This month we are proud to feature one of our newest surgeons, Dr. Justin Needham. Dr. Needham comes to us by way of the US Army where he recently completed his service as the Chief of Ophthalmology and Warfighter Refractive Eye Surgery Program at Ft. Stewart GA. Dr. Needham has spent the last ten years taking care of military service members, retirees, and their families, and he is excited to settle down in North Atlanta and bring his experience to our community. We caught up with Dr. Needham recently to learn more about his unique background.
To start off, tell us what motivated you to join the military in the first place?
I have long had a sense of service and I was raised with a deep respect for the military. I had explored joining the Army at various points in high school and college, but it wasn’t until I was accepted to medical school at Uniformed Services University that I found a program that was the right fit for me. The motto at USU is “Learning to Care for Those in Harm’s Way” and it has been a great honor for me to do just that. One reason our service members are able to do what they do is because they have a robust medical team that ensures they are prepared for deployment, that takes care of their family while they are gone and helps them recover when they are sick or injured. The men and women who defend our nation, and their families, make so many sacrifices, I was glad to be able to support them in my own way.
How have your experiences shaped how you practice today?
One of the things that have made a big impression on me over the years is the life-changing power of refractive surgery. I’ve had many soldiers come to me absolutely terrified to lose their glasses while in Iraq or Afghanistan. Such an event would leave them functionally blind in a foreign land, potentially in a hostile situation. To be able to give them great vision without glasses through LASIK, PRK or ICL surgery is an absolute game changer. Their increased confidence and performance make a world of difference, and I like to think improves their chances of coming home.
What procedure did you perform in the military?
Medical school and Ophthalmology training in the military are the same as everyone else. As a comprehensive ophthalmologist, I performed a wide variety of procedures to include cataract surgery, eyelid surgery, eye muscle surgery, and a variety of anterior segment procedures. The most common however was to perform vision correction surgery such as LASIK, PRK, and ICL to help the soldiers see better and prepare them for deployment.
As technology evolves, is there any specific area of ophthalmology you can think of that may affect the practice over the next decade?
We are entering an exciting time in ophthalmology. New lenses and laser procedures are developed all the time. With each advance in technology, we are making the procedures safer, faster and more accurate. LASIK is already the safest, most successful, and most widely studied refractive procedure in the world, with the highest patient satisfaction rate of any elective surgery. Modern LASIK is significantly safer and more effective today than it was when originally approved by the FDA, I’m eager to see where the future takes us. There are some major advancements on the horizon both surgical and pharmaceutical for treating presbyopia – the need for reading glasses after age 40 – further expanding our abilities to help people see without having to wear glasses or bifocals.
What are your hobbies outside of work?
Right now, my children are three and five years old, so most of my extra time is spent with my family. The kids are at such a fun age, I’m constantly amazed and surprised by how fast they are learning and growing. I also love traveling and visiting new cities. I have traveled quite extensively, and every new place is a fun adventure. It’s great to get out and experience new foods, new sights, sounds, and new cultures. Finally, growing up in Colorado, I have a love for skiing and the outdoors and I look forward to introducing my kids to these activities now that they are old enough to enjoy them.
To learn more about the physicians at Milan Eye Center, please visit milaneyecenter.com or call 678-381-2020.