Alumni Spotlight: Daniel Bustos Works As An Ophthalmologist
1) When did you first become interested in science?
I remember gaining interest in science when I was much younger, probably around eight or nine years old—I thought being an astronaut, or at least working for NASA would be an amazing career. I lived 10 minutes from NASA-Johnson Space Center growing up so I had a lot of exposure to it.
2) Why did you pick The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and your program?
I picked UT Health San Antonio for the focused Master’s degree track in Anatomy. I had interest in going to medical school and I found that degree track to be the most useful and functionally advantageous to me as a pre-medical student.
3) Tell me more about your career path.
I earned my Bachelor of Science in Zoology at Brigham Young University, my Master of Science in Anatomy at UT Health San Antonio and my Medical Doctorate degree at UT Health San Antonio. My internship was in internal medicine at University Hospital associated with UT Health San Antonio. I completed a residency in ophthalmology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Upon finishing residency I began working as a comprehensive ophthalmologist and cataract surgeon, first in Oregon for six years after residency and now in Nashville, TN for the past four years.
4) Tell me about your current career, what do you do?
As an ophthalmologist, I am a medical doctor who specializes in the medical and surgical diseases of the eyes. My time is spent nearly half of the time in clinic and half in surgery. While in clinic I manage cataracts, glaucoma, uveitis, and other anterior segment eye diseases; I perform minor procedures such as lasers in the clinic as well. In the operating room I primarily perform cataract surgeries—approximately 1,000/year.
5) What is a day like in your job?
A day in clinic consists of seeing 25-30 patients who are both new and returning patients. I evaluate many patients per day for cataract surgery and this also includes post-operative visits after surgery. In addition, I evaluate and manage many glaucoma patients.
Most of my time in clinic is spent either in face-to-face time with the patient, doing their examination, eliciting a medical history, and giving counsel/guidance regarding medical diagnoses, prognoses, and interventions. However, I do spend a healthy amount of time in front of a computer, documenting every last thing I do for/to the patient in an electronic medical record.
6) How did your education at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio prepare you?
My education at UT Health San Antonio was rigorous and expansive. I learned how to handle a large volume of information and principles and translate them into daily application. I learned the precise attention to detail that is necessary to have as a scientist, which translates quite productively to being an ophthalmologist, where a few micrometers means the difference between sight and blindness.
7) What is the most challenging part of your work?
The most challenging part of my work is the sheer volume of patients and surgeries that I see and perform. While it may seem not to be a physically demanding thing to perform a fifteen minute surgery while sitting down, it is exactly the opposite. Each patient is fundamentally unique and brings unique challenges to each case, whether physically, psychologically, or socio-economically. In addition, I operate in a two to four millimeter space while the patient is awake and can move. At the end of a day of surgery I feel like someone who has finished a track and field meet!
8) What is the most rewarding part of your work?
The most rewarding part of my work is the tremendous difference I can make in the lives of my patients. In some fields of medicine, the physician experiences mostly delayed gratification, if at all, in seeing the fruits of the work in the lives of their patients. For me, I can operate on someone who has only barely seen the hand in front of their face for many years and the next day they can be seeing 20/20. The hugs and thank-you’s and tears of joy never get old!
9) What has been your proudest achievement?
My proudest achievement is the thriving practice I’ve been able to build over the last four years in Nashville. I was able to take a practice that hadn’t made money in many years and become one of the most productive cataract surgery practices in the state. What I’m most proud of is I did this by being a highly ethical surgeon, taking great care of and having concern for each patient individually and treating them as equal partners in their care. The number of patients I have who are thrilled with my care for them continues to multiply at a surprising rate because happy patients refer their friends and family to me.
10) What would you tell a current student interested in your career? Any advice?
I would tell a current student interested in my career to spend plenty of time shadowing an ophthalmologist and picking their brains regarding the plusses and minuses of ophthalmology as a career, and the field of medicine in general. It is a very demanding profession in many ways and it is becoming harder and harder to practice medicine in today’s climate of government/insurance intervention between the doctor and the patient. Not to mention it costs a fortune to become a physician!
11) What do you like to do outside of work?
Outside of work I like to spend time with my kids and my wife. We love nature and take advantage of the beautiful environment here in Middle Tennessee whenever we can. We also like to play tennis and pickleball together, or just sit and watch a movie together.
12) Growing up, what did you want to be?
From the time I remember starting to think about a profession, I thought I would be an astronaut, or at least a scientist at NASA, but possibly both together. Up until college this was my goal—I even landed a summer high school research apprenticeship at NASA-Johnson Space Center and spent the entire summer between my junior and senior years of high school working at the space center, including in mission control.
13) Who has influenced you the most in life?
The people who have influenced me the most are my parents and Jesus Christ.
14) What is your favorite quote and why?
My favorite quote is by Harold B. Lee, given at the memorial service for Dwight E. Eisenhower. It is my favorite because it shows me what I can become and defines what is most important to me:
“The superior man is spiritual. He exemplifies simplicity. He abhors being conspicuous. He is dedicated to service. Superior people are never bitter. Pessimism is the philosophy of vulgarity. The superior person is clean. His fellowship is refreshing. He is above his pleasures…. A superior man is gentle…. Superior men are humble-minded, or teachable, and they learn from passersby. The superior man is one with whom familiarity does not breed contempt. The superior man lasts; he wears well.” (Harold B. Lee, “Memorial Service for President Dwight D. Eisenhower, March 1969” – see The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 607)
15) If you were stranded on a deserted island, w
hat one band or musician would help keep your sanity?
If I were stranded on a deserted island I would probably have to bring Sting with me. Whether I’m in a rock and roll mood (the Police) or a more mellow-mood (later career solo-Sting), he has music for all emotions.
16) What are some of your hobbies?
Reading would probably be my favorite hobby, but being a busy physician and father of four kids doesn’t leave much time for hobbies, if any.
17) If you could have dinner with one person, living or dead, who would it be?
The dinner party guest, dead or living, is easy: Jesus Christ.
18) If you won the lottery, what would you do?
If I won the lottery, I would remove the figurative millstone from my neck that is my student loan debt. I would build our dream home and buy a nice car. But the rest of it would go to making other’s lives better—helping those who need the help most.
19) If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
New Zealand would probably be my first choice for travel anywhere in the world.
20) If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
If I could only eat one thing the rest of my life, it would be a sandwich. Think of it—you can make a sandwich for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and put just about anything between two slices of bread!
21) Tell us something about yourself that otherwise we wouldn’t know or guess.
I operated on a member of the Rolling Stones (who shall remain nameless) and the landlord of my rental home is a famous member of the band Chicago (again…nameless).