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Spotlight Interview with Steve Charles

Authors: Steve Charles
Charles Retina Institute, MN, USA
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Published Online: Jun 17th 2019

Each year, The Ophthalmologist publishes its Power List, which celebrates individuals who have made a significant impact on the field of ophthalmology. Nominations, of which there were almost 2,000 in 2019, are made across five categories: champions of change; which includes philanthropists, humanitarians and lobbyists; emerging leaders i.e. the most influential people in the  field of ophthalmology; inventors, which include those responsible in innovations that will influence the future of ophthalmology; mentors, i.e. clinicians, professors and educators who are guiding and inspiring the next generation of ophthalmologists; and surgical pioneers, who are developing new techniques and approaches.

Steve Charles, who was also the recipient of the 2018 Laureate Recognition Award for his work as a leader of many astounding advances in vitreoretinal surgery, was named one of the inventors in the 2019 Power List. We were pleased to catch up with Dr Charles to hear of his motivations and the recent advances that excite him, as well as his advice for ophthalmologists at the beginning of their career.

What motivated you to become an ophthalmologist?

I studied engineering first; the plan when I started medical school was to become a microsurgeon and continue my engineering work and engineering self-education in a product development context.

What advice would you give to ophthalmologists who are just starting their career?

I suggest that you should watch many surgeons operate, and attend conferences, particularly AAO, ASCRS, Kiawah Eye, and ASRS. Real continuing education is essential. Do not focus on money, materialism, and take care of your family and patients.

What advances in the field are you most excited to see develop over the next few years?

I am pleased to see better visualization technologies such as the NGENUITY system, which has allowed 3D visualization of the back of the eye with greater depth and detail during surgery than traditional microscopes. I am also excited to see the emergence of induced pluripotent stem cell-derived outer retinal replacement, which offers the potential of actually curing retinal degenerative diseases.

View Dr Charles’ recent article Failure Modes in Retinal Detachment Surgery in US Ophthalmic Review available now.


Support: No funding was received in the publication of this Insight article.

Published: June 14, 2019

Author profile:

Steve Charles, MD has developed many of the techniques and devices used by vitreoretinal surgeons worldwide. He has performed over 38,000 vitreoretinal surgeries, lectured in 51 countries and operated in 25, delivered 18 named lectures, and well over 1000 speaking trips. He authored a leading textbook in the field which is now in the 5th edition and in 6 languages and authored over 174 articles in the medical literature and over 50 book chapters. He is a Fellow in the American College of Surgeons and International College of Surgeons and a member of the Retina Society, Macular Society, American Society of Retinal Specialists, Club Jules Gonin, American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, American Academy of Ophthalmology, and the Dowling Society. He served on the Board of Governors of the ARVO Foundation for Eye Research He is on the editorial board of Retina and a reviewer for Ophthalmology, Archives of Ophthalmology, American Journal of Ophthalmology, and British Journal of Ophthalmology. He has received the Laurate honor from the AAO, gave the Schepens lecture at the Retina Society and the Kelman lecture at the ASCRS, received the Wacker Medal from the Club Jules Gonin, the first Founders Medal from the Vitreous Society, was inducted into the University of Miami School of Medicine Medical Alumni Association Hall of Fame, and was named by Ocular Surgery News as one of the top ten innovators in the past 25 years. He is consistently listed in Best Doctors in America and Becker’s Top 34 Ophthalmologists in America. He is a Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Tennessee.

After four years in engineering school, he completed medical school at the University of Miami Leonard Miller School of Medicine. He did research all four medical school years at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. After a medical internship at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami he completed a residency at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute followed by a two year Clinical Associate appointment at the National Eye Institute (NIH), focused on vitreoretinal surgery, angiogenesis research, and medical device engineering.

He is a mechanical and electrical engineer and has well over 100 issued or pending patents. He is a consultant for Alcon Laboratories and the principal architect of the Alcon Accurus and Alcon Constellation Vision System. He is the Founder of MicroDexterity Systems, which developed robots for dexterity enhancement for minimally invasive knee and hip replacement, spine surgery, and skull base neurosurgery. Stryker, Inc. acquired MicroDexterity Systems, in December 2009. He is a cofounder, systems engineer, and Chairman of CamPlex Inc, developing advanced visualization technology for MIS spine, neurosurgery and trans-oral approaches to head and neck cancer. Dr Charles in on the Scientific Advisory Board of Opsis, developing stem cell derived outer retinal replacement.  Dr Charles was inducted into the Society of Entrepreneurs; a Memphis based organization.

Steve Charles is an Airline Transport Pilot, Multi-Engine, Instrument rated pilot with Type Ratings in Citation 500, 560, 650, Falcon 50and Sabre 65 jets and currently owns and flies a Sabre 65. Dr Charles has three daughters and four grandchildren. The oldest daughter is a gynecology surgeon, the middle daughter is a family physician and the youngest is a team building/ropes course/climbing wall/zipline expert.


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