Scholarship Winner - September 2016


Justin Karlin, MD, MSc

PGY-3 Ophthalmology resident

University of Virginia





I feel very lucky to have been given the opportunity to spend time on Oahu with Dr. Chen. He was a very generous and kind host who not only helped me expand my knowledge base, but also gave me a window in to what life is like as a private practice Ophthalmologist. He kindly allowed me to spend time with him in his clinic and operating room, he involved me in several research projects, and he allowed me to present a clinical case and associated research at the 32nd annual Hawaiian Ophthalmologic Society (H.O.S.) meeting.

Dr. Chen welcomed me in to his clinic. He allowed me to speak to every patient and to examine them by slit lamp and with funduscopy, if I saw fit. There were many interesting diagnoses, and all his patients showed a great deal of fondness and respect for Dr. Chen. After each patient, I had the opportunity to ask questions, and to go through all the clinical data and discuss diagnostic and management details. Dr. Chen made sure to highlight the teaching points.

For lunch each day, we would go to a different restaurant (e.g. Korean BBQ, spicy Szechuan, Hawaiian food). I enjoyed a variety of excellent food and also had the chance to speak with Dr. Chen personally about Ophthalmology, and life in general. His advice was always relevant and I feel privileged to have had the gift of his wisdom.


In the afternoons, I would either join Dr. Chen in his clinic, or I was allowed time to work on research. For example, he encouraged me to work with him on preparing a case report – a unique instance of persistent hyperplastic vitreous discovered in an adult patient.

A highlight of the experience was spending time in the operating room with Dr. Chen. He is a highly skilled surgeon who uses cutting edge technology. He uses a femtosecond laser, intraoperative aberrometry, endocyclophotocoagulation and other state of the art technologies. Still, he was able to explain carefully what he was doing at every step of a given surgery, and he gave me many technique pointers along the way. Dr. Chen’s team was also very welcoming and they were also eager to teach.

Presenting at the H.O.S. meeting was an excellent experience. I met many of the prominent Ophthalmologists of Oahu, I heard interesting talks and I participated in the exchange of ideas. At the end of the meeting, there was a special treat – a piano recital! We listened to the beautiful music of many young musicians from across the Hawaiian islands, all dedicated to the memory of the late Dr. George Camara.

The accommodations and the weather were beautiful during my time in Oahu. I settled nicely in to my apartment in downtown Honolulu – found through AirBnB. From there, Ala Moana beach was only a short walk away. There were many nice restaurants and bars very close to where I was staying. In addition to spending time working with Dr. Chen, I also had the chance to go surfing at Diamond Head in Waikiki, and enjoy snorkeling on the North Shore.

Overall, this was an excellent experience because it expanded my perspective. With respect to private practice ophthalmology, the details are not often obvious to the resident as we go through our training in academic centers. My belief had initially been that private practice Ophthalmologists do not often participate in academic ophthalmology. Dr. Chen changed this view; he showed me what is possible in a private practice setting. He has a bustling practice where he operates and sees many patients per week. But he also makes time for varied academic activities – publishing original research, giving seminars, teaching residents.