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Ophthalmic Photography in Switzerland: My First Act with Eyeballs: Part One

Posted By John C. Peterson, Friday, June 01, 2012
Updated: Thursday, May 31, 2012

My ophthalmic photography story begins in 1995, when I was hired by the University Eye Clinic in Basel, Switzerland. I was hired with zero experience in ophthalmology, but a strong general photography and scientific background. I had been working as a freelance photographer up to that point, overworked and underpaid, so I relished the opportunity to prove myself in a new and exciting environment. My wife and young kids welcomed the security of a steady paycheck!

Now, some of you may wonder what a New Englander such as me was doing in Basel in the first place. My wife grew up there, you see, and we had moved back there shortly after getting married…cultural exchange, and all that. Now back to my story…

For the first months on the job I was a fish out of water, gasping for air. Never having worked with eyes or even in a clinical setting before, and with decent but vulnerable Swiss-German skills, every day was a fire hose rush of newness. I made friends quickly and absorbed as much as I could. Fortunately I had excellent teachers, and I rapidly became comfortable at the fundus camera. After a while I felt like a contributing professional rather than a student tag-along.

In 1995 the digital revolution was a few years off, nor had anyone yet heard of OCT. We did film fluoresceins, color fundus photos, external photos (gazes and lids), and slit-lamp photography. We also used an early version of the Heidelberg HRT. I was asked to do publicity photos around the clinic almost from Day One.

We hand-developed all FAs and copied relevant frames onto a second roll of B/W film to make positive slides in our full darkroom. Every Thursday after clinic a group of residents, fellows, and staff ophthalmologists would cram into the photo area for an FA slideshow, ostensibly to dictate the results of the tests and to teach descriptive interpretation but also to joke, discuss, gossip, and argue. It was an electric learning environment that I rarely missed out on.

Great learning opportunities were all around, especially during pre-clinic lectures over coffee on a range of topics, from motility to eye infections to surgical techniques. My favorites were the pathology lectures. I’ve always been a microscope buff, and there’s no better way to learn eye anatomy than by viewing histopathology slides accompanied by the explanations of a first-rate teacher such as Peter Meyer, MD.

A year after I arrived we acquired a Heidelberg "Classic” SLO for our FA/ICG angiography. Because these tests could be dictated right at the camera, the Thursday FA conferences ended, but I still learned a ton sitting next to the resident physician assigned to the photo department, discussing our findings while waiting for the late-phase photos.

Basel is a well-known research institution, with a heavy glaucoma emphasis. I had the privilege of collaborating on several intriguing research projects; the annual Glaucoma Meeting is to this day a Big Deal for the international glaucoma community.

In the next post, I’ll talk about the work environment at the University Eye Clinic in Basel, and why I gave it up for a new department in Madison, Wisconsin.

 

 

John C. Peterson, BS, CRA is Director of Ophthalmic Photography Services at the UW Health Eye Clinic in Madison, Wisconsin. He began his career at the University Eye Clinic in Basel, Switzerland. In his spare time he runs a small farm, hunts fossils, dresses up as a pirate, and writes about macro photography at http://www.macro-photography-for-all.com, although not all at the same time. He is currently a candidate for an MBA in IT Management at Western Governors University. Politically, he is against some things and in favor of others.

Tags:  blog  funny  Ice Breakers  New Life  PDC  Professional Development Committee  Switzerland  Travel 

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Permalink | Comments (5)
 

Comments on this post...

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Timothy J. Bennett CRA OCT-C says...
Posted Friday, June 01, 2012
Okay, I'll bite... is there some special reason you dress up like a pirate?

Nice post John. I'vealways wondered about the Basel connection. Many of us have taken unusual paths to end up in this profession. Looking forward to part two.
Permalink to this Comment }

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John C. Peterson MBA-ITM says...
Posted Friday, June 01, 2012
Pirates get away with all sorts of things that normal people don't.
Permalink to this Comment }

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Robert W. Cavicchi, CRA, FOPS says...
Posted Saturday, June 02, 2012
John,

Great post. Enjoyed reading and looking forward to the follow-up.

Two things:

1. Where in New England did you grow up?

2. I'll pay a handsome sum to see you in that pirate outfit. Next OPS meeting?
Permalink to this Comment }

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James Soque CRA OCT-C COA says...
Posted Monday, June 04, 2012
I know, I know...

He's got "A little Captain (Morgan) in him..."

Harrrr...rrrr....rrrrr....

See you all at the Midyear!
Jim
Permalink to this Comment }

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Barbara S. McCalley says...
Posted Tuesday, June 05, 2012
I'm really enjoying reading the blogs and hearing how people got started in ophthalmic photography. Who wants to help write a section for the web page about 'pathways to ophthalmic photography/imaging?
Permalink to this Comment }

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