The third installment in our “Meet the Doctors” series is Dr. Gail Ganser. Dr. Ganser is Lynchburg’s only pediatric ophthalmologist and also specializes in neuro ophthalmology. She completed her extensive training at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and received further specialty training in pediatric ophthalmology at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. In addition to pediatric and neuro-ophthalmology, she also provides Botox® cosmetic treatment to patients. Dr. Ganser is board certified with the American Board of Ophthalmology.
What made you want to become an ophthalmologist?
Dr. Ganser: Ophthalmology was my favorite rotation in medical school. I have always been fascinated with how the eye works, such as, how rays of light are converted into a visual experience for us. I always wanted to learn more about that process and help people with difficulties with their vision.
What brought you to Piedmont Eye Center?
Dr. Ganser: I went to medical school at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. At that time I fell in love with the Southeast and decided I wanted to stay in this part of the country. Working at Piedmont Eye Center is a perfect fit for me and my interests. I get to see children and practice pediatric ophthalmology, as well as my other specialties of neuro ophthalmology and general ophthalmology.
Why did you choose your subspecialties?
Dr. Ganser: With pediatric ophthalmology I get to work with the beginning of life. The visual system is naturally developing at that age. If something goes wrong, it can happen at one specific point in the process, which I can identify. I often see myself as providing a missing link if a child develops a problem during their vision development. It could be by performing surgery, prescribing glasses, or recommending patching. When I am done the brain picks back up and development can proceed on its own.
Neuro ophthalmology is very different than pediatric ophthalmology. Usually my patients are older, and many have unknown causes of vision loss. I compare it to solving a puzzle and I really like the challenge. The specialty involves listening to the patient and their symptoms, doing the exam, and usually ordering further testing such as brain imaging and bloodwork. It can be a long process. In the end it is really rewarding to come up with an answer.
What is the most common misconception about what you do?
Dr. Ganser: The most common misconception is that a pediatric ophthalmologist cannot do a good eye examination on a young child. I am able to provide as thorough an exam on a baby as I can with an adult. A young child does not speak, but I can check the vision using different techniques than what I would for an adult. The rest of the eye exam can also be done without the baby’s participation, even including prescribing glasses.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Dr. Ganser: The most rewarding part is connecting with my patients by getting to know them and their families. I like to listen to my patients and this leads me to their diagnosis. They say it in layman’s terms and my job is to say it in doctor’s terms. One thing I really like is helping a small child, say a toddler, who is not interacting well with their environment and not meeting their developmental milestones. I provide a treatment such as glasses or surgery. Once my part is over, it opens a whole new world for that patient. I feel like I am turning their life around with the help of their family.
What is one thing you wish every patient knew?
Dr. Ganser: I wish that patients knew that doctors have a lot in common with patients. I think my basic goals, core values, struggles, and challenges in life are the same as my patients. Also, different doctors have different personalities. We are not one size fits all. Finally, I would like my patients to understand that I really enjoy partnering with them. I do not see it as I am in charge and the patients just follows instructions. I believe we are partners in the process of solving their eye condition.
What do you like to do in your downtime?
Dr. Ganser: I am a busy mom of three children, ages 11 to 15. So, I enjoy spending time with my family. When I have time I like to bake, garden, read, and go skiing.