Dr. Dempsey is married with four children. She is a literary aficionado and enjoys volunteering for children’s educational programs.
Why I Became an Eye Surgeon
“What are you going to do when you grow up?” is a familiar question that is asked daily around the world. It is rare that the answer is evident. More often, through baby steps and small decisions, we end up somewhere. So how did I end up as a ophthalmologist in Orlando? I grew up in a single parent home with four sisters and an amazing, hardworking mom. She did not believe in just working hard herself, hard work was for everyone—an equal opportunity event. If the yard needed to be mowed, the linoleum floor changed, the cabinets painted, an eight year old should be able to handle it. At least that was her philosophy, and it seemed to work. She had bred a workforce that followed directions.
It did not take many years of picking peaches, feeding cows, or weeding gardens to realize that I was an indoor girl. Don’t get me wrong, I love a lazy float down the river or a drink overlooking the sunset, but my days with dirt under my nails and sweat dripping down my chest are to be limited in my adult life.
When I was twelve years old, I first volunteered at the hospital. I did this because my mother believed that everyone needed a job, including her preteen. She would drop me off on her way to work (her first job) and pick me up on her way home. (Most of the time. I still don’t let her forget the time she forgot me.) There, I saw a new world. It was clean, air conditioned, and orderly. I had found my place.
The second year I volunteered at a children’s hospital. I loved it! Kids are amazingly positive and resilient. I still remember a young boy, maybe 4 years old, that had severe burns. He was bandaged up like a mummy and could not walk due to his injuries. He was certainly in pain. He would definitely have scars, but what was really on his mind was the playroom. He wanted to go there. I would pull him there in a little red wagon. We would play for hours. He would only return to his room when therapy or medication rounds required it. This zeal for life, willingness to overlook the bad, and to seek out the joyful inspired me. I was hooked.
As I practice medicine today, whether it be in my orderly, air-conditioned, well-supplied office, or in a dirt-floored hut in a foreign country with sweat dripping down my chest and my teenaged children as my staff, I still love the joyful spirit of those seeking to get well, to see better, and to live a life that is full.
Whether you like digging in the dirt or working your mind inside the confines of an office, my mom’s passion for doing everything that you can every day to make your life and the lives’ of others better, is still the way to live it.
- Residency, University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, TX
- University of Tennessee Medical School, Memphis, TN
- University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, TN
Spending time with my sisters