Dr. Brian Boxer-Wachler radiates warmth. When I stepped into the board-certified, world-renowned Keratoconus expert’s Beverly Hills office, I was greeted by a staff eager to give me all the information I needed for the day.
I had an eye-exam and consultation scheduled with Dr. Brian, recognized as ‘America’s TV Eye Doctor.” I’d seen his work on TV shows like Dr. Drew’s Life Changers and Fox and Friends and was stunned by his generosity and compassion.
He practices corneal disease treatment and refractive eye surgery and is the founder of the Boxer Wachler Vision Institute. He also has a long list of celebrity patients, including Lucy Liu, Seal, Los Angeles Clipper Jamal Crawford and Olympic gold medalist Steven Holcomb.
Never thought I’d say this, but the eye exam was fun! Dr. Brian’s office is up to date with the latest technology, which made the exam fun and fresh. It also didn’t hurt that my exam results were super positive.
Dr. Brian has a book coming out October 2 called Perceptual Intelligence: The Brain’s Secret to Seeing Past Illusion, Misperception and Self-Deception. We sat down to talk about the stresses of performing surgery on TV, what inspires and drives him and how socks are a big part of how he gives back to the world.
Q: Performing surgery is stressful enough. How do you do it on TV? So much pressure.
A: It’s not. I guess it’s like being an athlete. I get in the zone. Even when I’m not on TV doing surgery. I’m in the zone and I sort of don’t notice anything around me. Just like Michael Jordan. He’s not thinking about everybody watching. He’s just focused on what’s actually happening with him and the ball and the basket.I’m releasing a book in the fall called ‘Perceptual Intelligence, The Brain’s Secret to Seeing Past Illusion, Misperception, and Self-Deception.’ We have a whole chapter on sports. There’s a lot of research about how athletes get in the zone, and that’s kind of what I do.
Q: Tell me more about the self-deception part of your book.
A: The brain processes the world around us. And depending on how that is going, people can be living in reality or they can be in sort of fantasy perception. It goes to almost everything. When you’re watching an ad, and a celebrity is doing the ad, so many people will believe and buy based on their preconceived notions of the celebrity. It’s called the halo effect. A good example was Jamie Lee Curtis was doing ads for the yogurt product called Activa. They made some claims that were a little bit problematic. But again people really respect and like Jamie Lee Curtis, and so that halo effect distorted the reality of what was happening in those ads. There’s more of a description on Amazon, where the book is available for pre-sale.
Q: That’s out in October, right?
A: It’s out in October, but if people want to get a head start, they can get it on Amazon right now. Also Montel Williams wrote the forward.
Q: Oh I love Montel.
A: He’s a big inspiration. He has Multiple Sclerosis, and he’s managed to lead a completely full and productive life in spite of it. That ties into this one chapter we have on disease perception.
Q: They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. Do you think you develop a stronger emotional connection with your patients than doctors in other fields?
A: For me being a doctor is about helping people and healing people. We see all ranges of people, and I think the connection is mostly just because I care about helping. I know that that’s why I’m here. When you’re a kid or you’re younger, you don’t always have that clarity, but years ago I really developed that clarity. That’s why I’m here. To do what I’m doing, helping people. Especially helping them in ways that they can’t get anywhere else. Virtually every procedure we do, or surgery we do, there’s an innovative aspect I’ve pioneered. LASIK for example. It’s not just regular LASIK that you can get on almost any corner. It’s called Fortified LASIK. So we do a strengthening process at the very end of the procedure. It’s designed to give longer-term stability in people’s eyesight. With regard to Keratoconus, I invented this procedure called Holcomb C3-R, named after Steven Holcomb the bobsledder, who is going to be competing at the Korea Olympics in February 2018. He’s won a gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and two bronze medals in 2014 Sochi Olympics. Holcomb C3-R is a procedure I developed 14 years ago to keep Keratoconus from getting worse and save people from cornea transplants, which are very invasive and have some real risks. People fly in from all over the country and from other countries to have us treat them. There’s a condition where people can get freckles on the whites of their eyes from sun damage. There’s a process I developed called I-Brite where we can treat the freckles or treat people who have bloodshot eyes from the sun or yellow spots, too. I’ve always been a really creative person, but also a scientist at the same time, so combining those two is what has enabled us to do what we have done and innovate the way we’ve innovated here. And that gives me a high level of satisfaction because we’re helping people we know can’t get help anywhere else. And that’s emotional.
Q: What’s on the horizon?
A: I’m working on a treatment for women that have thinning eyebrows to help them get thicker brows. We’ve had some early good success with that.
Q: You work with a lot of athletes and actors. Whats your favorite TV show?
A: I’ve been watching Westworld, because as a kid I remember going to the movies and seeing the original Westworld in the 70s. I just remember it was the coolest concept at the time. Also I really like ‘The Kindness Diaries’ on Netflix, again because it ties into so much of what I’m about. Not just me but also my family watches that series. I have a wife and two daughters who are 11 years old. We’re instilling in them the message that it’s good to be kind to people and do kind things. One of the things I do every week is I give out socks to the homeless. I do it myself. I don’t delegate that one. I want to be the one that interacts with these people in need. It’s great seeing those faces, and hearing the thank you’s, and hearing positive affirmations, for something that to us is maybe not a big deal, but for somebody on the street having cleans socks is a big deal. Even if I’m traveling or lecturing in another country, I’ll bring a bag or two of socks with me so that week I’ll give out socks. I’ve literally given out socks all over the world.
Q: That’s so simple and yet I’ve never thought about it.
A: My trunk’s stocked with bags of socks.
Q: That must be funny for someone who doesn’t know why you have those.
A: Haha. Yeah they might look in the trunk and think ‘I guess he just loves socks.’