Better Vision: the Motivation Behind Hattiesburg Eye Clinic’s Pursuit of Innovation

Last year Beverly Crawley underwent surgery at Hattiesburg Eye Clinic to remove cataracts distorting her vision. During each of her two surgeries, one for each eye, she received an intraocular lens (IOL) to replace the natural eye lens. Each procedure took less than 10 minutes, and later each surgery day she went home.

Combing her hair a few days after, she noticed something different. “For months I hadn’t seen anything more of my hair than a hazy outline,” says Crawley. “Suddenly, for the first time in a long time I could see individual strands of hair.” Once dependent on reading glasses of different strengths for her ever-changing vision, she soon could see clearly at all distances without glasses.

Her experience is a far cry from Dr. Stoney Williamson’s early cataract patients when he began Hattiesburg Eye Clinic in 1970. “In the beginning we performed cataract surgery in a hospital setting,” says Dr. Williamson. “We made incisions that required eight to ten stitches and the patient had to remain in the hospital a few days after.”

Patients also didn’t have the benefit of IOLs. Once the natural lenses were removed during surgery, the patient depended thereafter on strong prescription glasses.

“We’ve certainly come a long way in our patient care,” says Dr. Williamson.

Since then, he and his fellow surgeons Dr. David Richardson and Dr. Todd Williamson have ridden a tidal wave of vision care innovation, amassing numerous treatment firsts for Hattiesburg and, in some cases, Mississippi. The Hattiesburg Eye Clinic was first in the area to perform a corneal transplant; first in blade-free custom iLasik refraction surgery; and first in stitch/no stitch cataract surgery.

This last year they became the first eye care provider in the state to implement the CATALYS® fully automated cataract laser. Soon after, they were the first to offer the new Symfony® IOLs with Beverly Crawley one of the first patients to receive them. Currently considered the most advanced IOL, Symfony® Lenses can correct vision at all distances, as well as astigmatism.

Today, their patients experience less time in surgery, less recovery time and less discomfort. And, they enjoy something in abundance their counterparts a generation ago rarely did – choices.

“Patients then had very few options, especially for determining how well they would be able to see after treatment,” says Dr. Williamson. “Now, patients have a number of IOLs to choose from to fit their situation and eye conditions, to try to gain the best vision possible.”

While there’s a strong commitment among the surgeons to pursue innovation, it still requires much time, effort and expense to incorporate new techniques and technologies into their practice.

“Even though it seems we’re ambitious with these new technologies, we’re actually very conservative in our approach,” says Dr. David Richardson. “We research and watch developments like CATALYS® and Symfony® for many years before we introduce them. We want to be sure they’re the best we can offer to patients.”

Richardson points to the CATALYS® Laser as a case in point. They’d been monitoring the development of cataract lasers for some years, interested primarily in their precision – how well the laser’s performance led to predictable outcomes. They were impressed with CATALYS® because, unlike other systems, it had been designed from the ground up specifically to treat cataracts.

Still, they wanted to see the system in action. “We all traveled to a colleague using the system in Georgia and were able to observe a number of procedures,” says Dr. Richardson. “That allowed us to see firsthand the benefit to patients.”

Even with their impressive array of innovative firsts, the Hattiesburg Eye Clinic Team isn’t slowing down on the development front. They believe strongly there’s no resting point in pursuing better vision care.

“It’s a serious problem for any practice to get comfortable and stop innovating,” says Dr. Todd Williamson. “When you stop looking ahead, you could be lagging behind in less than a decade. And you won’t be offering the best available care to your patients.”

While the pace of development at Hattiesburg Eye Clinic may appear rapid at times, their ultimate aim is certainty. By pursuing innovation they want to ensure that all patient outcomes are like Beverly Crawley’s – better, sharper vision.

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