A Glimpse at Three New Physicians: Why They Set Their Sights on Ophthalmology
Cincinnati Eye Institute (CEI) continues to grow its internationally recognized team of top specialists in every field of eye care. The newest CEI team members are Lori Provencher, M.D., Roxanne Rivera, M.D., and Aubrey R. Tirpack, M.D.
Lorraine (Lori) M. Provencher, M.D., a member of the CEI glaucoma service, performs cataract surgery on patients with and without glaucoma, and specializes in a variety of laser and surgical procedures for the treatment of glaucoma, including minimally invasive glaucoma surgeries (MIGS).
Provencher, the daughter of two archaeologists, grew up in southern Indiana. She says she wanted to become a doctor ever since she can remember.
“My mom always told me I could do whatever I set my mind to, so I picked the hardest thing I could think of at the time,” she recalls with a chuckle. “I stuck with it, and things happened along the way that made me realize I loved taking care of people. And I loved science. I always got good grades, always dreamed of going to med school, and then I got in.”
Provencher says she wasn’t familiar with ophthalmology at the time, but she fell in love with it during rotations.
“I liked the combination of surgery, lasers and clinic, and there is just so much variety,” she says. “The eye is really intricate and beautiful, and it always amazes me – it’s about the only organ in the body where you can look at it and actually see it working. You can see blood vessels working, the lens moving and the heart beating in the eye. I also like that patients care a lot about their vision, and it’s easy to get them on board [with treatment] when they have eye problem symptoms.”
It was during Provencher’s ophthalmology residency that she really fell in love with the “people side” of medicine, she notes. “Glaucoma, for example, is a chronic disease that requires long-term care, so I follow my patients for a lifetime. There can be ups and downs with glaucoma, so I see them multiple times a year, and really get to know them. It’s nice to feel needed, and that’s very motivating for me.”
Provencher graduated with honors from Indiana University with a Bachelor of Science in biology. She received her medical degree from Indiana University School of Medicine and completed her ophthalmology residency at the top-ranked University of Iowa Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, followed by a glaucoma fellowship at University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center. Provencher is actively involved with Women in Ophthalmology and the non-profit organizations Orbis International and cybersight.org.
Roxana Rivera, M.D., an oculoplastic surgeon, specializes in reconstructive and cosmetic surgery of the eyelids, eye socket and tear drainage system. She also offers non-surgical treatments such as Botox, fillers and lasers. Rivera grew up in Peru where students can attend medical school right after high school. So, at 16, Rivera went off to med school, embracing and excelling in every subspecialty she was introduced to.
“When I was in neurosurgery, I wanted to be a neurosurgeon. When I was studying cardiology, I wanted to be a cardiologist,” she recalls.
How did she decide which medical career to pursue? An ophthalmologist suggested she shadow him during summer break, during which time she was also introduced to cosmetic and reconstructive eye surgery. And that’s when it finally clicked – she chose oculoplastic surgery, a combination of ophthalmology and cosmetic/reconstructive surgery.
“I like oculoplastic surgery because I know I am making a difference in people’s lives, from babies to older patients,” Rivera explains. “Every patient, every surgery is unique. It’s like putting a puzzle together, and each time it is a different puzzle.”
Rivera graduated with honors from the National University of Trujillo School of Medicine in Peru. Following her internship and residency training in ophthalmology, she spent a year aboard the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital, doing humanitarian work in Africa and Asia. She then completed fellowship training in pediatric ophthalmology and adult abnormal binocular alignment (strabismus) at Dalhousie University in Canada, and in ophthalmic plastic reconstructive surgery at the University of Cincinnati University Hospital, CEI and Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center.
After completing her fellowship training, Rivera served as a full-time assistant professor of ophthalmology at Wilmer Eye Institute at The Johns Hopkins Hospital for five years, eventually returning to Ohio where she was the director of the Oculoplastic and Orbital Surgery Division of University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, and assistant professor of ophthalmology at Case Western Reserve University. Rivera, awarded the Teaching Award for her excellence and commitment to resident education, looks forward to teaching residents here.
“When I teach residents, I tell them I learn as much from them as they learn from me,” Rivera says. “They’re in training, so they are always curious and always asking lots of questions. They keep me on my toes.”
Aubrey R. Tirpack, M.D., a member of the CEI glaucoma service, performs cataract surgery as well as a variety of surgical and laser procedures for the treatment of glaucoma.
“Ohio is home. We’re really excited to be moving back to the Cincinnati area,” says Tirpack, who grew up in Dayton. “CEI is such a great group!”
Tirpack set her sights on ophthalmology after discovering her love for surgery, which paired well with her compassion for and interest in getting to know and care for patients and their families long-term.
“There are not many specialties where you get to do both,” she says. “Ophthalmology is one where you get to perform very interesting surgeries and see patients for life, where you might care for Grandma, Mom, and now, the kids – I always thought that was neat.”
Glaucoma is an evolving field, she notes. There are many new, less-invasive treatment techniques available, which is great news for patients.
Tirpack earned a degree in biochemistry and graduated summa cum laude from Miami University, and completed her medical degree at the University of Cincinnati. She completed her preliminary year in internal medicine at The Christ Hospital, followed by her ophthalmology residency at Tufts Medical Center in Boston where she served as rotating chief resident and editor of the Grand Rounds column in Ocular Surgery News. She went on to complete her glaucoma fellowship at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine in Miami, Florida.
“What I enjoy most about surgery, in general, is being able to offer patients something that will decrease their medication burden and their anxiety burden,” she says. “With cataract surgery, we can take someone whose vision is poor and negatively affecting their daily life, and within a half an hour or so, and with a couple of follow-ups, their sight and their lives are improved. That is really rewarding.”
CEI is headquartered at 1945 CEI Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45242. For more information, visit www.cincinnatieye.com.