An ophthalmologist brings sight-saving measures to his patients

September 10 – MANCHESTER – Having an eye doctor close enough to perform surgery on your eyeball is something that would make most people gross.

DR. RICHARD A. FICHMAN

WHO HE IS: A board-certified ophthalmologist who diagnoses and treats disease, injury or trauma to the eye, with a particular interest in cataracts and laser eye surgery.

HOMETOWN: Manchester.

EDUCATION: Attended Tunxis Community College, graduated from Central Connecticut State University. Graduated from Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University-Medicine & Sciences; completed his residency at Kings County Hospital Center.

BUSINESS: Fichman Eye Center, which has offices in Hartford, Manchester, New Britain and Torrington, merged with SightMD Connecticut in August 2021.

For 40 years, Dr. Richard A. Fichman has created a trusted way to the bedside, putting people at ease before their procedures and revolutionizing the profession to make it less invasive, with less risk to the patient.

A sixth-generation Hartford native, Fichman said he was the son of a butcher who delivered meat to the Manchester Hospital kitchen.

Growing up, he says, he started playing guitar and swimming on the state championship swim team, but his turning point came in fifth and sixth grade when his teacher got him interested in swimming. science.

“I would stay during recess and draw diagrams of the circulatory system,” he said. “When the kids came back, I would talk to them about the human body and stuff like that.”

From a working-class family, Fichman said, he would work during the day after graduating from high school while attending evening classes at Tunxis Community College and Central Connecticut State University.

After graduating, he went to medical school at Chicago Medical School, where Fichman earned his MD.

While in medical school, he said, he participated in an internship in San Francisco.

“It was a private Catholic hospital,” Fichman said. “The best glaucoma surgeons in the world did their private cases in my hospital. I knew nothing about eyes, so I did my rotation in ophthalmology. I got to rub shoulders with these world famous people. I went to their offices on Saturday and learn ophthalmology. They took me under their wing and they got me very interested and I got a residency in ophthalmology.

The residency, he said, ended up being in New York. While in New York, at the age of 32, he became chief of ophthalmology at Woodhull Hospital.

“There came a time when I realized that New York was not the place where I wanted to raise a family,” he said.

Wanting to move to a mid-sized town, he said, he returned home to Hartford, where he lived in his parents’ condo while dividing his time to travel to New York and start his private practice. .

“My mom was my front desk person,” he said. “We were seeing five patients a week. I opened my practice in April 1984.”

From day one of his private practice, he said, he always tried to combine contemporary technology with a pleasant bedside manner reminiscent of the mid-20th century.

“What I have tried to do (…) is to treat everyone equally, understanding that people are vulnerable when they come to see you,” he said. declared. “I consider what we do a step below the clergy. I took Medicaid from day one of practice. My number one rule in life is to never think you are better than someone else. other.”

Richard Amione, nurse anesthetist in Fichman’s office, said, “I’ve been with him since 1998. I’ve worked with many eye surgeons across the state. I chose to end my career working with him because he’s my favorite.

“He always remains calm in the operating room,” Amione said. “Things always seem to be going very well. The patients have fun with him. Every one of them, before the case starts, he talks to them, and at the end he checks their vision, which no one really does. , make sure everything’s okay. He makes them tell the time. He’ll make them tell what time it is. Nobody does that.

Amione said Fichman is the safest doctor he has worked with and has revolutionized the practice.

“He changed the way eye surgery was done across the country,” he said. “He’s gotten so good over the years that there are cases other people won’t touch and only he will.”

Fichman said eye surgery involves injecting a needle into and under the eye to numb the eye muscles and optic nerve, desensitize the area and temporarily remove the person’s sight.

In 1992, he says, he discovered that after laser eye surgery, the eye was not as finely innervated as originally believed. He created a process, using an eye application, to numb the eye for surgery without the invasiveness of a needle injection.

He began a study on the new form of preparation for eye surgery and began to present his studies with his colleagues.

“When we use the laser, we numb the eye with eye drops,” he said. “I did 75 patients and wrote an article about it. Most weekends I would leave on Fridays, I would write a letter to the eye doctors. I would go to cities that were a direct flight from Bradley and I would rent the ballroom from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and do a four-hour course with 60 doctors and that’s how I told the world what to do.”

Since his revolutionary method, he said, 400 million cataract surgeries have been performed worldwide and at least half of them have been performed using his method.

Fichman said that during his more than 40-year practice, he tried to connect with his patients.

“Every time I meet a new patient, it’s a chance to build a new relationship, a chance to change someone’s life,” he said. “I can do something almost magical. I can’t imagine not doing that. I’m still really into it.”

“This practice is his identity,” Amione said. “He has a reputation like him. People come to see him. That means a lot.”

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