Dr. Diamond is the most recent addition to the Filutowski Eye Institute. She comes to us with a passion in microsurgery and helping patients improve their vision and quality of life. Dr. Diamond enjoys going to the beach and hiking during her free time; as well as spending quality time with her husband and miniature poodle Mila.
“What are you going to do when you grow up?” is a familiar question that is asked daily around the world. It is rare that the answer is evident. More often, through baby steps and small decisions, we end up somewhere. So how did I end up as a ophthalmologist in Orlando? I grew up in a single parent home with four sisters and an amazing, hardworking mom. She did not believe in just working hard herself, hard work was for everyone—an equal opportunity event. If the yard needed to be mowed, the linoleum floor changed, the cabinets painted, an eight year old should be able to handle it. At least that was her philosophy, and it seemed to work. She had bred a workforce that followed directions.
It did not take many years of picking peaches, feeding cows, or weeding gardens to realize that I was an indoor girl. Don’t get me wrong, I love a lazy float down the river or a drink overlooking the sunset, but my days with dirt under my nails and sweat dripping down my chest are to be limited in my adult life.
When I was twelve years old, I first volunteered at the hospital. I did this because my mother believed that everyone needed a job, including her preteen. She would drop me off on her way to work (her first job) and pick me up on her way home. (Most of the time. I still don’t let her forget the time she forgot me.) There, I saw a new world. It was clean, air conditioned, and orderly. I had found my place.
The second year I volunteered at a children’s hospital. I loved it! Kids are amazingly positive and resilient. I still remember a young boy, maybe 4 years old, that had severe burns. He was bandaged up like a mummy and could not walk due to his injuries. He was certainly in pain. He would definitely have scars, but what was really on his mind was the playroom. He wanted to go there. I would pull him there in a little red wagon. We would play for hours. He would only return to his room when therapy or medication rounds required it. This zeal for life, willingness to overlook the bad, and to seek out the joyful inspired me. I was hooked.
As I practice medicine today, whether it be in my orderly, air-conditioned, well-supplied office, or in a dirt-floored hut in a foreign country with sweat dripping down my chest and my teenaged children as my staff, I still love the joyful spirit of those seeking to get well, to see better, and to live a life that is full.
Whether you like digging in the dirt or working your mind inside the confines of an office, my mom’s passion for doing everything that you can every day to make your life and the lives’ of others better, is still the way to live it.
Before I traveled on my first medical mission trip, someone very dear to me said, “I know your heart, and I know that once you experience this, you won’t want to stop.” The following week, I flew to the Dominican Republic with a team of physicians and fellow students to provide medical care to some of the most impoverished communities on the island. It was overwhelming to witness these patients receive medical care, a gift they so rarely receive, and I knew that “dear someone” was right: global health would become an important aspect of my future.
I had always been drawn to the sciences and biology from a young age, and somehow, I knew early on that I wanted to pursue a career in medicine. However, it wasn’t until my third year of medical school that I would truly discover my love of ophthalmology. I was provided a week to work with a specialty surgeon of my choice, and so I soon had my first interactions with an ophthalmologist. This one week changed the trajectory of my entire career – I was in love! I was fascinated by the complex anatomy of the eye, and I enjoyed directly visualizing the organ that I was treating. I liked the combination of performing technical work in the operating room and seeing patients in the clinic. I loved that ophthalmology allowed me to manage both acute and chronic diseases in patients of all age groups, provided opportunities to build longitudinal relationships with my patients, and offered the excitement of microsurgery.
When the opportunity to return to the Dominican Republic arose, I quickly discovered how I could combine my passion for ophthalmology with my desire to help those with limited access to healthcare resources. This time around, I helped lead an eye clinic and distributed new glasses to those in need. I witnessed powerful tears of joy when patients were finally able to see clearly or were able to read again for the first time in years. Unfortunately, I also saw many patients with disabling cataracts. Understanding the benefits of cataract surgery, it was difficult for me to watch patients walk away without immediate and dramatic improvements in their sight and quality of life. I resolved that one day, my patients would walk away from me with clear lenses and renewed vision.
Today, I am blessed to be living out my calling! It is an honor and a privilege to serve my community as an ophthalmologist, and I want to continue to improve the vision and lives of my patients. There is no better feeling in the world than having a patient tell you that you have changed their life for the better.