Emily M. Zepeda, MD grew up always wanting to be a doctor. Her father served as a role model for her work, but her mother inspired her to work with children. This led her to pursue a dream career in pediatric ophthalmology. Here’s more about Dr. Zepeda and how she improves the lives of children struggling with eye conditions at Dean McGee Eye Institute (DMEI).
Q: Where did you grow up and when did you first realize you wanted to pursue a career in medicine?
A: I grew up in the Chicago suburbs and have wanted to be a doctor for as long as I can remember. My earliest memories are of visiting my dad while he was on call during his training at Loyola University. All through my childhood, his example of unrelenting hard work, dedication to serving others, and fascination with medicine inspired me. I am a doctor because of my father, and I could never imagine doing anything else.
Q: What led you to join DMEI?
A: When my husband, who is an Air Force pilot, was transferred to Tinker AFB, I knew there was only one place I wanted to practice. There are few eye institutes in the country that have a strong and respected reputation as Dean McGee. DMEI is home to numerous leaders in the field of ophthalmology and is one of the best training programs in the nation. I am honored to work among such top ophthalmologists and help the residents on their journey through training. Furthermore, at DMEI there is also a tradition of excellence in service to all patients regardless of income or status. It is a true privilege to serve the people of Oklahoma.
Q: Can you explain your area of expertise to us? What does a normal day look like in pediatric ophthalmology?
A: As a pediatric ophthalmologist, we evaluate and treat a host of ocular issues facing children from birth into adulthood. This ranges from screening for retinopathy of prematurity in infants and treating amblyopia and surgically managing eye misalignment to more complex issues such as dealing with ocular abnormalities associated with congenital systemic disease, pediatric cataract, and glaucoma. Not only this, but we also diagnose and treat adults who have eye misalignment (strabismus). Our practice is comprehensive and each day we see a wide range of issues. The normal day is filled with variety which is always interesting.
Q: What attracted you to work with kids?
A: If my dad inspired me to be a doctor, my mom was my influence for wanting to work with children. She is a seasoned elementary school teacher. Her ability to bring out unique individual talents and help develop a child’s sense of self showed me what a special role we can play in our society’s youth. I believe children are one of our most valuable resources and investing in their health and development will truly benefit us all. Most importantly, children are very precious and bring such a special sweetness to every day.
Q: What are the most common conditions that would bring someone to DMEI to see you? What are some of the factors that can cause these issues?
A: Decreased vision or eye crossing caught by parents or by primary care providers is a common occurrence in my clinic. The causes for this are numerous and may be as simple as a child needing the proper glasses or a more complex ocular pathology that requires careful workup and diagnosis. In children who have systemic syndromes or congenital disorders that affect the whole body more than solely the eyes, I collaborate with a team of medical specialists to optimize the total health and functional capacity of the patient. Adults may also present to my clinic complaining of double vision or changes in vision that may be related to eye misalignment and can be treated with surgery or special prism glasses.
Q: What do you like to do during your spare time?
A: Anything related to art! Working with my hands, whether painting, drawing, or sculpting has always been my creative outlet. I am currently working on illustrating a children’s story, which my brother and mom co-authored. I also run an online shop for hand-knit heirloom baby items. When I’m not covered in paint or surrounded by mounds of clay, I am running, biking, or exploring new trails with my husband. My latest hobby is convincing him that we need a puppy!