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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection


Through the eyes of Dr. David Rootman

By David Chilton
Special to the Toronto Sun

When David Rootman was a small boy in Alberta he had an operation on his foot. The surgeon asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He said he wanted to be a doctor.
Dr. David Rootman is an ophthalmologist at Toronto Western Hospital and the Hospital for Sick Children. He also owns the Yonge Eglinton Laser and Cosmetic Centre in Toronto.

Well, that five-year old became an eye surgeon who specializes in corneas, the transparent covering of the iris and the pupil that allows light to enter our eyes so we can see.

"I temporarily considered some other occupations along the way, but I don't think I wavered very much from wanting (to be a doctor). I was always interested in how things work, and in particular how the body works," Rootman says.

In other words, medicine allowed him to combine his own interests and to help others, a topic that Rootman returned to several times in a recent interview.

And help others Rootman does. As an ophthalmologist at Toronto Western Hospital and the Hospital for Sick Children, he spends four days a week with Dr. Allan Slomovic and other colleagues performing corneal and cataract surgery, corneal transplants and other highly advanced surgical procedures.

Rootman and Slomovic also run the largest corneal fellowship program in Canada, training two to four surgeons every year from Canada and around the world.

And if that isn't enough helping out, Rootman is also an associate professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Services at the University of Toronto's medical school.

Oh, and he's a director of the Eye Bank of Canada and a prolific author of medical papers.

After his Calgary childhood, Rootman began his long haul by studying biological sciences at Yeshiva University in New York before returning to U of T for his medical degree, graduating in 1982.

"I'd had enough of the New York experience and America," he says. "I was born in western Canada and I consider myself a Canadian. I didn't like being an alien in a strange land. Toronto was always my first choice in terms of a spot to live because I was attracted to the big city, having grown up in Calgary."

Rootman stayed on at the University of Toronto to study ophthalmology -- a specialty he felt played to his strengths -- before moving on to Louisiana State University in New Orleans in 1986 for two more years to study corneas and external eye diseases.

"I chose (LSU) because the mentor there was a guy named Herbert Kaufman and he was clearly one of the greats in the field at the time. I felt that was probably the best place to go to get training in cornea."

After leaving the Big Easy and starting his career here at Toronto General and Sick Kids, Rootman watched technical developments in laser refractive surgery reach the point where they could be used on normal eyes with little risk.
  • Canada's 16 medical schools require applicants to have two to four years of full-time degree study in life sciences and certain other subjects.
  • Studying for a medical degree takes four years.
  • Residency requirements and specialized training can take another two to seven years.
  • Most medical schools in Canada require applicants to write the Medical Colleges Admission Test.
  • Tuition fees for medical students at U of T are almost $16,000 a year.
  • Fifty per cent of medical students in Canada are female.

  • He then started to work for another ophthalmologist he'd known for years who was opening a clinic in Toronto.

    A U.S. company bought that clinic before Rootman and his wife Honey took it over in 2003 and renamed it the Yonge Eglinton Laser and Cosmetic Centre.

    The centre has three ophthalmologists and performs vision correction surgery two days a week, seeing about 10 patients a day. The other three days are for pre- and post-operative assessment.

    He says every clinic claims to be the best, but he points out that at the Yonge Eglinton Laser and Cosmetic Centre -- where Rootman spends one day a week -- all three surgeons are corneal specialists and were corneal specialists well before they started laser refractive surgery.

    Other points that Rootman says are in his clinic's favour are its comfortable atmosphere and its smaller number of patients.

    And then of course there's the ultimate endorsement: both Rootman and his wife have had their vision corrected at their own clinic.

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