VBS 2023 Lifetime Mentorship Award: Lisa C. Olmos de Koo, MD, MBA – “In a World of Ordinary Mortals, You Are a Wonder Woman”

Ryan Zukerman, MD
Columbia University

Dr. Lisa C. Olmos de Koo, MD, MBA was awarded the prestigious Lifetime Mentorship Award at the 11th Annual Vit-Buckle Society Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada this weekend.

After being introduced by Dr. Aleksandra V. Rachitskaya, Dr. Olmos de Koo, gave a broad lecture that reflected her views on the importance of mentor-mentee relationships. In her lecture, Dr. Olmos de Koo presented four essential pearls for mentors and mentees that she has learned throughout her career and supplemented each pearl with a clinical example. Her first pearl was the understanding that the benefits of being in a mentor-mentee relationship go both ways. She explained that in her career she has learned as much from her mentees as they have learned from her. In fact, she said, she feels that having mentees has helped her continue her mission of lifelong learning. Her mentees keep her open to new techniques and new ideas, such as her Bandage Lens Technique for improved corneal clarity during trauma cases with with corneal lacerations.

Dr. Olmos de Koo’s second pearl was the importance of seeking out multiple mentors and/or multiple mentees. She explained her belief that a mentor-mentee relationship doesn’t have to be exclusive, and that having multiple mentors can expose mentees to the specific techniques that work best in their hands.

Third, Dr. Olmos de Koo suggested that mentors and mentees take their positions slowly and specifically explained that the jobs of a mentor and mentee are lifelong positions. She described that even attending physicians and masters of their craft may not have all the answers and that they should always feel able to reach out to their mentors – and sometimes even their mentees – when facing a challenge. For example, Dr. Olmos de Koo described the importance of her mentor’s support, Dr. Ninel Gregori, during her first surgery implanting an Argus-II Retinal Prosthesis.

Finally, Dr. Olmos de Koo shared the importance of not taking learning and teaching too seriously. She described her lecture on scleral buckling, called “The Modern Girl’s (and Boy’s) Guide to The Primary Buckle” where she tries to inject humor into trainee education. Ultimately, Dr. Olmos de Koo’s lecture was the perfect complement to the Vit-Buckle Society Meeting’s focus on mentorship and the central mission of the Vit-Buckle Society.