December 20, 2020


Last week I had occasion to visit the Eye Institute of Ottawa, which is part of the University of Ottawa’s medical school and housed at Ottawa Hospital. I was grateful that in a province where wait times for medical care are agonizingly long, my treatment was expeditious. I went into the ER with flashes and floaters on a Tuesday evening, was called the following day by the Eye Institute, and went in the following Tuesday to see the ophthalmologist. Dr. Brian Leonard recommended an immediate laser retinopexy. To my surprise and relief, the procedure was done 30 minutes after his examination. I drove home.

One will read the following on the Eye Institute’s website:  

Mission: To promote advances in the investigation, treatment, and prevention of visual disorders.


1.     To undertake collaborative, basic and applied research in the visual system with emphasis on those visual disorders of major public health concern.

2.     To develop superior patient eye care facilities for the investigation and management of complex cases.

3.     To promote medical and scientific education in the visual sciences.

I was most impressed with how the third goal was demonstrated during my visit.

Dr.Leonard was the third physician I saw. The first was a first-year resident. The second was a staff ophthalmologist. After Dr. Leonard examined me, a second-year resident performed the procedure.

The entire process gave me a close look at mentorship. Dr. Leonard, a distinguished and well-loved physician and teacher, exemplified the classic qualities and approaches of a good mentor. Doctors, tradespeople, parents, and people in ministry can all learn from watching teachers like this.


What was clear from the outset was that Dr. Leonard’s protégée (a young doctor from India) had the freedom to learn and actually treat patients while doing so. This gave greater depth of meaning to the phrase, “the practice of medicine.” If her teacher had not viewed her as competent, she would not have been shooting hundreds of light bullets into my head.  


The resident watched carefully as Dr. Leonard gave me a thorough examination. He asked me questions about my symptoms and looked into my eye from every possible angle—not once, but three times.


Dr. Leonard asked his resident, “Did you see how I angled my head when I examined him?” She replied that she had, but didn’t understand why he had done this.


The doctor explained to her that if he looked into my eye directly with his headset, he could get an excellent binocular view of a large area of the eye. However, when he tilted his head 90 degrees in either direction, the angle of the scope allowed him to focus on exactly the place in the eye he wanted to see. He demonstrated this again and then said, “That’s just a little tip that will help you.” I’m sure it will.


After the resident had performed the procedure, Dr. Leonard came in and evaluated her work. Just as a surgeon might check a resident’s sutures, he scrutinized her “welds” on the back of my eye to make sure she had done what he had ordered.


“Perfect!” was all the affirmation the young doctor needed from her mentor. I could see her beaming from behind her mask. Neither of them heard the unspoken “Whew!” that went through my head.

My hours at the eye institute taught me a few things about ophthalmology, but they also reinforced some valuable lessons about mentorship.

Image from VMR Institute: https://www.vmrinstitute.com/what-is-the-retina/

Rob Heijermans

Rob Heijermans (rhymes with “fireman’s”) is a church planter and Bible teacher who has served with Biblical Ministries Worldwide since 1979. He is a 1977 graaduate (B.S. in Bible) of Lancaster Bible College. His travels have taken him to forty countries on four continents, including detailed research for this book in Israel. He has three married children and ten grandchildren. He and his wife, Madeleine, live in Ontario, Canada.

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