April 2014




Ophthalmologist plans to pursue cartography as second career

by Ellen Stodola EyeWorld Staff Writer


Robert Tibolt, MD, at an Oregon Academy of Ophthalmology reception with his maps Manhattan and its neighborhoods

Boston central neighborhoods

Lower Manhattan Source (all): Robert Tibolt, MD

Looking toward retirement, Dr. Tibolt already has plans to move to mapping

Robert Tibolt, MD, Salem, Ore., has been interested in mapping and cartography ever since taking a course his senior year of college. Now after making a career as an ophthalmologist, Dr. Tibolt is starting on the path to retirement from medicine. But when he retires, he plans to make his hobby into a second career. He spoke about his interest in cartography and his plans.

"Usually when I say to people that I'm a cartographer, they get a quizzical look and they're very surprised that there's an actual human being who makes maps," he said. People are surprised that he completes his maps by hand, Dr. Tibolt said, as most think the computer is involved in some way. On the contrary, Dr. Tibolt does his maps by hand and ink, just as he was taught.

An interest in cartography

Dr. Tibolt said that he has always been interested in geography and maps. After taking a physical geography course in college, which was an introductory course, Dr. Tibolt realized as he was searching for a class to take one semester that he had all the prerequisites to enroll in a cartography course, which was taught by the same professor he had already had.

"It had a didactic section where he gave lectures about the history of mapping and techniques. Then there was a studio section where he taught us techniques of making maps," Dr. Tibolt said. The professor had been the personal cartographer for General George Marshall in World War II, and Dr. Tibolt said he was a brilliant cartographer who had been mapping his whole life.

After taking the course, Dr. Tibolt took up cartography as a hobby. Despite knowing that it would not be his profession, he became very serious about it.

Moving from ophthalmology to cartography

After pursuing a career as an ophthalmologist, Dr. Tibolt is now starting to move away from that part of his professional work. "I retired from surgery at the end of 2013," he said. "That was my first formal step toward retirement." Now, he is starting to work on his plan to transition to another career. Currently he is still seeing patients and doing minor surgery, but has stopped doing cataract surgery.

"Map making will be my next career," he said.

Selling his maps

"I have formed a limited liability company that will sell and market my maps," Dr. Tibolt said. "I'm taking an online course from the business school of my college in entrepreneurism, and I have a website that I'm using to display my maps. I'm trying to have this thing evolve into a commercial venture."

The current series of maps that he's working on is his version of the "Great American Cities." The first two maps that he did were of Manhattan, and his goal was to depict the city and its neighborhoods. "I've been to Manhattan and know a little bit, but it's always a mysterious place because it's so big," he said. "It has so many neighborhoods, and a lot of those things are just black boxes."

Dr. Tibolt used color to demarcate all the major neighborhoods in Manhattan, including Chelsea, Harlem, Tribeca, and the Upper East Side, to give people an idea of where each is located so they can appreciate them even more. He has made both a horizontal and a vertical map of Manhattan. Although the vertical version is the traditional orientation for maps, the horizontal version makes it easier to get the information, particularly for Manhattan because of its size.

Dr. Tibolt has also done a map of Boston and is working on one of Washington, D.C.

Similarities between ophthalmology and cartography

Dr. Tibolt said he sees similarities between his ophthalmology and cartography work. "To make a map you have to be able to do research. You have to be able to visualize what you want. You have to be able to intellectualize a theme," Dr. Tibolt said. "And you have to pay great attention to detail because with the practice of ophthalmology and with making maps, everything has to be perfect." He added that both professions require a lot of patience. For example, phacoemulsification requires being patient and not rushing. With cartography as well, he needs to pay particular attention when inking a map because if he's not careful, one mistake can wipe out hundreds of hours of work and potentially destroy the whole thing. "You have to be interested in something that demands manual dexterity and fine motor skills," he said.

Dr. Tibolt emphasized the satisfaction that comes with both ophthalmology and cartography. In his work as a surgeon, there is great satisfaction in knowing that he's helped a patient to see better, and the same goes for seeing the completed product of a map that has taken a lot of time and effort to create.

For Dr. Tibolt, it is especially nice that as he approaches retirement, he is able to look forward to something else that he is passionate about. Dr. Tibolt's work can be viewed at battlebornarts.artistwebsites.com.

Contact information

Tibolt: tiboltr@comcast.net

Ophthalmologist plans to pursue cartography as second career Ophthalmologist plans to pursue cartography as second career
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