part of the Men's Glee Club. I remember getting a chance to tour Europe, including Russia, in 1973 with the United States Collegiate Wind Band, featuring the band director from Purdue, following my junior year at Tuscola High School.
While it was called a collegiate wind band, it was comprised of high school students. I played the cornet. It has probably been 30 to 35 years since I last picked up a cornet.
Have a favorite song to sing?
The special song that we all loved was the Big Ten Medley. And of all the Big Ten fight songs, I liked Michigan's "Hail to the Victors" the best.
How did you meet your wife, Anne?
I was an intern at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor, Mich. Anne was a nurse there, and we met on the floor while taking care of some patients in 1982. We were married in 1984. Today, she is administrative director for the Nazih Zuhdi Transplant Institute in Oklahoma City.
She is a big Michigan fan and has a big Michigan flag hanging in her office. She cheers for Michigan, and I cheer for Illinois.
How big is the Oklahoma eye institute you're in charge of?
We have 29 ophthalmologists, six optometrists, 13 vision scientists and over 300 employees. We see over 169,000 patient visits per year, with patients from all over Oklahoma and the surrounding states. It is a very busy institution.
Any advice for today's young people?
In my view, the greatest virtue is perseverance. Never give up and follow your passion.
*edited 10.13.14 / GLS