2017 Koch Kellan Scholar, Xinxin Zhang, was formally presented with her scholarship award at a ceremony held on Sunday, May 7. Ms. Zhang was invited to attend the 2017 ASCRS•ASOS annual meeting in Los Angeles on behalf of Paragon BioTeck where she had the opportunity to explore the conference and meet ophthalmic industry leaders. Read on to hear her thoughts about the conference and ceremony.
L-R:Dr. Paul S. Koch, Xinxin Zhang, Dr. Robert E. Kellan
Q: How did you feel at your first official Koch Kellan Scholar event? Did you have a good time in Los Angeles?
I had never been to Los Angeles before and had a fabulous time. The farthest west I had been was Illinois, which I understand is not actually the West. It was really cool seeing the different people, experiencing the different culture, and tasting different food. The whole trip was pretty jam-packed, but I got a lot out of it. It was great to meet everyone from Paragon. I was especially impressed by Patrick, who is very genuine in his commitment to the scholarship and helping people excel. I hadn’t been to many conferences like ASCRS, so the experience of being surrounded by so many leaders in ophthalmology was new but exciting. I learned a great deal about ophthalmology and how the field is advancing and was very inspired by it all.
Q: What was the highlight of the ASCRS•ASOA conference?
This year, ASCRS was celebrating the 50th anniversary of phaco (phacoemulsification for cataracts) and I enjoyed learning more about the history behind Dr. Charles Kelman’s invention. The procedure is taken for granted now, but many people came together to make this new technology work and become accepted as the standard of care. It was particularly fascinating to learn how this procedure has evolved into something I will eventually be able to perform in about five minutes.
Dr. Kellan and Dr. Koch actually took me to a wet lab on the show floor and taught me how to do a phaco on a pig eye! It was thrilling to learn how to perform this common procedure from two ophthalmology luminaries. The hands-on experience is something I’ll be talking about forever!
Q: Tell us about the award ceremony. What did it mean to you?
It was very humbling to be in the same room with so many legends in the field; not only did Dr. Koch and Dr. Kellan attend, but their fellows were also there, along with other famous ophthalmologists. For someone with my level of training—not even in my residency yet—it was mind-blowing to be introduced to the numerous doctors who are highly respected in the ophthalmology sphere. Speaking with experienced ophthalmologists made me even more excited to be entering this line of work and further validated that I have chosen the correct path for myself.
I was quite moved by Paragon’s support of this specialty and of the previous scholars. Despite the fact that neither Ed [Woodward, the first Koch Kellan Scholar] nor Hasenin [Al-khersan, the 2016 Koch Kellan Scholar] were able to attend the ceremony, I learned much about their journeys and am proud to be in the same category as these two extremely accomplished individuals. I’m looking forward to working in the same arena with them and considering them colleagues.
Q: What was it like meeting scholarship namesakes Drs. Paul S. Koch and Robert E. Kellan?
When people are that advanced and that famous, they risk becoming out-of-reach figureheads. But I found Dr. Koch and Dr. Kellan to be easy to talk to and down to earth. It was great to see that it’s possible to achieve their level of accomplishment while still retaining diverse interests and having fun. Their friendship was particularly inspiring. They’re like Captain Kirk and Spock: best friends sharing discoveries and exploring new borders together.
At the award ceremony, Dr. Kellan and I discussed the delicacy and elegance of ophthalmology and how it takes a certain sensitivity and appreciation for beauty to be successful in this field. Over the course of the weekend, I saw that type of personality in both Dr. Kellan and Dr. Koch and will carry that conversation with me as I move forward in my work.
Q: Did you learn anything at ASCRS that might help future applicants?
Be yourself. Nobody’s path to medicine or to ophthalmology is quite the same. It’s not about fitting a specific mold. If you have a story of why you chose ophthalmology, tell it honestly and passionately and let your story shine.
Q: What are you looking forward to as the 2017 Koch Kellan Scholar?
In addition to being immensely excited to read the next cycle of applications and see who the next scholar is going to be, I’m also looking forward to becoming friends with Hasenin and Ed and being a part of the Paragon family.
Read about Xinxin Zhang’s ophthalmic journey in a brief Q&A, peruse the 2017 Koch Kellan Scholar announcement, and learn more about the Koch Kellan Scholarship .