Karen Klugo, M.D.
Comprehensive Ophthalmologist Cataract Surgeon
Cincinnati Eye Institute
Q: Who inspires you in the field of medicine?
Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to be a doctor so that I could use my abilities to make people’s lives better. I didn’t know what kind of doctor I wanted to be, only that I wanted to do something in surgery. When I was sophomore in high school, I took an advanced biology class. My teacher was very into the science behind genetics because that was pretty new back then. They hadn’t mapped the human genome yet. He told me that I had a gift in science and that this was a brand-new field that I might find interesting. I went on to get a degree in molecular genetics. A long time after that, his aunt was a patient of mine. I had the opportunity to ask his aunt to please thank him because I ended up pursuing my educational goals due to his encouragement.
Q: In what ways do you find your career rewarding?
Technology in ophthalmology is constantly evolving. We have the opportunity to make patients’ lives so much better by offering cataract surgery for those who need it. As different types of lenses evolve, we give patients their sight back. Obviously being able to restore sight after cataract surgery is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. Allowing them to be able to see things far away that they’ve not seen in a long time, and to see the excitement and joy on their faces is great. Also, I’m not just an eye doctor. A lot of times people don’t realize that we, as ophthalmologists, are the primary people to diagnose a disease. I recently had a man I’d been taking care of for years come in for his yearly exam, and I found lesions in his retina that were a metastatic disease. It could have been a couple of months before he manifested any other symptoms. He had asymptomatic lesions in his retina and sometimes, if they are central, the patient might come in with blurred vision but without symptoms and the only way to see that is to do a dilated exam. There are times when we are the doctors who diagnose brain tumors, diabetes, and various infectious diseases because they show up in ocular examinations.
Q: How has the pandemic affected your mental reserves, and how do you find the fortitude to move forward on those difficult days?
It’s really tough. I think everybody, in general, is stressed. People are worried about exposure. Ophthalmologic care mostly requires an in-office exam, so telehealth is not usually an option for proper diagnosis. Therefore, we take all kinds of precautions. We are constantly washing our hands and, of course, we are all wearing masks. I have a smaller office, so we move patients around to keep them safe. But I got into this field to help people and to make their lives better. I always remain humble and grateful to have the opportunity to take care of patients.