Kelman Innovator's Lecture: 'Challenge, don't conform' is advice to young ophthalmologists

April 6, 2009

San Francisco-Young ophthalmologists should not bow to society's pressure to conform, and they constantly should be challenging the status quo. That was the message from Robert H. Osher, MD, as he delivered the Charles D. Kelman Innovator's Lecture.

San Francisco-Young ophthalmologists should not bow to society’s pressure to conform, and they constantly should be challenging the status quo. That was the message from Robert H. Osher, MD, as he delivered the Charles D. Kelman Innovator’s Lecture.

“From the time we are youngsters, our society exerts massive pressure to conform. Individualism is discouraged,” said Dr. Osher, professor of ophthalmology, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and medical director emeritus, Cincinnati Eye Institute.

“I’d like to ask all the young ophthalmologists in the audience to close their eyes and embrace the words, ‘It’s OK to be different,’ ” he said.

Dr. Osher suggested that creative, young ophthalmologists need to look no further than other innovators for support if they feel ostracized because their ideas are different.

“The creative act is as close as we get to the divine,” he said. “It is paradoxical, therefore, that society has always had a scornful attitude to those who possess that creativity.”

Dr. Osher also called it “mandatory” that the next generation of ophthalmologists should look to challenge the status quo at every turn, whereas older practitioners must strive not to suppress but to encourage young ophthalmologists to “push us, question us, and ruthlessly interrogate us even when it feels uncomfortable.

“Each of us has the responsibility to challenge the lessons of our respected teachers,” he concluded. “It’s the only way to ensure the continued evolution of the wonderful specialty of cataract surgery.”