Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler on why purpose of life is “to do good”

My favorite life lesson quote is from my mother-in-law Regina Boxer which is about being kind to others, “It is just by the way the cards have been dealt that you are helping and not being helped.” This beautifully weaves in that the purpose of life is to do good. I had the pleasure of interviewing […]

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My favorite life lesson quote is from my mother-in-law Regina Boxer which is about being kind to others, “It is just by the way the cards have been dealt that you are helping and not being helped.” This beautifully weaves in that the purpose of life is to do good.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Boxer Wachler, MD. He is director of the Boxer Wachler Vision Institute in Beverly Hills and an amazing ophthalmologist who single-handedly shaped the course of how the eye disease called Keratoconus is treated by inventing non-invasive Holcomb C3-R® Crosslinking and Intacs for Keratoconus, both of which are 1-day recovery procedures.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path

As a child I knew I wanted to help people. My uncle Jeff Wacksman is a well-known pediatric urologic surgeon and along with my parents supported my calling to be a physician. In medical school I did ophthalmology research which peaked my interest. When I was a resident at Saint Louis University Eye Institute, a visiting professor James Salz, MD gave a lecture about the then still-in-FDA-trials excimer laser used for PRK laser vision correction. At that moment I knew I wanted to be a part of something new as that is my personality — to do be innovative.

Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

I became a cornea specialist after my specialization fellowship with Dan Durrie, MD in Kansas City. I was performing cornea transplants for Keratoconus early in my career. Cornea transplants are very invasive, have serious risks including blindness, and take 6–12 months for full recovery. I knew there had to be a better way to treat this disease. I first developed Intacs for Keratoconus to reshape the cornea and improve vision, but the problem was the cornea was still weak and continued to bulge out like a hernia. I wanted to figure out how to non-invasively strengthen the cornea. I invented a non-invasive, 30-minute procedure called C3-R® which has a 99.3% success rate to stop progression of Keratoconus. It’s just a 1-day recovery too. After my first scientific presentation of my results to hundreds of cornea specialists, I naively thought I’d get a standing ovation like you see in movies. Instead I was hit by the freight train of personal attacks from my colleagues and vicious attempts to discredit me and my procedure. These doctors escalated their efforts to destroy me and my reputation. I soon realized the reason was because my C3-R® procedure was threatening the lucrative cornea transplant surgeries that they were performing for Keratoconus. I persevered in the name of helping patients. Things looked really bleak for me until a miracle occurred. One of my patients who I treated was Steven Holcomb. He was the top U.S. Olympic bobsled driver. After I treated him with C3-R® and implanted Visian ICL lenses to improve his vision, he won an Olympic gold medal at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. It was the first gold for the U.S. in 62 years. The tsunami of media coverage of Steven going from blind to Olympic champion silenced most of my critics and turned the tide. I then named the procedure after Steven which marked the first time ever that a medical procedure was named after an Olympic athlete. You can watch my TEDx talk which was the first time I publicly discussed the hardships I endured and Steven role in helping me. Here is the link:

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I learned about being determined, having grit, and not giving up in the midst of adversity through competitive rowing in college. I rowed crew at UCLA and Edinburgh University. The training was grueling. There was a famous quote in our UCLA boathouse above the door, “Conditioning if physical. Toughness is a state of mind.” Very true. About eight years ago I started rowing and competing again. It’s awesome.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

I’m so happy to see that Holcomb C3-R has stood the test of time — 16 years now. As the first non-invasive crosslinking, it has the longest track record in the world for non-invasive crosslinking. Every week many people fly here from all over the United States and the world for our Keratoconus treatments. My staff and I know we are blessed and honored to be able to change people’s lives in the special ways that we do. We appreciate the trip people routinely make because they can’t have these treatments in their local cities. My staff and I have much gratitude for the special ways that change people’s lives every day.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)

The six ways that I think people can develop grit are: 1) identify something that you want to do which is a stretch, like learning a musical instrument, a new sport, or a language for example, 2) write it down on paper and put it up where you will see it all time, like on the fridge or bathroom mirror, 3) seek a teacher or coach to assist you, 4) plot out dedicated time to practice with intent of getting better, 4) never let excuses allow you to change that practice schedule or give up, and 6) make an end goal for your new activity that is tangible, like doing a concert (even just among friends and family in your home), entering a competition (like a 10K race if you start running), etc.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

It’s so important you have a teacher or coach in anything that you want to do that is new. The transference of experience massively shortcuts your path to success. Dan Durrie, MD was my fellowship director in Kansas City and he helped me with my training. David Schanzlin, MD was my residency director at Saint Louis University Eye Institute and I learned a lot from him. Oscar Cruz, MD was also on faculty during my residency in Saint Louis. He was tough on me at times and gave me one bit of advice that was so important: “If you want to be a cornea surgeon, you will need to operate with both hands with equal dexterity. When you eat, use the fork, knife, and spoon in your non-dominant hand.” He also advised me to shave with my non-dominant hand which was concerning to me, but fortunately I never required a blood transfusion. Ben Franklin’s writings continue to have a large influence of me (clearly not a personal teacher of mine otherwise everyone would want to know my secret for longevity).

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I set out to prove through Socratic reasoning that the purpose of life is “to do good.” I wrote an article in the HuffPost describing my line of reasoning. That is also why I personally give out socks to the homeless every week on my way to the boathouse. I try to practice being kind and good in all aspects of my life. Here’s the article https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/what-is-the-purpose-of-life_us_58a3864ae4b080bf74f041ce

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am an innovator and enjoy developing solutions to problems that don’t exist. I have pioneered the WhiterEyes™ treatment for permanently blood shot eyes and brown spots on the eyes. I have patented a technique to try dry eyes with IPL light therapy and am developing that. There are two other treatments for conditions that are in the pipeline, but due to confidentiality I can’t discuss them at this time.

What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?

The advice I would give to executives or founders to help their employees thrive is to lead by example. Your employees always have eyes on you, even when you think they aren’t looking, because you are their leader. That’s why your publicly visible life needs to be consistent with who you are at work. Hypocrisy kills employee morale because it undermines credibility. For example, if you work for PETA (animal protection group) but you come back to the office one Monday and show off photos of you quail hunting or dining on dog in South Korea, your staff might have some thoughts about that.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I have received great feedback on my HuffPost article about the purpose of life is to do good. It would be incredible if more people read that article and were inspired to the point where a movement started of doing good in your daily life (here’s a small example — letting someone in front of you while you’re in bumper-to-bumper traffic).

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite life lesson quote is from my mother-in-law Regina Boxer which is about being kind to others, “It is just by the way the cards have been dealt that you are helping and not being helped.” This beautifully weaves in that the purpose of life is to do good.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Our websites are keratoconusinserts.com and www.BoxerWachler.com

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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