Dr. Inna Lazar

Optometry

Dr. Lazar obtained her Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology with a minor in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh and her Doctor of Optometry Degree from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry now known as Salus University. Dr. Lazar’s clinical training includes diagnosis and management of ocular diseases, specialty contact lens fittings, pediatric and geriatric eye exams as well as comprehensive primary eye care.

She received her training at numerous hospitals throughout the United States including The Eye Institute in Philadelphia, the Einstein Hospital in Philadelphia, Ophthalmic Consultants of Connecticut in Fairfiled and Kay, Tabas & Niknam Ophthalmology Associates in Philadelphia. She is a member of the American Optometric Association, American Academy of Optometry as well as Connecticut Optometric Association.

​Dr. Lazar is also able to perform a comprehensive eye exam in multiple languages including Ukrainian and Russian. Dr. Lazar especially enjoys working with children and has participated in the volunteer Head Start program, providing initial screenings and eye exams to the children in Philadelphia.

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Episode Information


Optometrist Dr. Inna Lazar talks about the health of your eyes, your vision, the importance of routine eye exams, social media, and more.

 

Topics Include:

 

  • How her parents won a green card and they moved to America from Ukraine when she was 16
  • How much she loves living in America
  • How her father really wanted her to become a musician but her heart wasn’t in it
  • How she started a practice in Greenwich and how she feels blessed and lucky to work there
  • Her love for eyes and why she chose to study optometry
  • How she is on a mission to change the belief that you only need an annual eye exam if you have problems with your vision
  • A little bit about diabetes, macular degeneration, and dry eye
  • Common myths about your vision
  • Following the 20 20 20 rule to reduce eye strain after spending so much time at a screen
  • How social media, especially Instagram, is so important for her practice
  • How Doctorpedia is combatting medical misinformation on the web
  • Her love for baking
  • How important it is for patients to actively participate in their treatment plan

Highlights


 

  • “I feel honored to be able to care for people that are living in this town and have made it in their life. And now they come see me. And I feel incredible that I’m able to help them.”
  • “I feel like I’m on a mission to change the belief that a lot of people have and that is that they think having good vision means having healthy eyeballs. And that is not very true because there are cases where patients may have good vision, they’re seeing 20/20 at distance, they’re seeing great up close. And they think, “I don’t need an eye exam”, but you know what? They may have glaucoma, which is a very silent disease,.” so that’s why routine yearly eye exams are so important.”
  • “There’s an app called ‘Be My Eyes’. And I would have a call once a month from someone who’s not able to read. They are not able to see. So during the last call I had, a man was trying to read directions to prepare his dinner, and he couldn’t read it. So he had the camera on and I was able to read out loud the directions how to prepare the meal in his microwave. And he was so grateful.”
  • “I know I’m putting out a hundred percent of what I have to help my patients, but I wish they knew that they need to participate as well.”
  • “Often I tell my patients, “Help me to help you”, because they’re there because they need help. But then the communication somehow has been lost and they don’t follow the instructions. And it’s just the communication and the fact that I’m there to help them. And I’m honored to be there to help them. But sometimes patients don’t realize that they need to follow the instructions to get better.”
  • “I love to bake. That’s like my meditation if I have a stressful day and I just need to take my mind off it, I just bake.”
  • “It is frustrating [when patients don’t take my advice] but I understand it’s life. So it’s not like I give up. I still try until it works, but it certainly is very draining on me. But you know what? I chose this path. I love it. I don’t regret it. It’s just that it is what it is.”
  • “Walking my dog makes me happy because when I’m at work, there’s no one walking him. So when I walk him, it makes me happy because I know that he’s enjoying his walk that he missed all day. So I feel like I’m doing a good thing for a dog and myself.”

No exercises can improve vision. We do have vision therapy to help with ocular motor dysfunction and other muscle issues in the eyes. But you cannot really change a prescription by doing eye exercises.

Dr. Inna Lazar

I think Doctorpedia is definitely moving in the right direction. I think there's so much misinformation out there. And I personally get these patients that think they're dead and pregnant at the same time. And Doctorpedia will be able to create this bridge between doctor-patient and education and provide the correct information

Dr. Inna Lazar

Trust and communication `{`are the most important facets of the doctor-patient relationship`}`, because that's the route to get the patient to really comply and it's important to have the patient understand and participate in their health plan.

Dr. Inna Lazar

Episode Transcript


Daniel Lobell: (00:00)
This podcast or any written material derived from its transcripts represents the opinions of the medical professional being interviewed. The content here is for informational purposes only, and should not be taken as medical advice since every person is unique. Please consult your healthcare professional for any personal or specific needs. I’m honored to have joining me today Dr. Inna Lazar. How are you, Dr. Lazar?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (00:37)
How are you? Thank you for having me.

Daniel Lobell: (00:39)
I’m excited to have you on the show. You are our first eye doctor and you have a really cool social media presence. I checked out your website, so there’s so much to talk about there, but let’s start at the beginning. I love to hear the stories of how the doctors grew up and what led them to become doctors. Can we start there? Where did you grow up?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (01:01)
I was born in a very small town in the Western part of Ukraine. I immigrated to the United States when I was 16 with my parents. And that’s when I started my whole educational career until 2015 when I graduated.

Daniel Lobell: (01:22)
Wow. So did you speak English when you came over or were you starting from scratch?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (01:28)
I really was starting from scratch, but when you are immersed in the culture and you are just learning everything and everything you hear is in English, it was not difficult at all.

Daniel Lobell: (01:40)
16. You’re already a person when you’re 16. So I imagine that’s a huge culture shock as well.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (01:48)
Yeah, but I loved it. I really enjoyed every day until now and I still love it. I’m still impressed.

Daniel Lobell: (01:59)
What was Ukraine like?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (02:03)
It’s very different. I can’t even start to describe how different it is. I can just say that Ukraine is one culture versus United States which is such a multicultural country. I definitely enjoy this part about being in America, where you can be exposed to so many different parts and such different cultures and foods. I’m a huge foodie so I love that part.

Daniel Lobell: (02:38)
What made your parents decide to move to America?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (02:43)
Definitely the American dream and they actually won a green card.

Daniel Lobell: (02:50)
They won a green card?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (02:52)
Yes. I feel like every time I say that, people say, “Wow, you’re the person who won a green card.” Yeah, my parents did. I feel very blessed, definitely.

Daniel Lobell: (03:05)
Were they In medicine as well?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (03:07)
No. My dad is actually a musician and my mom is a mathematics and physics teacher. So I was meant to be a musician, but that didn’t happen. I really enjoyed science from an early age. It was so easy for me. And that’s how I decided I should just do that.

Daniel Lobell: (03:33)
You might be one of the few stories of someone who disappointed their parents by not becoming an artist. [Laughs].

Dr. Inna Lazar: (03:41)
[Laughs]. I guess.

Daniel Lobell: (03:45)
They wanted you to be a musician?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (03:47)
Yeah. My dad made me go to music school every day. It just didn’t work for me. I couldn’t even hear the sound. I just don’t have a gene for that stuff.

Daniel Lobell: (04:04)
What kind of music does your dad play?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (04:08)
So he’s one of these musicians who can really play any instrument. When I went to school, I was playing the national Ukrainian instrument. It’s really big, very heavy. I was good at it. It just that I wasn’t really enjoying it. I didn’t have my heart in it.

Daniel Lobell: (04:27)
You have to be passionate, especially with music. I mean, unpassionate music, I can’t even imagine how unmoving that would be.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (04:37)
Absolutely. I mean, I enjoy it when my dad plays music for us, but I don’t want to be devoting my life to music.

Daniel Lobell: (04:46)
I understand. I feel like my story is a little bit the opposite. My parents would have loved me to become a doctor. And I went into the arts. [Laughs].

Dr. Inna Lazar: (04:56)
[Laughs].

Daniel Lobell: (04:56)
You got to rebel somehow. Maybe that’s the thing to do. I should try and push my daughter to become an artist so she goes into medicine.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (05:05)
Listen, you know what, now that you’re saying it, I think that that was their idea. That was the trick they tricked me. I don’t know. But that now that you said it, it could be.

Daniel Lobell: (05:18)
Could be, if so, kudos to them. Did your dad play in an orchestra?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (05:25)
Yeah, he did. He also taught.

Daniel Lobell: (05:30)
So I imagine that you spent a lot of time going to concerts as a child?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (05:33)
Yeah. All rehearsals. All of them.

Daniel Lobell: (05:41)
[Laughs]. You sound like it was a lot.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (05:42)
I mean, it was great. I enjoyed it, but it just wasn’t for me.

Daniel Lobell: (05:48)
So you’re 16 years old and your family comes to America. Where do they land in America? Where do you guys wind up?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (05:57)
New York. [Laughs].

Daniel Lobell: (05:58)
Cool.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (06:01)
Very typical. JFK. It was JFK.

Daniel Lobell: (06:05)
Right? Yeah. But still New York. It’s still the place, the hub for immigrants. And so what part of New York did you grow up in?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (06:17)
My parents knew people in upstate New York, Woodbury Commons. It’s a very nice suburban area. So we went there and my parents actually still live there. I lived there for a few years until I went off to college and kind of never went back. I still visit them every few weeks and they come visit me because I’m so close to them. I’m in Connecticut. But it’s much colder there too, which I don’t really enjoy.

Daniel Lobell: (06:53)
So I did my research on you and I saw you’re in Greenwich.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (06:57)
I am.

Daniel Lobell: (07:00)
Greenwich is a famous part of Connecticut. It’s sort of like where the Trumps were and the Madoffs. And this is like you really made it when you’re in Greenwich, Connecticut, right? That’s the place to be.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (07:15)
It’s funny you should say that. I do feel very blessed to be here, to be able to practice here. I didn’t do it. It just happened. I wasn’t planning on moving to Greenwich, opening my practice in Greenwich. It’s just the way that things turned out to be. And I’m very lucky and blessed to be able to practice here.

Daniel Lobell: (07:40)
I know Greenwich well, because I have a friend who grew up there and I used to go and visit her. So I know the neighborhood. It’s quite a different world than most of us are accustomed to .There’s a lot of Stepford Wives type of vibe going on there, right?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (08:04)
I’m sorry. I just didn’t watch that. But you know what? Back in Ukraine, I grew up watching 90210, Santa Barbara, Melrose place. And that’s exactly how I imagined America to be. And when I came here, I was in so many different places. I was in upstate New York, Rockland County, Orange County. I was in Pittsburgh. I was in Philadelphia and then, landing here in Connecticut and, being able to practice where I am practicing – it’s like I am living that movie that I watched,

Daniel Lobell: (08:44)
I finally found it. [Laughs].

Dr. Inna Lazar: (08:46)
I found it and I appreciate every day that I’m here.

Daniel Lobell: (08:56)
What made you wind up there? Did you marry somebody who lived there or how did that happen?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (09:01)
No, not at all. After graduation, I got an offer to practice in Wallingford, Connecticut, which is two hours away from where I am right now. And it was just a different practice. It was a different setting and the way the practice was run, I didn’t see myself working there. And then I started looking where I can a practice because I do have certain things I want to do like my specialty that I’m doing. And I started looking where I can do it and I was open to anything. I could go up to New York if I could find a place there. And one of my colleagues said that there is a space in Greenwich if I would be willing to travel and do I want to see it? And I said, “Yes, I will travel,” because that was the only space I looked at at that point. That was the only space I looked at. And I fell in love with the location, with the setup and I just did it.

Daniel Lobell: (10:08)
And I’m sure you get some interesting clientele there as well.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (10:11)
I do! And I can really talk about one person because he allowed me to post a picture on Instagram and that’s Hassan Minhaj. But even yesterday, I saw a celebrity and it was amazing. I feel honored to be able to care for people that are living in this town and have made it in their life. And now they come see me. And I feel incredible that I’m able to help them.

Daniel Lobell: (10:47)
It’s quite a story considering, coming from Ukraine and this entirely different world to Greenwich. I mean, it doesn’t get much more different than that, but let’s go back to you’re here in America, you’re 16. Your family are upstate. And at some point, I guess you decided that you might want to go into medicine. Was it specifically that you wanted to take care of eyes or you just generally wanted to do medicine?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (11:18)
My idea was “I want to do medicine”. I just didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. I just knew that I enjoyed helping people. I know it sounds so okay. [Laughs]. But I enjoy being able to help and seeing the result. I went to the University of Pittsburgh because I was really looking at the UPMC, the University of Pittsburgh Medical School. And then I did sickle cell research there for a year. I realized that I really want to do something a little bit more special and that’s when I decided I want to do eyeballs.

Daniel Lobell: (12:08)
Why eyes?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (12:08)
Because they’re so special. They’re so delicate. I already started learning about eyes when I went to optometry school and I realized that eyeballs are really the only part of the body where you can get instant gratification, whether it’s getting glasses or contacts or treating the eye, the eyeball can heal in eight hours.

Daniel Lobell: (12:35)
Really? I didn’t know that.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (12:36)
I mean, that’s pretty incredible. So when patients come in, I know if I’m going to treat them, they’re going to feel good pretty fast. And I like that.

Daniel Lobell: (12:50)
So you’re talking to someone who really is not a doctor, but what are eyes made of? Are they tissue? What is an eyeball made of?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (13:02)
So an eyeball is made of many different layers, but the top layer that really covers the eye is still epithelium. The same epithelium we’re covered with throughout our body. It’s just clear right on the cornea, because there is are no blood vessels. There’s no pigment. It has to be clear for you to be able to see, but it’s the same epithelium.

Daniel Lobell: (13:24)
And that means skin. Correct?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (13:26)
Yeah.

Daniel Lobell: (13:29)
[Laughs].

Dr. Inna Lazar: (13:29)
[Laughs]. You can say that as well.

Daniel Lobell: (13:30)
I know of epidermis, but I never heard of epithelium.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (13:33)
The epithelium is the very top layer. It’s really cool.

Daniel Lobell: (13:40)
Yeah. So there’s a really thin, clear layer of skin on our eyes. That’s pretty interesting to me.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (13:46)
Yeah. And then the rest of the eyeball is collagen fibers. It’s pretty durable. Eyeballs are so delicate and small and beautiful, they’re very resilient yet you can still damage them.

Daniel Lobell: (14:04)
I love the way you describe eyes. You seem like you really love the eyes, you’ talk about them as beautiful. I’ve never heard an ear doctor describing ears as beautiful right? But you really do love them. Like, do patients come in with just beautiful eyes and that is still interesting to you?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (14:26)
So, you know, it’s funny you should say that, I often don’t even notice the color of their eyes. I look at the full composition of the eye, the health of the eye. And then sometimes they say, “Oh, what do you think the color of my eyes is?” And then I have to pull back and actually look. I’m like, “Oh, I think it’s hazel.” It’s really not about the color. It’s about the health of the eye. And that’s what I really enjoy.

Daniel Lobell: (14:55)
Why do we have different color eyes?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (14:59)
It’s really pigment that collects in our iris. So people that have brown eyes, they have more melanin deposits in their iris and people that have blue eyes actually don’t have any melanin or they have a really, really little bit of melanin and melanin is the pigment cell.

Daniel Lobell: (15:21)
So interesting. I know a lot of people wear contacts to change the color of their eyes. Is it possible for people to actually change the pigment in their eyes?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (15:32)
Not really. You can’t do that. There are certainly surgeries now that are not FDA approved and not recommended to be done in the United States where people actually go in and change the color of their iris from brown to blue or gray. But there have been a lot of complications from that. So we don’t recommend doing it just for cosmetic reasons. And about contacts, colored contacts are not as popular as they used to be, but it’s still fun. Especially around Halloween time, it’s great – playing with different colors. Purple is my favorite.

Daniel Lobell: (16:19)
How close are we to curing blindness?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (16:23)
Well, actually a few days ago the first corneal transplant was done where the transplant was made in the lab. I think that’s great, but there’s so many different reasons to go blind. It’s a good thing that we’re so good at screening and preventing blindness now, but it’s hard to tell.

Daniel Lobell: (16:48)
Do you have signs that you should tell people to check? Like if they’re worried, they don’t want to go blind. Are there signs that people should look out for?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (16:58)
So see, that’s where the whole thing gets a little deceptive and that’s why I’m here. I feel like I’m on a mission to change that belief. A lot of people think having good vision means having healthy eyeballs. And that is not very true because there are cases where patients may have good vision, they’re seeing 20/20 at distance, they’re seeing great up close. And they think, “I don’t need an eye exam”, but you know what? They may have glaucoma, which is a very silent disease, unless it’s at the end stages and patients will say, “Oh, I’m driving and I cannot see up. My peripheral vision is gone.” So that’s why routine yearly eye exams are so important because with those exams, we can screen patients and say, “Your vision is great, but we need to make sure you don’t have glaucoma or macular degeneration, or there’s no bleeding in your eyeball.” Those are the reasons patients need routine exams, even if their vision is great.

Daniel Lobell: (18:09)
Yeah. Let’s talk for a second about macular degeneration. Because my grandma has that and I’ve gone with her to the eye doctor over the years, several times in Scotland, that’s where she lives. And it’s this big building called the Gartnavel and it’s just like a pre-war hospital, really like right out of a movie. But what is it? What is going on with my grandma’s eyes?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (18:34)
Often it is genetic. It’s a genetic disease.

Daniel Lobell: (18:43)
[Laughs].

Dr. Inna Lazar: (18:43)
Well, I’m telling you because you probably already know, and you should be aware of what you need to do, but it is genetic. It is what happens, there’s different stages of macular degeneration. And when patients get macular degeneration, one of the layers in the retina is broken down, so all the nutrients are not able to pass correctly. So what you have in the later stages of macular degeneration is that patients start having bleeding inside the eye because there is no more barrier to stop from bleeding into the eyeball.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (19:29)
Those are the patients that start getting injections to really dry the blood that’s bleeding inside the eye. But during the early stages, we watch patients, we recommend a healthy diet and that they shouldn’t smoke. Smoking is actually a number one risk factor for macular degeneration.

Daniel Lobell: (19:49)
Why is that?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (19:49)
There’s something about smoking that causes a breakdown of that layer in the retina. So we do see macular degeneration in older patients when smoking was so cool and everyone did it. And I feel like it’s going to change now that people are so health conscious and they’re aware smoking is bad. And I hope that we’ll see less macular degeneration going forward.

Daniel Lobell: (20:23)
Well, let’s hope so. And I’ll have to start going in for eye screenings now that I know that.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (20:29)
You should. Yeah and eat kale. You do want to eat kale.

Daniel Lobell: (20:38)
Really? They told me that was a myth.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (20:41)
It’s a myth. [Laughs].

Daniel Lobell: (20:42)
[Laughs].

Dr. Inna Lazar: (20:42)
But you should still eat vegetables.

Daniel Lobell: (20:43)
Why kale?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (20:43)
It’s green leafy vegetables that you want. We want a lot in your body. They’re antioxidants and there’s lutein and zaexanthin that are found to protect you from macular degeneration. But really, if you’re living in the modern world and you’re eating a healthy diet, you’re fine.

Daniel Lobell: (21:11)
I dunno if I’m living in the modern world, but I do have a smart TV. So maybe.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (21:18)
[Laughs]. Well, yeah, that’s debatable. You’re right, I agree.

Daniel Lobell: (21:22)
What are some common eye and vision myths that people aren’t aware of?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (21:27)
The one we talk about every day is that glasses will make their eyeballs worse. The second one is that reading in the dark will make the eyeballs worse. That’s a myth as well.

Daniel Lobell: (21:47)
Really? So you can read in the dark and it doesn’t matter?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (21:51)
Yeah. [Laughs]. You really shouldn’t do it.

Daniel Lobell: (21:55)
They say you’re straining your eyes. So you’re not straining?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (21:58)
No, you are straining your eyes, but you’re not really harming your eyes. You may give yourself a headache, eyestrain, eye discomfort, but you’re not going to cause permanent damage to your eyeball.

Daniel Lobell: (22:09)
Maybe you’re building strength in the eyes because all of a sudden your eyes have to get stronger to see in the dark?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (22:18)
No, but that makes me remember another one that patients would come in and say, “I am not getting glasses. I am going to do eye exercises and my vision will get better.” So that’s a myth: no exercises can improve vision. We do have vision therapy to help with ocular motor dysfunction and other muscle issues in the eyes. But you cannot really change a prescription by doing eye exercises.

Daniel Lobell: (22:58)
So that’s the only time I’ve ever gotten advice from a doctor not to exercise.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (23:05)
[Laughs]. I love it. Okay, that’s good.

Daniel Lobell: (23:11)
Well, I’ll take it. Every other doctor is always pushing me to exercise. Finally, the eye doctor says, “Don’t worry about it. It’s not going to do anything.”

Dr. Inna Lazar: (23:19)
[Laughs].

Daniel Lobell: (23:19)
Today, many people sit at computers for large chunks of the day. Are there any best practices that you could recommend to reduce the eye strain that they’re experiencing from that?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (23:33)
Yes. So many people, especially during the pandemic, are spending much more time at the computer. And we see a lot of headaches, eye strain, eye fatigue at any age. We see them in adults and kids. We do have studies that show that you do want to adjust the blue light on your screen, which is much more beneficial than wearing blue light glasses, the blue anti-glare glasses that you can purchase really anywhere now. You just have to be aware that there’s a lot of fake blue anti-glare out there. The best way is to adjust the blue light on the screen, on your phone, on your iPad, computer, and also follow the 20 20 20 rule, which is looking 20 feet away, every 20 minutes for 20 seconds. So you really should be taking breaks, because staring at a screen for hours is going to stress your eyes.

Daniel Lobell: (24:46)
Yeah. My wife always complains about that because she’s a writer and she’s always at the laptop. And I told her maybe to get one of those computers from Apple that has retina display. But is that a myth or does that do anything? What is it?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (25:00)
Nah, I think they just put a lot of pixels in it so it looks great. It’s much more vivid, but it’s not going to affect the eyes. First of all, she needs to do make sure that she has the correct prescription and secondly, she needs to take breaks.

Daniel Lobell: (25:22)
Take breaks and practice the 20 20 20 rule. I never knew about that. I mean, hindsight is 2020. The only kind of sight in 2020 that I knew about.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (25:33)
Yeah. You know, everyone was so excited about the year 2020. It’s like every eye doctor was like, “This is going to be my year.”

Daniel Lobell: (25:44)
[Laughs].

Dr. Inna Lazar: (25:44)
Well, thank God it’s over. [Laughs].

Daniel Lobell: (25:48)
Yeah. Has anybody ever come in to check their hindsight? [Laughs].

Dr. Inna Lazar: (25:55)
[Laughs].

Daniel Lobell: (25:55)
So like we mentioned, you’re very active on social media and of course we saw and talked about the Hassan Minhaj picture on your Instagram. How important is social media for people to practice in terms of connecting with current patients and bringing in new business in the medical field?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (26:20)
I think it’s very important, especially for someone who is new. I’m new in town. My practice is new in town. So for me, it is very important. My friends who have been in town for 8 or 10 years, they don’t even have a social media platform because they’re so busy at this point, they don’t even have time to manage it, or they’re so busy that they can’t even accommodate more patients. They don’t even take new patients. So it really depends where you stand. For me, it’s very helpful. I have patients messaging me all the time. Can they schedule, can they come in? But it really depends on the practice, I guess. It depends on what you do. I know for me, it works really well.

Daniel Lobell: (27:06)
What role do you feel that technology is going to play in the future for people in your field?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (27:14)
I think huge. Are you asking about telemedicine?

Daniel Lobell: (27:21)
Telemedicine included, but apps and just digital platforms for medicine in general.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (27:27)
I think they’re so helpful. And I think with the pandemic, we realized how much we need it because I was able to see patients that are not even in this town, but I was the only one they could reach for a consultation. They’re having headaches or they’re having swollen lids or whatever was happening. I saw a patient from New York. I had a patient from Arizona during the pandemic – we had a telemedicine visit. Apps are incredible. There’s an app called Be My Eyes. And I would have a call once a month from someone who’s not able to read. They are not able to see. So during the last call I had, a man was trying to read directions to prepare his dinner, and he couldn’t read it. So he had the camera on and I was able to read out loud the directions, how to prepare the meal in his microwave. And he was so grateful.

Daniel Lobell: (28:34)
So it’s an incredible app and it’s called “Be My Eyes” and it’s very helpful. There’s a lot of people registered. And if you get a call, answer, you might be helping someone.

Daniel Lobell: (28:49)
Yeah. What a meaningful way to spend your day just being able to do that.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (28:53)
Exactly. I agree. So apps, social media, all that is so important because I use my social media to definitely educate people about what I do. And it allows me to really communicate directly with my patients, to explain concepts like “What is dry eye?” What am I doing and why is it important?” I think it’s a new thing. Everyone is going to be moving more and more into these platforms where you can communicate directly with a patient.

Daniel Lobell: (29:29)
Got it. So it sounds like you really are encouraging your patients to engage with the online health space.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (29:38)
I’m not actively telling them, “Go on Instagram”. [Laughs].

Daniel Lobell: (29:43)
[Laughs].

Dr. Inna Lazar: (29:43)
But they’re already using it and they’re doing it for fun. They’re doing it to socialize and they’re probably using it as well to learn something.

Daniel Lobell: (29:57)
Do you think because of this, they’re coming in better informed or with misinformation more of the time?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (30:04)
They’re coming in because they understand what the problem is. For example, I treat a lot of dry eye and I would say, “Dry eye may cause tearing, like your eyes will water.” And then the patient came in saying, “I saw your video and it just makes so much sense because that’s what I’ve been having. And I’ve been treated for allergies because my eyes are watering, but they’re just dry.” So they came in understanding what’s happening.

Daniel Lobell: (30:40)
What is causing dry eye? Is it just weather?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (30:40)
Dry eye is the number one underdiagnosed eye condition in the United States, because there’s so many different reasons patients can have dry eye and often it is the environment like dry air or a windy workspace or air conditioning. Smoking can cause dry eye, but a lot of patients have other issues that cause them to have dry eye like inflammatory disease, like arthritis or Crohn’s disease or Sjorgren’s – that will cause dry eye. And then patients that are on the computer a lot, they’re not blinking enough and that will cause dry eye, but just a different kind of dry eye. So it’s so important to diagnose which kinds of dry eye they have, so we can address it appropriately.

Daniel Lobell: (31:37)
What about people who wear an eye patch? Does that cause their eye to dry up?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (31:42)
Eye patch? Probably not because they’re using the eye patch to most likely treat their amblyopia and that’s usually kids.

Daniel Lobell: (31:53)
What’s amblyopia? Is that we’re one eye is turned in more than the other?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (31:57)
That’s strabismus – when the eyeball is turned in or turned out. Amblyopia is when the pathways from the eyeball to the brain are not developed equally between the eyes.

Daniel Lobell: (32:13)
Oh, is that lazy eye? Is that what we know as lazy eye?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (32:17)
Yeah. That’s lazy eye,.

Daniel Lobell: (32:18)
I guess that’s like the only time we insult a part of the body for not working well.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (32:22)
[Laughs]. Yes.

Daniel Lobell: (32:23)
Like somebody who’s got a limp. They’re not like, Oh, you got lazy foot over there. You got useless hand. [Laughs]. Yeah. Dry eye really does sound like something someone with an eyepatch should be saying like “Dry eye, captain”.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (32:44)
Well, we do recommend using warm compresses for patients that have certain kinds of dry eye, but not like one patch. Just one eye.

Daniel Lobell: (32:56)
Yeah. But it does sound like a pirate slang, like “Dry eye captain, dry eye.”

Dr. Inna Lazar: (33:01)
Yeah. I can see that. [Laughs].

Daniel Lobell: (33:02)
[Laughs]. Silly joke.

Daniel Lobell: (33:12)
While we’re on the topic of the online health space, we are of course talking on behalf of Doctorpedia, which is an online platform for doctors. What do you think Doctorpedia should be doing to best assist the online health space?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (33:29)
I think Doctorpedia is definitely moving in the right direction. I think there’s so much misinformation out there. And I personally get these patients that think they’re dead and pregnant at the same time. And Doctorpedia will be able to create this bridge between doctor-patient and education and provide the correct information. Not everything, not all the misinformation. Whatever question the patient has, Doctorpedia will be able to provide the correct answer because it will be a doctor answering it.

Daniel Lobell: (34:14)
So what role are you playing in Doctorpedia?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (34:19)
Well, I hope to be the one to create educational eyeball videos.

Daniel Lobell: (34:28)
Well, I’m looking forward to seeing those. I’m sure they’re going to be great. I love the videos that you already put up. And speaking of them, you had one where you had patients talking about a night lens. Am I remembering correctly?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (34:43)
Yeah.

Daniel Lobell: (34:43)
What is the night lens? Is that so you don’t have to strain your eyes and you could read in the dark, what is it?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (34:50)
No, I should rename it. I named it the night lens, but I really should rename it because people that don’t know do get a little bit confused as to why they are called night lenses? So they’re night lenses because patients wear them at night to go to bed. They sleep in these lenses and this lens is made to gently reshape the epithelium layer that we talked about earlier to create perfect vision overnight. So think of it as like a mold or retainer or Invisalign, it’s just for your eyes. It’s not teeth, it’s eyeballs.

Daniel Lobell: (35:31)
That is pretty cool. Can you invent one that’ll give us x-ray vision? When is that coming?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (35:39)
Soon, I’m working on it.

Daniel Lobell: (35:42)
[Laughs].

Dr. Inna Lazar: (35:42)
[Laughs]. That would be very good. That would be great. For now though, they are just for fixing version.

Daniel Lobell: (35:45)
It could be great, or it could be disturbing. Depends where you are and what you’re looking at. It could be traumatizing. [Laughs].

Dr. Inna Lazar: (35:59)
[Laughs]. Yeah. Be careful what you wish for, for sure.

Daniel Lobell: (36:01)
Absolutely. You know, that was a funny superpower when I read comic books growing up. X-ray vision.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (36:07)
You mean like superman?

Daniel Lobell: (36:07)
Yeah. Superman, he had x-ray vision if he wanted to see through walls. He could have opened the door. He was Superman. He could have punched the wall down. Like why did he need that?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (36:24)
I know. I agree with you. I guess he didn’t want to damage he wall, he was being thoughtful.

Daniel Lobell: (36:33)
[Laughs]. People don’t realize that superman had great respect for walls.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (36:37)
Yeah.

Daniel Lobell: (36:40)
Yeah. It was just a very respectful side of Superman that we don’t often talk about. What do you wish that your patients knew coming in?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (36:54)
That’s a good one. There’s so many things I wish they knew, but really the important one is that I’m there because I want to help them. And it’s definitely a two way street. And often I tell my patients, “Help me to help you”. They’re there because they need help but then the communication somehow has been lost and they don’t follow the instructions. And it’s just the communication and the fact that I’m there to help them. And I’m honored to be there to help them. But sometimes patients don’t realize that they need to follow the instructions to get better.

Daniel Lobell: (37:46)
They are rebellious in other words.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (37:47)
I guess.

Daniel Lobell: (37:52)
Well, what else could it be? Is it distrust? Do you think they often distrust doctors or what do you think is?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (38:03)
I wish I had an answer for that and you know, I’ve been in practice for six years now and I’m learning every day. This is the skill that I think I will never master. I am trying to master it every day, but there’s always room for improvement – how important patient communication is. And I’ve tried so many different techniques and how to talk to a patient to have them understand how important it is to get their diabetes under control because their vision can get bad. Often it does work and they do listen and they do follow what I asked them to do, but sometimes, it could be their lifestyle. It could be their busy life that they just don’t have the time to do what I asked them to. So there’s just so many different factors. I know I’m putting out a hundred percent of what I have to help my patients, but I wish they knew that they need to participate as well.

Daniel Lobell: (39:11)
Why does diabetes affect people’s eyesight?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (39:16)
Well, because it’s increased sugar in your bloodstream. It’s the sugar in the blood that damages the inner layer of the blood vessel that then causes them to leak. So what happens in the eyeball and that’s just another reason why I’m in love with eyes, I can just look inside the eye and I can see the blood muscles. I don’t even have to cut the patient open to see their blood vessels. I can see their arteries, I can see their veins. I can see their retina, their optic nerve, which is literally part of the brain, just by looking into their eyes. So when I check the retina during an eye exam, I check for bleeding because it’s part of the exam that I want to make sure they don’t have any bleeding. I want to make sure they don’t have any cancer growing. There are patients that can have cancer in their eye and still have perfect vision. So it’s important to check for diabetes in their eyes.

Daniel Lobell: (40:28)
Wow. Have you ever heard the saying “The eyes are the window to the soul”?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (40:34)
Yes. And it is true.

Daniel Lobell: (40:36)
You see people’s souls when you look in their eyes?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (40:39)
Well, I hope so, but I definitely see their health status. I definitely see how well they care for themselves. I see many things. I’ve sent patients to get evaluations for brain tumors, some patients to get evaluations for hypertension, cholesterol, a stroke. I had a patient that came in because she just needed contact lenses. And then by the end of the exam, she was on her way to get a carotid doppler done because I was worried she would end up with a stroke.

Daniel Lobell: (41:14)
Wow. So you were really able to prevent bad things from happening?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (41:18)
Absolutely.

Daniel Lobell: (41:20)
I always feel like it’s true though. I feel like the soul is the window to the eyes. I think if your soul is healthy, you see the world in a much more spiritual and brighter way.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (41:32)
That’s if you have healthy eyeballs.

Daniel Lobell: (41:34)
Eyeballs. [Laughs]. Yeah.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (41:37)
[Laughs]. That’s a great thought. I like it.

Daniel Lobell: (41:41)
I’d say it would be contingent on that. So what do you do for fun?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (41:50)
What do I do for fun? I do a few things. I love to bake. That’s like my meditation if I had a stressful day and I just need to take my mind off it, I just bake. So I bake desserts. I used to play tennis. I stopped playing. I can just go and work out and I enjoy working out. I don’t have any amazing hobbies that maybe other doctors have or people have – I just do little things and they make me happy, making a cake makes me happy.

Daniel Lobell: (42:36)
Yeah. Well, you know, don’t eat too many of them because you know what happens, I guess, better than anybody.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (42:43)
Yes I do know what happens. I’m fortunate enough to have a husband that enjoys eating my desserts.

Daniel Lobell: (42:52)
Sounds like he’s pretty fortunate too.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (42:56)
[Laughs]. So when I make a dessert, I know he’s going to eat it, good or bad.

Daniel Lobell: (43:01)
What’s your favorite dessert to make?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (43:04)
I love chocolates so I make chocolate souffle, chocolate macaroons, chocolate cakes, anything. I really can make anything. If I have a recipe, I can make it.

Daniel Lobell: (43:23)
Sounds good. I’m waiting for my invite to come over. [Laughs].

Dr. Inna Lazar: (43:27)
That’s a great idea. Next time you come visit your friend, make sure to let me know, and I will make the best dessert for you.

Daniel Lobell: (43:34)
Awesome. This is great. Somehow I’ve managed to manipulate using my connection to a doctor to get to dessert. [Laughs].

Dr. Inna Lazar: (43:47)
[Laughs].

Daniel Lobell: (43:47)
I can’t wait to hear this.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (43:50)
I’m happy to check your eyes as well.

Daniel Lobell: (43:50)
You found the most unhealthy way to use a doctor relationship. [Laughs].

Daniel Lobell: (43:56)
[Laughs]. That’s okay.

Daniel Lobell: (43:57)
But while we’re on the topic of the doctor-patient relationship, what do you think are the most important facets of that relationship?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (44:06)
Trust and communication, because that’s the route to get the patient to really comply and it’s important to have the patient understand and participate in their health plan. So it’s this delicate period where you are either diagnosing patients, but you also want to make sure they’re participating in their treatment plan, actively participating.

Daniel Lobell: (44:41)
Yeah. Going back to before where you’ve given great advice to patients and they just don’t take, it must be very frustrating.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (44:48)
It is frustrating, but I understand it’s life. So it’s not like I give up. I still try until it works, but it certainly is very draining on me. But you know what? I chose this path. I love it. I don’t regret it. It’s just that it is what it is.

Daniel Lobell: (45:10)
What is the biggest compliment that a patient can give you?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (45:15)
I thought about this and first of all, every time they can see and they’re smiling and they’re hugging me, I think there’s nothing better.

Daniel Lobell: (45:29)
Yeah. That sounds great. That’s what you want to hear from your doctor.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (45:34)
And then one time I remember this and I feel like that just really stuck with me. There was one patient who came in and she was not able to drive, not able to see. I give her the glasses. We give her contacts. She is so happy that she’s finally going to be able to get her driver’s license. And I say, “Great. You can see now.” She goes, “I can see so well, I can see all your pores.”

Daniel Lobell: (46:02)
[Laughs].

Dr. Inna Lazar: (46:02)
[Laughs]. Okay. Maybe that’s a little too much.

Daniel Lobell: (46:05)
We’re going to dial back your prescription a little bit.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (46:07)
But I think that’s the funniest story I have. I know you asked for the best compliment, but really being able to give the patient the ability to see and function and be able to be comfortable, which is huge, being able to comfortably perform their work, whatever they’re doing. It’s the biggest compliment I could’ve asked for.

Daniel Lobell: (46:34)
Good answer. Well, do you have any apps that you personally engage with to monitor your own health?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (46:44)
Well just for workouts, I use my Apple watch and my health app on my phone.

Daniel Lobell: (46:56)
You mentioned that you exercise and you used to play tennis. Are there any other things that you do to stay healthy?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (47:03)
I walk my dog.

Daniel Lobell: (47:06)
Walking your dog is good therapy. I don’t know what it is about walking. I have two dogs, but for some reason you just feel so much more. And I guess it’s the company – when you go out to walk your dog, you have company with you the whole time, but it’s like you’re exercising and with a buddy.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (47:26)
Yeah. And it makes me happy because when I’m at work, my dog is really home. There’s no one walking him. So when I walk him, it makes me happy because I know that he’s enjoying his walk that he missed all day. So I feel like I’m doing a good thing for a dog and myself.

Daniel Lobell: (47:44)
You’re getting healthy together.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (47:46)
Yes. Very important.

Daniel Lobell: (47:49)
And that’s a good note that we should all be getting healthy together. You like how I tied that up at the end?

Dr. Inna Lazar: (47:54)
Yeah. I love it. Thank you so much. You definitely made it better than I thought. I was so nervous.

Daniel Lobell: (48:01)
I’m glad to hear that. And like I said, no need to be nervous, but thank you so much, Dr. Lazar for your time and for this great information. I learned so much about eyes and I’m looking forward to coming over for one of those chocolate desserts one of these days when I’m in Connecticut.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (48:20)
You know what, I was serious. Why don’t you do that?

Daniel Lobell: (48:24)
All right. Maybe I will.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (48:27)
Where are you?

Daniel Lobell: (48:27)
I’m in Los Angeles. So it’s not likely to happen anytime soon, but you never know.

Dr. Inna Lazar: (48:33)
You never know. Next time you are in town, please let me know.

Daniel Lobell: (48:37)
Thank you so much.

Inna Lazar: (48:39)
Thanks. It was nice talking to you.

Daniel Lobell: (48:41)
This podcast, or any written material derived from its transcripts represents the opinions of the medical professional being interviewed. The content here is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice since every person is unique. Please consult your healthcare professional for any personal or specific needs.

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