October 2014




Ophthalmologist sees success with 2 books

by Ellen Stodola EyeWorld Staff Writer


Andrew Lam, MD

My goal as a writer is to try to find lesser-known aspects of history or episodes in history that deserve to be better known and try to make them accessible to people by writing about them in a way that would be interesting to them.

Andrew Lam, MD


Source: Andrew Lam, MD

Map from Two Sons of China Source: Andrew Lam, MD

Learn more about Dr. Lam and his books at www.AndrewLamMD.com.

Dr. Lams books focus on ophthalmology and history topics

Originally from Springfield, Ill., Andrew Lam, MD, a partner at New England Retina Consultants, Springfield, Mass., and assistant professor of ophthalmology at Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, attended Yale University, where he studied military history with a focus on U.S. and East Asian relations. Dr. Lam was fascinated by everything he learned about World War II in China, and he became frustrated that not many people seemed to know what had happened there. A lot of Americans know about the war in Europe and the war in the Pacific, but not a lot know that tens of thousands of Americans served in China or that 15 to 20 million Chinese died in the war, he said. Although he was passionate about history, Dr. Lam knew that he wanted to be a doctor because of his desire to help people. This stemmed partly from the fact that his father was a cardiologist, and in his small city growing up, he became accustomed to people stopping them on the street to thank his father for saving their life or the life of a loved one. These kinds of things showed me how gratifying it could be to be a doctor, Dr. Lam said.

This, combined with his enjoyment of working with other people, led Dr. Lam to medical school. He attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he decided to be a surgeon. I love seeing a problem and trying to fix it and then seeing the result, he said. I also happen to love the eye, so it worked out perfectly that I went into ophthalmology. After medical school, Dr. Lam went to Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia, where he was one of the chief residents, and then stayed there for a retina fellowship.

Two Sons of China

It was at Wills that Dr. Lam first started thinking about the book he wanted to write, which was recently published, Two Sons of China (Bondfire Books). My goal as a writer is to try to find lesser-known aspects of history or episodes in history that deserve to be better known and try to make them accessible to people by writing about them in a way that would be interesting to them, he said. Dr. Lam was particularly passionate about World War II and decided that the best way to get people interested would be to write a fast-paced, emotional, action-packed war novel. In his research, he discovered an American mission that few knew about, the Dixie Mission, involving Americans who were frustrated with Chiang Kai-sheks Nationalists and subsequently reached out to Mao Zedongs Communists. In China, World War II started when the Japanese invaded China in 1937, Dr. Lam said. There was a struggle going on between Chiang Kai-shek and the Chinese Communists, but the Japanese invasion took center stage. The Americans realized that they needed to keep China in the war to keep Japan busy, so help was sent to the Chinese Nationalists. But as the war progressed, many Americans did not feel the Nationalists were avidly fighting the Japanese. To some, they appeared to prefer hoarding American weapons for use in a future civil war with the Communists, Dr. Lam explained. It was at this time that the Americans started to hear about Chinese guerilla fighters in the north who ended up being Chinese Communists. At that point, no one knew the Communists would win a civil war after World War II and become the rulers of China, Dr. Lam said. The Americans wanted to find anyone they could who would also fight the Japanese.

Two Sons of China is the story of an unlikely friendship between an American solider and a Chinese communist guerilla fighter. They have clashing views on government, religion, ethics, and the value of human life, but ultimately the battles they fight and the horrors they witness during the war bring them together to form a strong bond of brotherhood. At the end of World War II, when American is forced to take sides between the Nationalists and the Communists, their friendship is tested.

Saving Sight

While waiting to publish Two Sons of China, Dr. Lam got the idea for another book, which ultimately became Saving Sight (Irie Books). I wanted to write about the heroes of ophthalmology who had invented the tools we use every day, he said. All of these innovators were amazing, and in researching their stories, I realized that each of them overcame huge setbacks. Initially, his agent said that although it was an interesting topic, it was not a book that would be marketable to the general public, so Dr. Lam decided to blend those stories with his own experiences as a surgeon to take the reader behind the mask into the operating room to see what it is like to save sight.

The book has been a bestseller on Amazon and has won literary awards in Europe and America, earning an honorable mention at both the 2013 London and New England Book Festivals. It was also a finalist in the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Its great how that book has been a surprise hit, Dr. Lam said. Saving Sight focuses on a number of eye heroes, many of whom were ostracized for their ideas. Sir Harold Ridley, MD, for example, was a British ophthalmologist whose brush with invention came during the Battle of Britain in 1940. Dr. Ridley saw a pilot who had been shot down and had plexiglass in his eyes, which was blinding him. To his surprise, Dr. Ridley noticed that the plexiglass was not causing inflammation and was instead sitting inert in the eyes. About 9 years later, Dr. Ridley used plexiglass to create the first artificial intraocular lens. However, his innovation was ahead of its time, and it was so poorly received, he became depressed. It took many decades for the artificial lens to be accepted, and Dr. Ridley was finally recognized and knighted before he died.

Other heroes featured in the book include Charles Kelman, MD, and Louis Braille. Dr. Kelman invented phacoemulsification after realizing an ultrasonic probe similar to one used in his dentists office could be used for cataract removal. However, after discovering this in the 1960s, it took some time to be fully accepted in the ophthalmic community.

Braille fought his whole life for his dot system to be used and died unknown in France in 1852. After Braille died, the French government realized the potential of the system and began to use it. They even dug up Brailles grave to bury him with other French heroes at the Pantheon in Paris.

My twin passions are to save sight as a retina surgeon and to write history in a way thats accessible to people, Dr. Lam said. I would never have been able to do these things if I didnt love what I was doing.

Contact information

: email@AndrewLamMD.com

Ophthalmologist sees success with 2 books Ophthalmologist sees success with 2 books
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