Vitreoretinal surgeon finds purpose in community service

May 1, 2016

For Joshua Mali, MD, the road to becoming an ophthalmologist started when he was just a teenager. When Dr. Mali was about 14 years old, his family took a trip to Nicaragua with Health for Humanity, and that was the beginning of what would be a decades-long service-oriented passion for Dr. Mali.

For Joshua Mali, MD, the road to becoming an ophthalmologist started when he was just a teenager. When Dr. Mali was about 14 years old, his family took a trip to Nicaragua with Health for Humanity, a Baha’i-inspired volunteer organization that provides medical services to those in poverty.

He remembered how inspired he felt that even at such a young age, he could help others by volunteering. This was the beginning of what would be a decades-long service-oriented passion for Dr. Mali.

“Doing service work kind of inspired me,” he said. Having the opportunity to spend time with his family at the same time as providing service to these people who really needed it was a merger of the things he most enjoyed in life.

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“I really like that feeling,” he said.

Today, Dr. Mali is a vitreoretinal surgeon, practicing at The Eye Associates, Sarasota, FL, and still looks for opportunities to get involved in service.

In 2009, Dr. Mali volunteered as a camp counselor at Georgia LIONS Camp for the Blind, a summer camp in Waycross, GA that hosts 6- to 10-year-old visually impaired campers. Several years later, the impact it left on him still remains.

“I still remember the camper I was in charge of,” he said. While he was responsible for the camper, he saw his role more as being friends for duration of the experience.

Later that same year, Dr. Mali served again as a camp counselor for Camp Abilities at LIONS Camp in Maryland, where he found a way to help visually impaired campers in another area for which he has a great passion.

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“I love sports,” he explained. “So it was cool to be able to help campers who are visually impaired play sports and have some good old camp fun. They don’t let [being visually impaired] stop them. That really inspired me to go into ophthalmology. I am definitely trying to make an effort to continue that throughout my career. That’s the reason I got into this, and I don’t want to forget it.”

Favorite moments

 

During a Medical Ministry International Project in 2012, he served as a volunteer ophthalmic surgeon in Tulipan, Mexico, where he performed cataract surgery for the indigenous population.

“They just have so many needy people there, and we are able to help them when we go there,” he said.

One of the memories from that trip that stands out for him was walking around the village and joining a soccer game with the local children.

“We kind of just jumped in and played with them spontaneously,” he said. “Those are the things I cherish. I reflect on those fun experiences and being able to help all those people.”

In November 2015, Dr. Mali had the opportunity to serve in his own community in Florida with Remote Area Medical, an organization aimed at providing medical care to those with limited access to basic health exams. By performing eye exams and procedures, he was able to contribute to the success of the event.

“It touched home for me because this is where I live, these are local people in the community who need healthcare,” he said.

Nevertheless, Dr. Mali’s service work not only benefits the community, but it also serves as a constant reminder of why he is an ophthalmologist.

“[It provides] a sense of purpose and a sense of peace,” Dr. Mali said.

Dr. Mali looks forward to participating in more service projects and even incorporating it into family trips with his wife, who is completing her residency in ophthalmology, and their future children.

“Whether it’s family, religion, service work-whatever brings you peace and a sense of purpose in your life, make sure to make time for it,” he said, acknowledging that it is possible to find a healthy balance even in the hectic schedule of an ophthalmologist.

“We work a lot,” he said, “ but always in life it’s about prioritizing and making time for those things that are important to you. For me, it’s been easy to merge those things and make it a hybrid.”