When Lingo Lai, M.D., joined the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences faculty as an assistant professor in 2015, she arrived with the goal of developing a well-rounded cornea fellowship program.
Dr. Lai said she had a great experience during her cornea fellowship at Wake Forest Baptist Health Eye Center, and she wanted to be in a position where she could help provide that beneficial training to ophthalmologists specializing in corneal diseases. She noted that the breadth of medical pathology and educational opportunities available to medical students, residents and fellows through the other fellowship programs at WVU made it an ideal site for its own cornea fellowship program.
Lai said another major factor that made her want to start the program in Morgantown was the faculty members themselves. She said having faculty members across every ophthalmology subspecialty makes for a wonderful learning environment for students, residents and fellows, but it is their personalities that shine through the most.
“When I came to interview for this role, I knew right away that it was the place I wanted to be after I sat down and met with the faculty,” Lai said. “Everyone is so friendly here, and over the past seven years, we have become very close. I try my best to build those same relationships with my fellows so they can feel just as welcome here as I did when I first arrived.”
Lai hopes that the positive relationships between fellows and faculty help fellows to provide excellent clinical and surgical care for their patients. She said she really admires that she is in a department which values building a strong doctor-patient relationship.
“The community-driven and small-town atmosphere that West Virginia provides makes it really easy for us as physicians to build bonds with our patients. WVU and the ophthalmology department really encourage us to do that, which makes my job all the more rewarding,” Lai said.
The Cornea Fellowship Program at WVU officially launched in 2019 with Dr. Lai as the Fellowship Director. She said that in the short time the program has been around, it has already introduced her to some brilliant young ophthalmologists.
The first fellow to join the program, Annahita Amireskandari, M.D., joined the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences faculty after completing her cornea fellowship in 2020, where she now works alongside Lai as an assistant professor. Lai said getting to watch fellows like her grow during their training is the best part of being a fellowship director.
“It’s very rewarding to watch the fellows become more independent as the year goes on,” Lai said. “This type of positive mentoring environment also ensures I never stop learning too.”