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Cataract surgeon is at home on the road

Staff writer

Some people look deep into a person’s eyes and find love. Dr. Mike Reynolds found a career he loves.

Reynolds, an Emporia ophthalmologist, visits St. Luke Hospital in Marion monthly to perform cataract surgeries, but if not for chance encounter in medical school, he might instead be delivering babies.

“I was seriously thinking about obstetrics and gynecology because I loved the surgery,” Reynolds said.

He was in the third year of medical school at University of Kansas — Wichita doing a rotation in obstetrics, when fourth-year ophthalmology student John Frange invited him to watch some eye surgery.

“We were at Wesley, and we went up to watch the surgery, and I thought ‘Wow, this is cool,’” Reynolds said. “Very clean, not a lot of blood, you could see everything through the microscope — it was just a different world.”

An ophthalmology rotation with Dr. Frank Depenbusch in Hutchinson convinced Reynolds that was the direction he wanted for his career.

“It was the perfect balance of surgery, and clinic, and lots of little gadgets you get to play with,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds and his wife Joyce, who he met when they were students at Baker University in Baldwin City, moved to Miami, Fla. for his residency at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, but staying there permanently was never a strong consideration for the young couple.

“It was too crowded, and not a great place to raise kids, so we came back home for that reason,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds also had an obligation to fulfill by receiving a Kansas medical scholarship for his education.

“I had to go back to a critically-underserved area,” Reynolds said. “I had two choices, one being Hays, the other, Emporia.”

All it took was a drive with Joyce, who is from Kansas City, to make the decision.

“About the time we got to Salina, heading out to Hays, she said ‘I don’t really think I want to come out here,’” Reynolds laughed.

Reynolds joined the practice of Dr. Frank Burgeson in Emporia in 1994. Burgeson already had satellite practices in several locations, and in 2000 Marion was added. Reynolds and his partner, Wayne Anliker, provide services in Chanute, Iola, Burlington, Eureka, Council Grove, Herington, and Osage City.

Reynolds uses the most up-to-date equipment available for cataract surgeries, through a partnership with Vantage Outsourcing, a medical equipment rental company.

“They bring in a microscope, the phacoemulsifier, which is the machine to remove the cataract, and all the disposable equipment,” Reynolds said. “It’s all state-of-the-art, and the hospital doesn’t have to worry about purchasing another machine every couple of years.”

Satellite locations provide Reynolds with an ample caseload, and his patients benefit from receiving services locally.

“Many of my patients become pretty dependent and they don’t travel well,” Reynolds noted. “It’s much easier for me to travel and see a dozen of them than to try to get a dozen of them back to Emporia.”

Reynolds is impressed with the renovations at St. Luke Hospital, and in particular the operating room.

“Fantastic — it’s my favorite place to operate now,” Reynolds said. “It’s so nice and big and clean, it’s designed really well. They did a really nice job with that renovation.”

Reynolds also had high praise for the staff.

“The staff at Marion is really good, and I enjoy working with them,” Reynolds said. “We train whoever is there at the hospital to scrub. It’s our special day — all we do are eyes that day, and it’s nice not to have multiple different surgeries going on.”

Gone are the days when cataract surgery required an inpatient stay and patients’ heads were immobilized with sandbags.

“Now it’s about a 15-minute procedure and you’re in outpatient surgery about two hours,” Reynolds said. “The day of the surgery you have to take it easy, but the day after you can start driving again, you can exercise. It’s changed a lot in that sense.”

Cataract surgery is Reynolds’ primary focus, and he does some laser surgery and eyelid surgery. His monthly visits and work leave little time for routine primary eye care.

“We need an optometrist there,” Reynolds said. “There’s a big need for that.”

Reynolds estimates he drives 20,000 miles for work each year, but he uses the roads for recreation as well, as an avid motorcycle rider and bicyclist.

Reynolds has graduated from the 400cc street bike he rode in high school to a 2002 Harley-Davidson Road King Classic, and has developed a riding friendship with Marion chiropractor Bruce Skiles.

“We’ve taken a couple of trips together,” Reynolds said. “We went down to Texas hill country a couple of years ago, and most recently down to Arkansas.”

His love of the open roads of Kansas led Reynolds into cycling.

“I got into biking, because I like to bike on gravel roads. It’s just gorgeous out in the Flint Hills,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds is the youngest of six children in his family, and the only one to graduate high school. His observations of his siblings gave Reynolds the desire to go to college and become a doctor.

“Watching what they went through motivated me to stay in school,” Reynolds said.

“One worked in the oil fields in Oklahoma, so I’d go down to work with him during the summer,” Reynolds said. “Doing that for a couple of summers will really motivate you to want to stay in college.”

Higher education now runs in the family, as both of Reynolds’ daughters are in college. Michaela attends Rice University in Houston, studying ecology and evolutionary biology. Caesie is a sophomore at KU in the pre-dentistry track.

For more information about the services Dr. Reynolds provides at St. Luke Hospital, call (620) 382-2177 and ask for the nurses’ station.

Last modified Jan. 5, 2012

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