Dr. J. Gregory Rosenthal: Humanitarian

Dr. J. Gregory Rosenthal

Dr. J. Gregory Rosenthal

The title of this article came from Jan and Paul (Rocky) Rachow, leaders of the Frogtown Low Vision Support Group. The reason they chose this title will become clear as you read!

The Rachows suggested that VisionAware feature the efforts of Dr. Rosenthal in helping them with their support group. In her request, Jan enumerated a long list of things that Dr. Rosenthal has done for the group:

"Dr. Rosenthal, an ophthalmologist who specializes in eye care for people with diabetes, complex retinal detachments, and macular degeneration, has been a staunch supporter of ours, not only by being a guest speaker for our group, but in many other ways:

  • He prints our flyers and donates food for the support group events.
  • He bought hats with the Frogtown logo for the members, who wear them proudly.
  • The biggest show of support from Dr. Rosenthal has been in the creation of our own website, to showcase the group so that we may reach many more who have vision loss and are looking for information or ways to cope with their vision.
  • As an example of how the website is working, not long ago, a young girl of 19 years who had been dealing with vision problems for a number of years contacted us through the website. Paul immediately contacted Dr. Rosenthal to find out what could be done to help her. Unfortunately she lives about 70 miles away and could not get transportation that far, so he made arrangements to meet with her at a distance to which she could manage a ride. This is just one of the many ways he is so in tune with helping those who need it."

Intrigued by what the Rachows had to say, VisionAware interviewed Dr. Rosenthal to find out more.

VisionAware Interview with Dr. Gregory Rosenthal

VisionAware: Why did you decide to go into ophthalmology?

Dr. Rosenthal: I was going to be an endocrinologist but found I was interested in surgery. My sister died from diabetes and that greatly affected me, especially when she asked, "When is it not going to be dark?" So I decided to go into retinal surgery and work with people with diabetes. People in the U.S. who have diabetes are often uninsured. If you want to be the best you can be at diabetic retinal care, you had better be willing to take care of people with or without insurance. I made that commitment early on.

VisionAware: How did you get involved with the Frogtown Low Vision Support Group?

Dr. Rosenthal: Rocky came along. He had problems with his retina and severe vision loss. I was able to help him with regaining some of that vision. He subsequently formed the Frogtown Low Vision Support Group. One thing led to another and I got involved with helping him with his group.

VisionAware: Do you think that support groups help your patients?

Dr. Rosenthal: In addition to helping people regain vision, the other part of the battle is to help people use the vision they have. That is where low vision services and support groups come in. Rocky has created a nurturing environment where people learn practical things and learn from each other. Through networking they can guide each other to find services and doctors who care.

VisionAware: Do you think that ophthalmologists should tell patients about services that can help people to live with vision loss?

Dr. Rosenthal: I think that sometimes doctors give up on what they consider to be "failures," people whom they cannot return to good vision. It is a quality of life issue. Being a doctor is more than just providing medicine and surgery. Medical care is not a business first. It is a calling. A doctor isn't supposed to be the patient's adversary, worried first about getting the best price for goods and services. A doctor is supposed to be the patient's advocate.

We are supposed to use our skills to serve the patient's best interests, regardless of what we get back. If we work hard and "do the right thing," we will make a living. We need to be a "friend," not just a "technician." It is important to think from the patient's perspective, find out how they are doing, what problems they are having.

There are two parts to vision care: First, helping the eye be as good as it can be, and second, helping the patient "play the hand they are dealt" as well as possible. Saying that "nothing more can be done medically" should not be the end. It should be the beginning to figure out what else can be done to live one's life.

We need to think broader, think on smaller margins, and help patients without regard to their finances. We need more community benefactors, both doctors and business leaders. We need to remember the simple fact that everyone has a vision story—whether it be themselves, someone in their family, a friend, or colleague. We need to look for synergy and start creating solutions to help people get the care and also the real-world support they need to live their lives.

VisionAware: Here is a quote from a person with low vision who took the time to write to VisionAware:

"I met Dr. Rosenthal a couple of years ago and immediately I could tell that he was a doctor who sincerely cared about his patients first. It was obvious that he took an interest in his patients' welfare above all. He always seemed to take the time out of his busy day to talk to them and, more importantly, listen to them." - Ken Serey

In Closing from Jan Rachow

"Dr. Rosenthal will help those in need, regardless of complexity or insurance status. He understands that many people will not see a doctor because of lack of funds and he is a person who, when looking at a patient, sees not dollar signs but the words 'How can I help?'

Since 2007, Dr. Rosenthal has traveled to the Dominican Republic three to four times a year where he performs operations on people of all ages free of charge. He has done over 800 surgeries that would not have been possible without sacrificing his time. Dr. Rosenthal is also affiliated with several philanthropic groups: CareNet, Prevent Blindness Ohio, and The Sight Center of Northwest Ohio: Toledo Society for the Blind.

He also founded the Jairus Foundation, an organization dedicated to giving people who need it a second chance. I can't think of anyone I know who is admired more than Dr. Rosenthal for his humanitarian efforts, dedication to patients, charitable work, and dedication to family. When looking up the definition for 'humanitarian,' I'm sure his name should be first on the list."

Read more about the Frogtown Low Vision Support Group, an extremely active group that was the first support group to be featured on VisionAware.

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