I am an Ophthalmologist with a long history of innovating new approaches to treating disease. Early on in 1986, as resident in training at the Duke Eye Center, I decided to see if I could help wet macular degeneration because the current therapy back then was very damaging to healthy retina. Eye doctors basically burned away the wet disease and destroyed healthy retina in the process. So I “got an idea” which led to leading a team that included members of the department of chemistry. The goal was to clot the abnormal blood vessels in wet macular degeneration instead of burn them with a laser. Click this link to view this history: http://bit.ly/2WRQa4N My primary motivation for taking on such an ambitious project as a resident is the same motivation that drives me today. I wanted to make a difference for macular degeneration. I wanted to help people not have their golden years of life ruined by blindness.
Following my residency, I was unable to devote the time that was necessary to continuing with the pursuit of helping macular degeneration. Building and managing a full time eye practice was all consuming. Macular Degeneration needed to be put on hold as I was focused on the new and exciting world of laser eye surgery to end glasses and contact lenses. Despite managing a full time Ophthalmology practice I worked with the FDA and invented novel ways for how Lasik surgery was performed.
While in the midst of developing Lasik surgery techniques and building my practice, I decided to take a vacation to Hawaii where I met a doctor that specialized in anti-aging medicine. As my nickname is “Curious George” I found his work fascinating. He was trying to find and treat the underlying causes of disease. (I now refer to this as Advanced Wellness because people don’t like the phrase anti-aging medicine). My thirst for knowledge in the area of Advanced Wellness quickly grew and I started attending educational symposia on the subject. But, to really do this right I knew I needed to find scientific experts in biochemistry and nutrition to assist me. I don’t pretend to know everything and the human body is extremely complex.
So I started practicing Advanced Wellness to treat a variety of age-related, progressive diseases, It was rewarding because we could help patients when the conventional drug model failed and it really did slow down the aging process! While I found that treating different types of conditions with Advanced Wellness was rewarding and exciting, I never lost my passion for wanting to do more for patients with macular degeneration!
On a personal note, I was worried about my family history. My aunt Mary went blind from macular degeneration, and my mom also had advanced dry macular degeneration, and she expected me to help her, which by the way I did! Another challenge for me was dealing with being viewed by my colleagues as a renegade doctor as Advanced Wellness was something they knew nothing about. This caused me to be somewhat isolated professionally, but I moved beyond worrying about seeking my peers approval having done groundbreaking work with the FDA in Lasik. Old habits die hard for doctors and this is certainly true of Retina doctors.
New methods to treat the eye were urgently needed since the current methods were starting to feel like how they used leeches to clean the blood in the early days of medical practice. In other words, over the counter vitamins that didn’t improve vision just wasn’t good enough for me. I knew I was qualified to tackle macular degeneration just as I used my scientific intuition to help invent Lasik eye surgery. However, of immense help to me was and is our chief science officer Dr. Brian Bakke. Brian is a PhD in biochemistry who studied macular degeneration at the Columbia Medical School.
So, after years of clinical study and experience with Advanced Wellness, Dr Bakke and I wanted to see if it could help macular degeneration. The first problem to overcome was how to encourage patients to take a chance on a new approach to treat what I thought were the the root causes of macular degeneration. Who was going to be first? If I could not find that first patient, this science could be buried in the literature for years and patients would continue to lose their vision. Then, thankfully, one of my forward thinking loyal patients said “sure I’ll try anything you want me to Dr. Rozakis!” just as they did when we were inventing Lasik.
Our first patient had dry macular degeneration. In our initial conversation we stated to her that our goal was to stop the progression of the disease. That was it! Nothing more. But, after only one month something surprising and amazing occurred – her vision improved. I was initially skeptical of her report of improved vision, but after interviewing her and reviewing her eye test results I realized it was true. More patients would follow with similar success with visual improvements. We had, for the first time, a strategy that attacked the real causes of the disease and also resulted in improved vision!
The culmination of these efforts resulted in a publication in Life Extension Magazine. The publication highlighted our philosophy to treat dry macular degeneration with one part of Advanced Wellness. The word started to get out and suddenly, I was at the forefront of a new way of treating Macular Degeneration. Some eye doctors that were previously skeptical were now beginning to reach out to me to learn more about this new approach to treating the dry form of the disease.
In order to more effectively support other doctors across the country to treat their patients with dry macular degeneration, I assembled a team of top scientists to help manage patients with Macular Degeneration. We then built a sophisticated telemedicine system to prepare ourselves to treat large numbers of people going blind from this disease. But there was a problem.
Patients were afraid to go against their current eye doctor and retina doctors recommendations. Keep in mind that retina doctors are looked upon in awe by their patients but the fact remains they know nothing about Advanced Wellness. They are not trained in this area and few, if any, are aware of the connection between Advanced Wellness and eye disease. Their approach to treating macular degeneration is limited to the AREDS supplement, smoking cessation and to consume more leafy green vegetables. Unfortunately, patients are not scientists, so they did not have enough knowledge to critically challenge the dead end advice offered by their retina specialists. The AREDS study was newly published, and people thought it was the answer, and the corporate interest advertising was effective. It still is. So even though we knew that we could help macular degeneration patients, people were hesitant to work with us on this novel approach to disease management.
Due to these obstacles we encountered in entering into the macular degeneration market, we made a decision to focus our science in other areas of medicine were we could make a difference. We were so successful in our efforts in applying Advanced Wellness principles to treating migraine patients we were awarded the Advancements in Healthcare Award for our achievements. My acceptance speech is on my website at www.DrRozakis.com. Our team’s collective efforts were rewarded as we were selected over other deserving participants, including nominees from the Cleveland Clinic. I was living a real sort of “David and Goliath” fairly tale.
But in the back of our minds was this feeling that we needed to come back to macular degeneration. As fate would have it we were introduced to the perfect patient for our reintroduction to macular degeneration. Her name was Pat Adams. Pat had wet macular degeneration that had received multiple injections which, unfortunately, were not working. She came to us, and because of the advanced state of her condition, I advised her I did not think we could help her. She insisted that she had no where else to go because her retina doctors told her there was nothing else they could do for her. Pat knew the odds were stacked against her, but she wanted to proceed with our program anyway. What happened next stunned the eye world. After six months, she no longer needed eye injections and has remained injection free for 5 years.
Wow, such an amazing and unexpected outcome! So we redoubled our focus and treated other wet macular degeneration patients and realized that we could reduce their need for injections. This validated our efforts to refocus our Advanced Wellness approach on dry and wet macular degeneration. What followed was the Macular Program, which enables patients to be readily treated by our scientific methods, which are now more advanced than when we started working with Pat.
And while we got better, the science behind the AREDS vitamins has proven with time to be less and less impressive and more and more archaic. The AREDS supplement has only been shown to be effective for 1:17 people in slowing the disease. That’s only 5.9%. And, it does not prevent the disease, improve vision or help with the wet form of the disease. By contrast, we are recording improvements in vision and we are helping stop the conversion of dry to wet disease. Now, because of Pat Adams, we see a path to help dry macular degeneration patients see better and wet macular degeneration patients need fewer injections. Looking back, in the ten years since being profiled in Life Extension Magazine, we now have over 1,000 doctors who believe and support our science and are ready to help their patients. This is why we created the macular program.
Early intervention is the key to improved longterm outcomes in macular degeneration. Generally speaking, the earlier you begin addressing the root cause(s) and treating the disease the more successful the outcome. This is certainly true for macular degeneration. Early detection through advanced technologies such as the Maculogix testing enable eye care professionals and their patients to get a head start on the treatment process. And Advanced Wellness offers the solution.
Cases like Pat’s are exceptional and offer patients with advanced macular degeneration hope, but unfortunately, her results may not be typical. While we have a demonstrated track record of success in helping patients with the wet form of the disease improve their vision and/or reduce the need for injections, many others that have failed the early detection testing, but have not been formally diagnosed or have a family history or have genetic risk factors or that have the dry form of the disease, must act today and not wait until the disease has advanced and is much more difficult to treat.
The macular program has allowed me to create another contribution to my profession, along with the hard-working Ph.D.’s on our team. As we get the word out, we are poised to help millions of seniors avoid having their golden years ruined by macular degeneration. We have no intention of stopping our mission to help patients with macular degeneration. We plan to apply the same approach that has been so successful in macular degeneration and migraine to diabetic retinal disease, glaucoma, cataract, retinitis pigmentosa and inflammatory diseases of the eye. This is my purpose and I’m loving every minute of it.