As a resident at the Dean McGee Eye Institute (DMEI), Ralph B. Hester III, MD, discovered cataract surgery to be the area of ophthalmology where he could have the greatest and most positive impact on people’s lives. His personal interests and professional aspirations led Dr. Hester to choose to work at DMEI, one of the largest ophthalmology institutes in the United States.
Q: Where did you grow up and when did your interest in medicine first emerge?
A: I grew up in Oklahoma City. My dad was an architect who designed hospitals. As a kid, I grew up traveling all around Oklahoma with him visiting different hospitals and meeting many different physicians. That’s where my interest began.
Q: Where did you complete your undergrad and where did you pursue your medical degree?
A: I went to undergrad at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. I went to the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine.
Q: Where did you complete your residency?
A: Dean McGee Eye Institute (DMEI)
Q: What led you to join DMEI?
A: I was in private practice at Baptist Hospital from 1994 to 1996. The chairman of DMEI at the time, David W. Parke II, approached me to see if I would be interested in heading up a satellite office of DMEI in the northwest part of Oklahoma City. It was a good fit for what I wanted to achieve professionally.
Q: What sparked your interest in cataracts and lens implant surgery? Why is this an important area of eye health to study and research?
A: As a resident, I found cataract surgery to be the area of ophthalmology where I could have the greatest and most positive impact in people’s lives. Cataracts are the most commonly diagnosed ocular condition that adversely impacts a person’s ability to function in society and connect with their world.
Q: What are some common conditions you diagnose in patients? What are some of the underlying factors that caused these issues?
A: Cataracts and glaucoma are partially genetic, partially related to the overall health of an individual, and partially due to aging.
Q. What can a patient expect at their first exam?
A: A thorough exam and evaluation of ocular health and a detailed decision of how an individual patient thinks they are seeing and what I can do as a physician or surgeon to optimize their vision
Q: Once cataracts are diagnosed, what are a patient’s options? Is surgery always necessary?
A: Their options are surgery or new glasses or contact lenses with ongoing observation and monitoring of the progression and their cataracts.
Q: Is there a way for patients to be proactive in their health and prevent cataracts? Or, if cataracts are inherent, what can patients do for relief of symptoms until they schedule an exam?
A: A healthy lifestyle can delay but not eliminate the development of cataracts. Cataracts that have become visibly significant cause patients to strain to be able to see. This can lead to a dry eye condition that can be improved by use of over-the-counter artificial tears.
Q: How has Intraocular Implant Lens Surgery improved through the years regarding type of procedures, patient comfort, and recovery time?
A: I would divide the most significant impacts into four categories
Intraocular lens technology began to make significant changes around 2005 when intraocular lenses were developed that could effectively and accurately correct astigmatism. Lenses that could correct presbyopia (the need for reading glasses) soon followed and have improved greatly since then.
The use of laser in cataract surgery has also greatly improved over the past five years, leading to greater accuracy and precision of the procedure.
Another positive impact is the use of smaller incisions, now down to a size of 1.8mm, which has significantly improved patient comfort and decreased the amount of time for healing.
And fourth, the use of what I would call adjunct procedures like MIGS (minimally invasive glaucoma surgery), or combination retinal/cataract surgery have allowed surgeons to treat conditions like glaucoma or retinal disease at the same time as cataract surgery. This allows us to treat diseases that could potentially complicate cataract surgery and lead to a non-ideal outcome.
Q: In addition, we’d love to know about your hobbies or interests – just some things that let us show your personality.
A: In addition to caring for two teenage daughters full time, I enjoy collecting art, swimming, snowboarding, wakeboarding, sailing, and Judo.