Dr. Lindstrom: From building blocks to ophthalmic innovation

Feb 07, 2014

“I’m probably the only person to have a father angry that his son went to medical school,” quipped Richard L. Lindstrom, MD, as he was interviewed by Gil Kliman, MD, during the 3rd Annual Glaucoma 360 New Horizons Forum here.

San Francisco-“I’m probably the only person to have a father angry that his son went to medical school,” quipped Richard L. Lindstrom, MD, as he was interviewed by Gil Kliman, MD, during the 3rd Annual Glaucoma 360 New Horizons Forum here. 

Dr. Lindstrom recalled that he was primed for the construction business by his father, before medicine chose him during his mentorship as an honors student with the Dean of the Medical School at the University of Minnesota. After a year, Dr. Lindstrom was persuaded by his mentor to go to medical school, explained the well-known ophthalmologist, surgeon, and product innovator to Dr. Kliman, managing director of InterWest Partners. 

 Dr. Lindstrom immediately chose surgery. During his surgery rotation, another influential teacher pulled him into laboratory for ophthalmology research. After training in cornea, cataract, and glaucoma tracks around the western United States, Dr. Lindstrom returned to the University of Minnesota where he focused on refractive surgery while serving as a full-time faculty for the next 10 years. While operating an active laboratory at the university, he also served as chief of ophthalmology at the Minnesota Veteran’s Administration Hospital. 

His next career turn led him to develop his business acumen.

When the University of Minnesota declined to work with Dr. Lindstrom to patent his eye bank project, he obtained the necessary patents on his own, had the university sign off all licenses to him, and he translated his eye bank technique into a reality.  

Then, as a 31-year-old assistant professor of ophthalmology, Dr. Lindstrom was approached by 3M’s Bill Coyne to become the chief medical officer of 3M Vision for 15 years where he helped to advance the IOL field. 3M Vision produced the first refractive IOLs and gas-permeable polymer contact lenses.

Dr. Lindstrom is also known for his innovations in ophthalmic lasers. He later joined Chiron Vision, which focused on epidermal growth factor and wound healing.

He noted that his relationship with the FDA has improved over the past 5 years since the government agency has become more collaborative and collegial in aiding the development of ophthalmic products.  

Dr. Lindstrom encourages ophthalmologists to give back, noting that the field needs philanthropy. Thirty years ago, he started the Vision Foundation at the University of Minnesota, raising $35 million in the process and landing him a spot on the University’s Foundation.

In addition to national foundation work, he and his wife used their time to set up a local fund to pay for eye examinations, glasses, surgeries, and treatments for children in their own community.  

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