Well Being — 06 December 2014
Profiles in medicine: Dr. Cory Lessner

Editor’s note: LASIK specialist Dr. Cory Lessner, recently honored with the Vitals Compassionate Doctor Award, sees life-changing improvements in eyesight 

By Jana Soeldner Danger

Attention, everyone who gropes for glasses or contacts before getting out of bed. Imagine lying down in the doctor’s office, having a painless procedure that lasts about 10 minutes, and getting up able to see clearly without corrective lenses.

That’s the usual scenario with LASIK (Laser Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis), a procedure in which the cornea is reshaped using lasers. LASIK isn’t new, but the technology has improved significantly in recent years, says Dr. Cory Lessner, an ophthalmologist and founder of the Millennium Laser Eye Centers in Fort Lauderdale. He has performed LASIK on sports and entertainment personalities like Dwayne Johnson, Gabrielle Anwar, Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union, and was also recently the recipient of the Compassionate Doctor award from Vitals, a website that helps consumers make informed decisions about the quality of medical care.

The relationship between a doctor and a patient should be a partnership, Lessner says. “It’s their eyes. I’m just there to help them achieve a goal.”

Lessner was one of the first doctors in the country to acquire Alcon’s Allegretto EX500 when it was approved in 2012, a next-generation excimer laser sculptor that is 25 percent faster than its predecessor. Although the medical community generally considers LASIK safe, Lessner says many people are still afraid of it. “Because it seems too good to be true, people think it is too good to be true. But afterward, people sit up and say, ‘that was nothing. What was I afraid of?’”

That was the case for Michael Katz, an NFL sports agent who lives in Miami Beach. “I was petrified,” he says. “I thought, why would I have surgery on my eyes if I didn’t need to?”

The experience was much different than Katz expected. “It was relaxing,” he says. “There was no pain at all, and I could see right away afterward. I went from being blind without my contacts to having 20/20 vision.”

Katz watched other patients having the procedure live in real time on Millennium’s website. “I saw how easy it was,” Katz says.

Lessner became passionate about enhancing people’s vision before LASIK ever came on the scene. It started in 1992 while he was still an ophthalmology resident at the Tufts-New England Eye Center. During his rotation at the Boston VA hospital, he worked with a group of elderly veterans who required prescription glasses following cataract surgery. “They couldn’t put in contacts, and they weren’t good candidates for glasses,” Lessner recalls.

So Lessner arranged for the vets to be taken by bus to Tufts University School of Medicine, where he performed what he says was the institute’s first radial keratotomy, a procedure in which a physician made incisions in the cornea using a diamond knife. “I saw it as a way to help veterans out,” Lessner says. “But it was so life-changing for them, I knew then that it was what I wanted to do.”

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