Meet Adelaide's world-class young sight specialist
Dr Ben LaHood is recognised as one of the youngest world-leading ophthalmologists.
Dr LaHood featured in The Ophthalmologist magazine’s Power List for 2023 as one of the world’s top 100 ophthalmologists. As well as being one of the world’s best, at 39 he was also Australia’s youngest nominee ever to make the list. This year, he was one of three Australian experts named, and our only representative from SA.
Ben now calls Adelaide home after moving from NZ to undertake a PhD in Medicine at the University. He graduated in 2021 and has since been working as a Cataract and Refractive Surgeon at Adelaide Eye and Laser Centre.
He’s a passionate and talented speaker, frequently sharing his expertise at speaking engagements around the globe and producing an industry podcast. Embracing a love for education, Ben is also now a Senior Clinical Lecturer at the University, working to continually improve the way in which we share knowledge in his field after benefiting from the support of his mentors during his own studies. "I started off at the University of Adelaide thinking that my research was fit to complete a Masters degree, and it was only at my first presentation that my supervisor advised me to pursue a PhD with the amount of research I had produced. I would like to thank my supervisors and mentors for pointing me in the right direction. I achieved far more than I had originally thought possible, and that was thanks to their guidance."
He’s a Member of the Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons for Australasia (AUSCRS), Europe (ESCRS) and America (ASCRS); a Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (FRANZCO) and the World of Refractive Surgery and Visual Sciences (WCRSVS); and a Member of the Global Editorial Board of Cataract and Refractive Surgery Today (GRST).
We had the opportunity to ask Ben a few questions about his study journey, his rapid career growth, and his advice for other passionate healthcare students and early-career practitioners.
Tell us about your career journey after leaving the University.
After completing my PhD at the University of Adelaide, my career really took off with speaking engagements at international events, and gaining recognition with industry leaders to be involved in product development and advisory roles. I was already practicing as a laser and cataract surgeon when I graduated with my PhD, as I completed my subspecialty training a few years earlier, but the addition of having a PhD in my specialty area definitely helped build my practice and my reputation as a leader in my field.
What are your career highlights to date?
I think as with any field, whether sport, business or science, recognition from your peers is the ultimate achievement. So for me, being recognised by my global peers as being in the top 100 ophthalmologists in the world has been a major highlight. This coming relatively early in my career (I have been practicing independently for the past six years) has been amazing and feels like a reward for all of the hard work and sacrifices I have made to achieve my goals.
"I think as with any field, whether sport, business or science, recognition from your peers is the ultimate achievement. So for me, being recognised by my global peers as being in the top 100 ophthalmologists in the world has been a major highlight."
Can you share some of your most memorable experiences throughout your studies and/or career?
My research work has given me the opportunity to travel and disseminate my findings around the world. I have been extremely fortunate to have been noticed by ophthalmic industry and invited to speak at some really interesting events in Europe, Asia and North America. One of my most interesting trips was to speak in Xian, China, to discuss the launch of trifocal intraocular lenses (IOLs) in that country for Zeiss. I got to meet so many amazing people and see the Terracotta warriors. This was a trip I would be unlikely to do by myself and to have this opportunity was wonderful.
What are the most rewarding/enjoyable aspects of your current role?
My work is incredibly rewarding. I get to make people see more clearly. Surgery can be stressful, and demanding. However, it is incredibly rewarding. Every day I see patients who thank me for improving their vision. It is rare that a surgeon has people wanting operations. Most surgeries around the world are done to remove cancer or sick organs. My patients, however, actually request surgery and the outcomes are amazing. I never get tired of seeing my post-operative patients and seeing the smiles on their faces. I explain to them when they thank me that I am simply using the resources that other researchers have created, but I do like to think that my own PhD research is helping others achieve excellent outcomes too.
"My work is incredibly rewarding. I get to make people see more clearly."
What is your fondest University of Adelaide memory?
I am a night owl and I absolutely love that the University of Adelaide provides a 24/7 open access Hub where I can go and get my work done. I am often working late in clinic and then will want to write my research papers. It is amazing to be able to go to the University and have a safe, warm environment open whenever I need it. That is quite rare to find.
Have you been to campus since graduating?
I often still go to the campus and do my work in the Hub area as it has become a place I feel comfortable and know I can have a peaceful environment. I really enjoy being there and feeling part of the University. Seeing other people study helps me get into the zone to get my own work done.
What advice do you have for your 20-year-old self?
Don’t worry about what others think of you. As long as you know what you want to achieve and set realistic goals, you can achieve anything.
What’s next for your career?
I am looking forward to launching a new eye related product. This will be my first experience as an entrepreneur and so I am learning a lot, expect to make some mistakes. It is much easier to take the comfortable route and continue to do the same things long term but I don’t want to look back on my life and think “why did I not try doing something different?”
What is your favourite inspirational quote?
“Only dead fish go with the flow,” which translates to meaning: If you want to succeed, sometimes you have to take the more difficult path.
Want insight from Dr LaHood?
Alongside fellow ophthalmologist Dr Nick Andrew, Dr LaHood hosts the podcast Ophthalmology Against The Rule (OATR), discussing the simple things often overlooked and the complex things often ignored about ophthalmology.
Through this podcast he hopes to give interesting people in the eye world a platform to share their passion and observations in a casual way – minus the pressure of a key note podium speech at a conference.