Heroes of Orbis: Dr. Tom Johnson M.D.

Meet oculoplastics surgeon Dr. Tom Johnson, a Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami. When he’s not saving sight back at home in Florida, he’s traveling halfway across the world teaching and training eye doctors as one of our dedicated Orbis volunteers.

Dr. Johnson has been an integral part of our Flying Eye Hospital and long-term country programs since the mid 1990s. He told CNN during a program in Cameroon in 2017 that ‘the excitement never wears off.'

Watch his appearance on CNN Vital Signs below:

CNN VItal Signs follows Dr. Johnson during our Flying Eye Hospital project in Cameroon in 2017

Skills & Expertise

Dr. Johnson graduated from medical school at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in 1980, undertaking fellowship programs in hospitals in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, before completing a fellowship in OculoFacial Plastic Surgery at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in 1993, where he is now Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology.

Specialties

Aesthetic and Cosmetic Ophthalmic Surgery
Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Areas of Expertise

  • Oculoplastic Surgery
  • Reconstructive Surgery
  • Orbital Surgery
  • Aesthetic and Cosmetic Treatments
  • Botox for Hemifacial Spasm and Blepharospasm
  • Eyelid and Orbital Reconstructive Surgery
  • Ocular Oncology/Eyelid & Orbital Tumors
  • Pediatric Oculoplastics
  • Thyroid Eye Disease


Gallery: Dr.Johnson's remarkable work in action

Teacher & Trainer

Dr. Johnson has completed dozens of sight-saving missions with the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital. In 2017 and 2019, Dr. Johnson joined our team of volunteers in Cameroon and Ghana working side-by-side with local teams.

More recently, during his time in the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, Cameroon, Dr. Johnson screened over 50 people, treating 10 patients with complex conditions. We were able to find some time to sit down with him to discover more about his experience.

Speaking about his sub-specialty in oculoplastic surgery and its importance, Dr. Johnson told us: “It's a very important part of ophthalmology. We deal mainly with problems with the orbit, the eyelids, and the tear ducts. These are all very much intimately related to sight. The eyelids protect the eye, and without good eyelid function, the cornea would not be healthy, patients would not see well. So eyelid abnormalities can definitely impair vision.

“Droopy eyelids, or what's called ptosis is where there's a droopiness of the eyelid. It can actually block part of the vision. Orbital problems are very common in my practice too. Thyroid eye disease creates bulging of the eye, and can create compression of the optic nerve and loss of vision, as well as corneal problems. So dealing with these issues is very important for the preservation of vision.

An infant with ptosis during screening day in the Oculoplastics clinic at Yaounde Central Hospital, Cameroon

An infant with ptosis during screening day in the Oculoplastics clinic at Yaounde Central Hospital, Cameroon

I think the main purpose of Orbis is to teach. And what we do here is try to teach the local doctors our techniques — our types of surgeries — so they can go ahead and use those on their own population. So we're not here trying to do as many surgery cases as possible, we’re here to teach specific techniques to the local doctors so they can carry on and treat a whole lot of people over their lifetime, their career as eye surgeons.

Dr. Tom Johnson M.D.

Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology & Orbis Volunteer Faculty

Speaking about the long-term impact of changing lives and being part of the Orbis team, he said: “I think what I love about Orbis is just the impact we make. I get to know a couple of the trainees very well during my time in a country and I try to keep in touch with them after I leave. So we continue this teaching process pretty much indefinitely through the internet, Cybersight and social media. And I really enjoy the relationships I make with people in different countries, and to see how I've been able to contribute—to make an impact.

"One of the doctors I've worked with in Cameroon went on to study my specialty— oculoplastic surgery—and she's now in Canada doing a fellowship in oculoplastics. And her plan is to come back to Cameroon and continue to implement what she’s learned as an oculoplastic surgeon. So that’s the one thing that I really enjoy about Orbis—being able to make that kind of impact in a country where we’ve worked.”

We'd like to say a huge thank you to Dr. Johnson for committing his spare time to sharing his world-class oculoplastic skills to treat complex cases and change lives for the better.

His patience and teaching techniques are second to none, and we are exceptionally fortunate to have him as part of the Orbis family.

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