Howard Krauss – How I Became a Neuro Ophthalmologist


Hi, my name is Howard Krauss and I am a neuro-ophthalmologist. Early in life I loved math and I loved physics. I was enamored with the US Manned Space Flight
Program. At the age of 12 I dedicated myself to aerospace
engineering. I have a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering,
a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics. All the while at the dinner table, mom would
say, “Howard, be a doctor.” And I would say, “Mom, I love math. I love physics. Medicine is not really a science. I refuse to consider it.” So after my master’s degree, I took a job
with what was then called the Hughes Aircraft Company, where I designed communication systems
for satellites and spacecraft. But I found something missing, and I thought
that perhaps I needed something more humanistic in my life. But as an engineering student, I lacked biology
and organic chemistry and I went to UCLA Extension in the evening to take my premed classes,
applied for medical school, and within two years after starting my engineering career,
I began my medical school career. Perhaps it was my disposition from electrical
engineering, but when I began medical school, my principle interest was in the brain. I viewed the rest of the body as a means of
supporting the brain and carrying it from place to place. I went to medical school in the ’70s and I
was a bit concerned that neurosurgical outcomes were not often good, that neurologists in
the ’70s didn’t seem to be doing much more than localizing the lesion and had very little
in the way of treatment to offer. And in medical school, I learned that at least
40% of our brain is involved with vision, so I immediately became interested in neuro-ophthalmology
and applied for ophthalmology residency as a means of becoming a neuro-ophthalmologist. In my first year of ophthalmology residency,
I met Dr. Greg Croll, who was doing his neuro-ophthalmology fellowship at UCLA, having spent a year Mr.
John Write in the Moorfield’s Eye Hospital in London. And Greg said to me, “Howard, if you’re going
to be a neuro-ophthalmologist, you should consider being a surgical neuro-ophthalmologist.” And he said, “There’s one training program
in the United States that is geared to that, and that’s Dr. Jack Kennerdell at the University
of Pittsburgh.” So after residency training, I did my fellowship
with Jack Kennerdell at the University of Pittsburgh. And apart from the fact that it was a wonderful
clinical experience in the operating room with Dr. Kennerdell, in the operating room
with the neurosurgeons and the head and neck surgeons and participating in a wide variety
of surgeries that would take care of patients with vision issues and orbital issues, it
was a distinct pleasure to have Jack as my mentor. He was not only a knowledgeable person and
a skilled surgeon, but he was a very caring person, very interested in his fellows, in
their lives and their career development. Unfortunately, we lost Jack last year, but
he’s trained about 35 fellows and we’ve always viewed ourselves as a Jack’s children and
extended family. And very often at the academy meeting each
year we would get together and have a dinner with Jack. And even now that Jack has passed, we still
get together. So one of the things that I’ve always valued
in career development is friendships and relationships, and if one has an opportunity to acquire a
professor or a mentor who takes a real interest in your development, that really is very valuable
in terms of how you feel about your own position in healthcare. I’ve been fortunate to go on to develop a
very busy surgical neuro-ophthalmology practice in Los Angeles. I’ve recently established what we call the
Pacific Neuroscience Institute, which is a multispecialty group, which presently has
16 physicians but is rapidly growing. We have neurosurgeons, neurologists, interventional
neuroradiologists, neuro-oncologists, skull-based surgeons, and we have a great collaboration
with colleagues at the St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica and recently have signed a
professional services agreement with Providence Healthcare. So I have been very fortunate in having found
myself in a career that I feel I was destined for. I love what I do. I’ve been a very active teacher in the UCLA
program, both in the departments of ophthalmology and neurosurgery. I love teaching and I love the relationships
that I’m building and as best as I can, I try to mentor along the way as well. So for me, as they say, neuro-ophthalmology
has been very, very good to me, but I love being a neuro-ophthalmologist. I love helping patients, and I strongly commend
this as a career path for someone who’s interested in the neurology of vision and somebody who
just wants to reach out and heal patients, because that’s what I’ve had the good fortune
to do throughout my career.

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