Marcel Proust once said that “the only real voyage consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Ophthalmologists take that wise council literally and dedicate their professional lives to protecting and correcting their patients’ vision.

“Cataract surgery is one of the most rewarding operations in medicine, for both the patient and surgeon,” says Toronto specialist Sheldon Herzig of the Herzig Eye Institute. “The patient presents with a significant loss of vision, which has affected their quality of life, and in a very short time their vision is restored to a level that may even be better than it was before cataracts developed.”

Basic training in ophthalmology is an onerous task: After gaining an undergraduate degree, students need to do four years of medical school followed by five years of residency. Herzig says most new medical school students have no idea what they want to study, and those who settle on eye health do so after exploring various specialties.

Herzig, who has the Proust quote on the homepage of his website, says it’s an exciting field to work in, with ever-expanding cutting edge of new technologies.

“Very early in my career, I did fellowship training in both cataract and corneal surgery in the U.S. When I returned to Toronto, I introduced new techniques and instruments for cataract surgery which led to improved results,” he recalls. “I have always been drawn to new technologies, which led me to develop an interest in refractive surgery — a very high-tech field.

As with cataract surgery, the rewards for patients are immeasurable and very gratifying for the surgeon. Eliminating thick glasses that have been worn since childhood or restoring reading vision to an older patient is an amazing experience.”

A popular technique today is Lasik surgery, an operation that uses lasers to eliminate nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism. Bolstering Herzig’s claims that eye health is an immensely rewarding field, Halifax child-care worker Michelle Thornhill says her recent procedure has allowed her to “live spontaneously.”

“I can travel, nap, jump in a lake, go to the beach, or have a shower without worrying about damaging my contact lenses,” she says. “Having better vision gives me a better sense of awareness, which is crucial in the field of child care.”

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