A New Standard Attire for the Retinal Surgeon?

By Ehsan Rahimy, MD, and S.K. Steven Houston III, MD

Sartorial concerns are not usually at the top of a retina specialist’s list of worries. It’s not like we’re on the red carpet at the Oscars. Still, as we move away from fellowship and begin to develop a firmer sense of the nuts and bolts that maximize our professionalism, we need to consider that some small decisions have disproportionately large consequences. In this issue’s preview to our blog MakingARetinaSurgeon.com, we showcase the beginning of an article Steve wrote about utilitarian fashion choices in the clinic.

—Ehsan Rahimy, MD, and S.K. Steven Houston III, MD

I have constant discussions via group text messages with 10 to 15-plus young retina surgeons on a daily basis. A recent topic was, “What do I wear to clinic?” Traditional attire for men is some combination of slacks and long-sleeved button-up with a tie or bowtie, and a white coat. A suit or sport coat has also been traditionally worn. More recently, ties have been dropped secondary to concerns that ties are rarely washed or dry cleaned, thus harboring a plethora of bacteria. However, scrubs have traditionally been reserved for the operating room…until now. 

 As a retina surgeon, my day-to-day practice has me running around more than I did during my Ironman training. Up and down, room to room. I am constantly shuffling between 5 to 6 rooms, doing exams sitting at the slit-lamp, standing and using the indirect, and performing procedures including lasers and injections. My iHealth app has me logging 2.5 to 3.5 miles and 5,000 to 6,000 steps per day in clinic. Just as I wouldn’t exercise in uncomfortable clothing, I choose to be comfortable and practical in my clinic attire. Therefore, I have adopted daily wear of surgical scrubs with tennis shoes with or without a white coat (if I’m cold or need more storage pockets for my lenses). Unlike during residency and fellowship, these aren’t scrubs pulled out of the OR locker room, but instead are high quality material with embroidered information including my name and practice. I have 8 sets (blue, black, and a pink pair for October breast cancer awareness), so I can cycle a new pair every day and wash all at the end of the week.

 To my surprise, the majority of the surgeons on my group text message string have also converted to surgical scrub wear in clinic. We discussed the pros and cons of scrubs compared to traditional attire:

1. Comfortable and practical: When combined with a comfortable pair of tennis shoes, scrubs are like wearing workout clothes or pajamas to clinic. Despite all the running around and dynamic movement in clinic, I am comfortable all day long, and my feet rarely hurt! Lightweight material is also key for when your body temperature heats up from all the running around. One major drawback is that the pants have drawstrings, and I might not notice for months if my waistline is expanding . 

2. Professional look: Scrubs do not have the polished look of traditional attire, but we aren’t working in a bank or on Wall Street. We are a surgery- and procedure-oriented specialty, so, like intensivists and other surgical specialties, “bare below the elbows” rings true for retina surgeons as well.

3. Patient confidence: There have been peer-reviewed studies looking at the attire of physicians and how it affects patients’ perceptions in the ICU.


Read the rest of Dr. Houston’s list—and see some more emojis—at MakingARetinaSurgeon.com.


Contact Info

Bryn Mawr Communications LLC
1008 Upper Gulph Road, Suite 200
Wayne, PA 19087

Phone: 484-581-1800
Fax: 484-581-1818

Michael Jones
Senior Editor

Janet Burk

About New Retina MD

New Retina MD delivers cutting-edge content to retina specialists in their first 15 years of practice. Each issue provides fresh insight from younger physicians plus established mentors on clinical and nonclinical issues affecting ophthalmologists in the earlier stages of their careers. NRMD features surgical pearls, clinical research endeavors, practice management, medical reimbursement and policy, continuing educational requirements, financial planning, innovations, and more.