Dr. Rojanasthien comes to us with a passion for ophthalmology and improving the lives of his patients.
He and his spouse enjoy cooking and dining, going to the beach and kayaking, traveling, and self-improvement via reading and working out.
“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.
When I think of all the reasons why I chose to become an eye doctor, each idea makes its way down to one simple motivator – the desire to help people see better. This desire to help people is deeply ingrained from my upbringing and from my experiences in living in America.
I was born and grew up in Thailand. After middle school, I was given the opportunity to move to America for a better life. Because I knew little of the English language, I enrolled in night classes to learn how to speak it. My uncle, who has been living in America for a while, told me that the best way to learn the language is to meet people outside of classes. So, I decided to volunteer at Habitat for Humanity, where I helped build homes. At the same time, I also volunteered at Harmony Farms where I assisted in the rehabilitation of people. I met great and kind people, who did not mind that we had to repeat ourselves many times to understand each other. No matter how different we were, our goal was the same – to make our community a better place to live in. It was through these experiences that I found a sense of belonging in America, my second home.
My desire to pursue medicine came after I accepted a position at an eye clinic. As a technician, I will never forget the situation where we had a patient who lost vision in one eye due to severe untreated glaucoma. The man was frantic, red in the face, and began sobbing. I felt his distress at that moment. I wondered, “if he has been seen by a doctor sooner, could his vision have been saved?”. I thought about ways I would be able to impact the lives of so many people who are in the same position as that man if I had a medical degree. This experience solidified my desire to enter medicine.
Following my acceptance to medical school, I volunteered at a free health clinic providing services to the underserved population of St. Louis. I assisted in providing vision screenings, training medical students, and expanded the screening program so that more people could be seen. It was this experience that proved ophthalmology was my calling.
Even though my home has changed, and I no longer speak Thai as much as I would like; the one consistency has always remained – my desire to help people. I found that my way to best contribute to society is through ophthalmology. Preserving and restoring vision is the best gift that I have to give. I am grateful for the opportunity to help patients achieve the quality of life they each greatly deserve.
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