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by Scott "Genghis" Wong

Photo by Genghis

THE BIG EASY: Back on its feet.

I've been doing this since the beginning of time. Or so it seems. What I'm talking about, is giving courses on retinal photography and fluorescein angiography of the ocular fundus. Admittedly, it's been a long, strange trip. This year's meeting of the ophthalmology community took place in New Orleans, and I've just given my lecture on fluorescein angiography. This year's trip marked the 42nd year that I've been working in ophthalmology, and the 37th year that I've been presenting lectures and workshops on the subject.

I'm credited---in spite of the fact that I've never received credit or gratitude for such, by the first spouse I'm about to mention---with steering one ex-wife and one wife into the ophthalmic profession. The former is apparently retired, and the latter, my wife Pattty, is actively working as a supervisor at the Glaucoma Clinic, at The New York Eye & Ear Infirmary. The former has never acknowledged my contribution to her ability to make a living for the several decades that we've been divorced, but that is just the nature of what some ex-spouses do. Go figure.

I'd like you to think about this for a moment. Another person, who by dint of his knowledge and influence, enables another person to put food on her table, and a roof over her head, and this other person doesn't exhibit a scintilla of acknowledgement of said help. Curious, to say the least? I've always thought so. Ungrateful and brain dead. I had a similar but inverse relationship with someone in my life, who helped me to get off the ground professionally. The person in my life who enabled me to earn a living, to be able to put food on my and my children's table, and to put a roof over my and my children's heads, was my late brother, Don Wong.

I've always felt grateful to Don, and to this day, acknowledge his role in guiding me into ophthalmology in 1971. My ex-wife has never done this, that is, to show any gratitude. Don introduced me to my first employer in ophthalmology, which was the Department of Ophthalmology at the Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan. Similarly, I introduced my ex-wife to her first employer in ophthalmology, who was Dr. Max Forbes at the Harkness Eye Institute at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, where I worked at the time. In fact, it was based on my recommendation, that my ex was hired by Max Forbes.

Rather than present a dry, by the numbers report of my lecture on fluorescein angiography in New Orleans, I decided at the outset of this article, to show you a some backstory, just to make this piece more interesting reading. It sure beats, "Yeah, it went good, okay?" Gotta have a little spice with the oatmeal ya know what I mean? I believe I have your attention now. Am I right or wrong, you tell me. Now that you acknowledge that I have your attention, let's get down to the brass tacks about my lecture.

My lecture on fluorescein angiography this year, was given in one of the Grand Salons at the New Orleans Hilton Riverside & Towers. My lecture is on my own laptop (although I always bring two copies of my PowerPoint lecture on CD), so to be honest, I always ask for an AV tech to be present when hooking up my laptop for presentation. Sure, I know where the VGA port on my laptop is, as well as which function key toggles the screen options, but, still....I admit it: I have an insecurity as to what might happen when it's right down to the wire, when I'm scheduled to begin my talk. I'm given one hour before the next lecturer is to take over the podium, and no time can be wasted trying to exterminate technical gremlins. Believe me, the landscape is littered with the broken psyches of lecturers, whose equipment broke down at zero time. It's not a pretty sight. This is a fate I try to avoid.

Such disasters do take place at the last possible moment. In fact, I witnessed just such a disaster, when my brother Don was about to give a lecture. Let me tell you about that. In these digital days, a laptop failure might doom a lecture that must start on time. In the old days, it might be a slide projector failure, or in the case of Don's incident, it was a failure of the slide tray that holds the slides. Let me amend that. It wasn't a failure of the slide tray in Don's case, it was a failure of Don's assistant in preparing the slide tray.

For those of you young enough so that you're not familiar with how slide projectors worked, allow me to edumacate ya. Slide projectors utilized round slide trays, into which 80 slides could be inserted in the proper sequence. These slide trays were called carousels. When docked onto a slide projector, the lecturer could move from slide to slide by rotating the carousel on the projector, with a remote control. Some lecturers used dual projection like I did, which allowed the coordination of for example, a images on one side, with a tables on the other side to illustrate points regarding the images. This required the use of two separate projectors, one for the left side and one for the right. Now, you youngsters stay with me! I know this is like reciting prehistoric history!

On the day that Don was about to give his lecture, he had only one carousel (again, this is vintage terminology for the slide tray) full of slides, filled to the full capacity of 80 slides. One thing you should know about these carousels. One could optionally attach a locking ring on top of the carousel, to lock the slides in, so that they wouldn't fall out. Of course, the only way the slides could fall out, was if someone turned the carousel upside down. You see where I'm going with this, don't you?

In any case, on the day Don was about to give his lecture, on the way to the projector in the lecture hall, Don's assistant dropped the carousel, and all 80 slides fell out onto the ground. The slides weren't labeled sequentially, so there was no way to reinsert them into the carousel in time. Now, this story about Don is legendary, because without a hiccup or a drop of sweat on his brow, Don proceeded to give his 30 minute lecture without the visual aid of his slides. He never missed a beat. That took guts and poise. I'm not sure I could have performed as well under those circumstances.

My lecture at the Hilton went well. I strive for a conversational tone in my talks, and always give my lectures without notes to refer to. My lectures have an extemporaneous feel to 'em, and I attempt to engage the attendees to stoke interest. I've gotta say that after so many years of giving talks, I've become really good at giving 'em. I truly enjoy giving these lectures, and I look forward to giving it again next year. Next year, it'll be in Chicago. Later!