Why "Optics for the New Millennium" Is a Must-Have Resource for Ophthalmology Residents

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Pick up a copy of Optics for the New Millennium, a textbook that breaks down the far-reaching subject of optics into digestible bites for residents, trainees, and practicing ophthalmologists.
Why "Optics for the New Millennium" Is a Must-Have Resource for Ophthalmology Residents
Driven by his passion for resident and fellow education, Kamran Riaz, MD, along with co-authors G. Vike Vicente, MD, and Daniel Wee, MD, has created Optics for the New Millennium. This one-of-a-kind textbook serves as a comprehensive manual on optics by providing both didactics and assessment questions along with 375+ original figures. With a focus on the day-to-day relevance of optics, the “one-stop compendium” is intended to bring value not only to students but also to practicing ophthalmologists.
Currently, Dr. Riaz is a clinical associate professor and the Director of Medical Student Education at the Dean McGee Eye Institute at the University of Oklahoma. He began his career in academic ophthalmology as an assistant professor and the Director of Refractive Surgery in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science at the University of Chicago. Before, he was chief resident at Northwestern University and then completed his fellowship training in cornea, external disease, and refractive surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
He has a regional referral base for managing a spectrum of conditions, particularly focusing on managing complications from cataract surgery, secondary IOL surgery, and complex corneal surgery. Additionally, he has authored over 50 publications and 65 presentations at national and international ophthalmology meetings.
Dr. Riaz has been an invited lecturer and surgical wet-lab instructor at several conferences, as well as an invited visiting professor, both nationally and internationally, at multiple academic institutions. He has taken on several leadership positions, including serving on the ASCRS Young Eye Surgeon (YES) Clinical Committee. In April 2022, he was awarded the Aesculapian Teaching Award from the OU College of Medicine—the first ophthalmologist to ever receive this award since its inception in 1962.
Eyes On Eyecare sat down with Dr. Riaz to uncover his inspiration and aspirations for the book.

What educational gaps did you see that inspired the development of this ophthalmology textbook?

Riaz: Optics has historically been a subject that nearly all residents and trainees hate immensely. While masterfully written, most of the previously published textbooks are either difficult to understand for the average reader or incomplete for a modern ophthalmology practice. Thus, most trainees feel that optics is irrelevant and useless—yet, optics permeates nearly everything we do in current ophthalmic practices.
I imagine my experiences as a resident with optics were similar to most trainees; perhaps it is no surprise that on the optics section of my first year in-service (OKAPs) exam, I scored at the 10th percentile. I then took it upon a challenge for myself to learn the subject. I read nearly every available resource (often painfully and patiently) to learn and digest the material slowly.

I realized that much of the problem lay in that most optics authors are admirably intelligent, and many write their textbooks or present the material in such a way that assumes their audience is similarly intelligent.

In the words of the legendary Forrest Gump, “I am not an intelligent man”; I realized I needed to change how the material was presented.

How did you ensure this textbook was different?

Riaz: The challenge was maintaining the content but changing the context in which it was offered. For today’s millennial learner (a term I use with endearing respect), we needed a different style: a recipe that incorporated a heavy dose of “here’s why you should care about topic x,” a dash of humor, plenty of images, and a sprinkling of practice questions for self-assessment of understanding the material. We let that slow cook for 2 years.
I also saw that optics textbooks historically limited themselves to geometric optics, primarily equation-based, mathematical optics that again seem irrelevant to trainees. Therefore, I wanted to include not only geometric optics but also clinical optics and surgical optics; we show the relevance of the information learned in the first type of optics in the second and third parts of the book.

Why was it so important to you that this optics textbook be written in an engaging style and easy-to-read format?

Riaz: I wanted to write the book with the same approach I used to teach optics to my junior colleagues over the past 7 years; an approach that maintained the scientific accuracy of the material but also one that incorporated educational techniques, such as humor, images, and mnemonics (with a few pop culture references thrown in), that make learners appreciate and remember the material.

Hundreds of students over the past 7 years gave positive feedback to this approach after lectures that I have given nationally, with one commonly repeated comment: “You should write a book! Please!”

Therefore, when I considered my co-editors, I approached Vike Vicente and Danny Wee specifically—not only because I had hopes they would say yes to my insane idea of writing an optics textbook but also because they were just crazy enough like me to want to utilize this approach in writing the book. We have implemented this throughout the book.
For example, the concept of lens effectivity is built upon the premise of Pinocchio telling lies that cause his glasses to move closer or further from his eye, and the chapter on telescopes is written in a pirate voice with the premise that the reader is a young pirate trying to construct telescopes to search for enemy ships.

Further, the chapter on power crosses/spherocylindrical notation (arguably the most hated topic in all of geometric optics) is built on the shtick of escaping Dante’s Inferno.

We thought this non-serious style of teaching serious material was necessary so that today’s young readers would be educated and entertained while reading the book.
Image of the cover of Optics for the New Milennium.

What information do ophthalmologists need that is different from that needed by optometrists and opticians?

Riaz: In addition to the educational styles mentioned above, we are particularly proud of the book being an optics resource that serves as a one-stop-shop resource for all the optics that ophthalmologists will need to know for written exams, oral board exams, clinical practice, and surgical planning for cataract and refractive surgery.
To our knowledge, no other textbook that serves as an optics compendium exists in the published literature. We wanted this to be a textbook that trainees and practitioners could use.

What does this book offer trainees? Practicing ophthalmologists? And both?

Riaz: We envision that junior residents will be most interested in Part I (Geometric Optics), whereas post-graduates studying for oral board exams will be interested in Part II (Optics for Oral Boards and Clinical Practice).
We also envision practitioners having this book available as a desktop resource that they periodically consult for Part II (Clinical Practice) and Part III (Optics for Surgical Practice).
For example, Part III has a chapter titled “What’s on the Menu: An Overview of Currently-Available IOLs.” We are particularly proud of this chapter as it covers every available IOL in the United States (single-piece monofocal, three-piece monofocal, toric, presbyopia-correcting, and extreme power IOLs) that would also be of interest to practicing ophthalmologists.

We also have a chapter that provides an overview of optics in space—information regarding vision changes in micro-gravity and zero-gravity conditWe don’t think many optics textbooks present that kind of information.

Our textbook also contains several chapters focusing on topics that have historically been neglected and relegated to the domain of optometrists and opticians. For example, we have two chapters dedicated to contact lens fitting and one for clinical refraction of glasses; one chapter details low vision rehabilitation options and techniques, and another chapter details how to troubleshoot and fix glasses.
We hope these three chapters will make ophthalmologists better appreciate what our optometric, low vision rehabilitation, and optician colleagues do daily in the holistic care of patients with ocular pathology.
While optics textbooks historically focused on geometric optics, we believe that ophthalmologists will appreciate our book because it combines geometric optics, clinical optics, and surgical optics into a singular compendium resource.

How do you feel this book will prove most helpful to residents?

Riaz: We think (and hope!) that residents will use this book starting from day one of residency, either as a book they purchase themselves or one their respective training program provides! We still want residents to read the BCSC Optics book (required reading material for residents), but we believe our textbook better explains some of the core concepts with dozens of examples to reinforce those points.
Also, with respect to the BCSC Optics book (and I can say this since I am part of the authors for this textbook as well), the writing style is formal and may seem overwhelming for first-time readers. We hope our textbook is more approachable, explains the concepts more clearly, and allows students to consult more advanced books later if they choose.

We think they will find our analogies, mnemonics, diagrams, and humor as methods that can help them better understand, digest, and apply the material.

After graduation, as residents prepare for written and oral board exams, we hope they find our book a helpful resource. We think Part II and III are particularly relevant for oral board exam preparation.

How can practicing ophthalmologists best utilize the material?

Riaz: We believe practicing ophthalmologists will periodically find Part II helpful for diagnosing and treating commonly-encountered clinical problems with optics presentations, manifestations, and implications. However, we think that practicing ophthalmologists, especially cataract and refractive surgeons, will find Part III to be the most interesting, particularly when preparing for unique surgical cases.

In the field of optics, what innovations are you most excited about?

Riaz: Personally, I am fascinated with developments (technological and philosophical) in IOL power calculations. We are constantly pursuing refractive accuracy perfection in cataract surgery—we all want happy patients! In recent years, many new machines, formulas, and ideas regarding IOL power calculations have emerged as areas of clinical and research interest. Amazingly, optics permeates and influences this entire field!
Kamran Riaz, MD
About Kamran Riaz, MD

Dr. Kamran Riaz is a fellowship-trained and board-certified ophthalmologist whose clinical and surgical practices focus on cornea, external disease, anterior segment, cataract, and refractive surgery. He is currently a clinical associate professor at the Dean McGee Eye Institute at the University of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City. Dr. Riaz completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he was admitted into the prestigious Guaranteed Professional Program Admissions (GPPA). He received dual bachelor’s degrees in economics and history, earning admission into the Phi Beta Kappa honor society and graduating magna cum laude with the highest possible distinction.

Dr. Riaz attended medical school at the UIC College of Medicine. He completed his internship at Saint Joseph Hospital in Chicago and his ophthalmology residency at Northwestern University, where he served as chief resident during his senior year and received the “Best Resident Research” Award. He completed an additional year of fellowship training in Cornea, External Disease, and Refractive Surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

Upon the completion of his training, Dr. Riaz’s career in academic ophthalmology began at the University of Chicago, where he served as assistant professor and director of refractive surgery in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science. During his time there, he restarted the refractive surgery service, inaugurated a region-wide optics course, and brought many new surgical procedures to the department, including femtosecond laser-assisted cataract surgery, “dropless cataract surgery,” micro-invasive glaucoma surgery, and advanced technology IOL surgery.

For his efforts, Dr. Riaz was recognized by hospital administration in May 2018 at the “Best Practices Forum” for restoring vision in a patient who was blind for 38 years. He was also awarded the “Best Teacher Award” in 2018 by the University of Chicago ophthalmology residents, as well as the “Teacher of the Year” award in 2019 as voted by residents from all six programs in the Chicago area.

Dr. Riaz has also authored more than 40 publications and presentations at national ophthalmology meetings. He has been an invited lecturer and surgical wet-lab instructor at several conferences, as well as an invited visiting professor, both nationally and internationally, at several academic institutions.

Beyond his level of expertise, Dr. Riaz has a passion for resident and fellow education, especially in optics and refractive surgery. He teaches national board review courses and serves as an optics section editor for the most popular website for ophthalmology exam preparation among trainees. He has been consistently recognized by students for his engaging teaching style.

In his free time, Dr. Riaz enjoys history documentaries, football, basketball, and jazz music. He and his wife, Sanaa, who is also a physician, are blessed with three beautiful children. Dr. Riaz is fluent in Spanish, Urdu, Hindi, and Arabic.

Kamran Riaz, MD
Donna Ison
About Donna Ison

Donna Ison is the Senior Editor of Eyes on Eyecare. Formerly, she served as editor-in-chief of MD-Update magazine, managing editor of skirt! Magazine Lexington, and a content/copy editor with BobVila.com. She is performance poet, playwright, and the author of two novels, with a third on the way.

Donna Ison
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