Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

Southside Eye Care Story


Better vision opens up the world

by Ross Reelachart

Dr. Elizabeth Chiang

Dr. Elizabeth Chiang

It’s early on a Friday morning. Most professional businesses are just beginning to open. Soon the staff inside Southside Eye Care will be busy with patients looking to get their eyes checked-up and fixed-up by a doctor they trust. The number of people that are already filling up the tastefully decorated lobby illustrate the draw of Elizabeth Chiang, MD, Ph.D., whose outgoing personality and dedication to the intricate precision of her craft have won them over. Credit should also be given to the staff of Southside Eye Care and their demonstration of the same warmth and professionalism modeled by Dr. Chiang. But a person is more than the sum of their experiences and past, and Dr. Chiang’s professional manner can be attributed to her education and her experience traveling the world.

Like so many other professionals growing into their careers, Dr. Chiang had not originally planned to be an ophthalmologist. When she was young and attending the California Institute of Technology, she had considered a somewhat different path. “I was one of three kids and, following the typical route for our family, we all majored in engineering,” she says as she recounts her educational history. “But my mother thought it would be cool to have a doctor in the family as well.” So, ever the dedicated learner, Dr. Chiang took on pre-med courses alongside her engineering classes. She graduated with honors with a B.S. in engineering and applied sciences.

Knowing that many different kinds
of people and personalities
come through the doors...
Dr. Chiang tries her best
to get to know them and
whatever their particular needs might be.

While studying engineering, she realized her need for more human interaction, which redirected her focus from engineering systems to biochemical systems. As it turned out, there was a field of neuroscience that took an “engineering approach” and appealed to her fondness for working with intricate systems requiring finesse and a methodical approach. Instead of working with electrical systems, she would be working with the intricate network of systems known as the human body. This course of study led her through her residency and fellowship in ophthalmology, with specialty training in oculoplastic and reconstructive surgery after she had earned her Ph.D. in neuroscience.

“I chose to specialize in ophthalmology because I love the blend of seeing patients in the office and doing surgery and procedures,” she says. “Many surgical specialties do not get to spend as much time on direct patient care as we do in ophthalmology. I also love that ophthalmology is focused on improving quality of life (as opposed to quantity of life). Patient’s lives are more enjoyable with vision improved through cataract surgery, refractive surgery, or corrective eyelid surgery. I am invested in helping my patients keep or improve their vision, appearance and subsequently their self-esteem. Vision is one of the senses we humans value most.”

“My interest in, and appreciation for ophthalmology and the delicate, precise nature of the associated surgery led me to choose a fellowship in oculoplastics and reconstructive surgery,” Dr. Chiang explains. “During fellowship training at Medical College of Wisconsin, I had the pleasure of training under the tutelage of five oculoplastic surgeons. It was challenging, but has the added benefit of making me one of very few qualified oculoplastic surgeons in the Hampton Roads area.”

“Some of the conditions I frequently treat include excessive tearing, eyelid malposition like entropion or ectropion, droopy eyelids, congenital eyelid anomalies, eyelid or orbital tumors, and injuries from trauma. Evaluation of the preceding conditions is complex, and sometimes seems counterintuitive. For instance, excessive tearing may indicate the patient is suffering from dry eyes. Tears aren’t just made of water but are a combination of water, oil and mucin. Just as one wouldn’t moisturize their skin with water, excess tears lacking oil and mucin cannot properly moisten the eyes.”

Dr. Elizabeth Chiang examines a patient’s eyes

Dr. Elizabeth Chiang examines a patient’s eyes

Dr. Chiang also describes the reconstructive work she does for patients with skin cancer. “I work with dermatologists to help patients who have skin cancer like basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma around the eyes. The dermatologist uses Moh’s procedure to remove the cancerous lesions and get clear margins. I then repair the defect left when the tissue is taken away. My goal is to ensure the eyelids function properly and protect the eye, while working toward restoring a natural facial appearance after skin cancer removal.”

Dr. Chiang describes herself as an extrovert, a person who “derives energy from working with people.” Working at Southside Eye Care, Dr. Chiang is able to meet people from all walks of life. Meeting and caring for these people can make the job feel all the more worthwhile because of the lives she improves. She credits her amiable attitude and love of meeting people to her world travels, and the many people she’s met while globetrotting.

When she was young, Dr. Chiang’s father took the family on two cross-country trips. That was only the beginning of her global pursuits. Over the years, she has visited 40 countries on six continents. She has yet to visit the continent on the bottom of the world, Antarctica, but she does want to go there eventually. Most recently, the doctor went on a safari in South Africa.

Taken altogether, she believes that traveling beyond her own borders and meeting people around the world contributed to her bedside manner. Knowing that many different kinds of people and personalities come through the doors of Southside Eye Care, Dr. Chiang tries her best to get to know them and whatever their particular needs might be. Sometimes the difference is in what they seek to gain from better eyesight, such as the patient who was ecstatic about his new 20/20 vision after his cataract surgery because now he can play golf better. But even after the procedure is done, Dr. Chiang emphasizes that she always follows up and asks if the patient has any questions. “We want to make sure they’re taken care of, and that they never feel they’re being pushed out the door,” she says.

“We want to make sure
patients are taken care of and
that they never feel like
 they’re being pushed out the door.”

 —Dr. Elizabeth Chiang

The kind of clear vision that Dr. Chiang and Southside Eye Care offers is more than just reconstructive eye surgery and eye care. It’s a vision of connectedness between people. Her services and expertise as a physician are an extension of her desire to “preserve the world,” as she says.  Perhaps her office represents her worldview in that it allows her to see and interact openly with her patients and provides them an open forum to seek honest answers about attaining and keeping their best vision longer.

Southside Eye Care

3206 Churchland Blvd.
Chesapeake, VA 23321