September 2019


Ophthalmologyst finds passion for pottery

by Ellen Stodola EyeWorld Senior Staff Writer/Meetings Editor

Source: Tanya Glaser, MD

Besides serving as chief resident at Duke University, Tanya Glaser, MD, also finds time to enjoy other hobbies including swimming, water polo, and pottery making. She shared with EyeWorld some of the details of her pottery making hobby and the similarities she finds between that and performing surgery.

Chief resident role

Dr. Glaser completed her training at Duke and is serving an additional year as the chief resident. She plans to continue there with a fellowship program.
Dr. Glaser said her position as chief resident has given her a role in helping run the residency program, especially with overseeing education and supervising in the operating room. “It’s an extra year where you’re there as part of the faculty,” she said, adding that each chief resident takes on some project that has meaning to them. For Dr. Glaser, this has been further developing Duke’s curriculum, particularly looking at how people learn best and how this can be implemented through the program. She has also worked on updating the program’s wet lab curriculum.
In taking on this role, Dr. Glaser said it’s nice that it happens just after residency, as she still knows what residency is like and can incorporate her experiences into the role.
Dr. Glaser plans to continue her affiliation with Duke after her position as chief resident expires by taking on a 2-year fellowship in pediatric ophthalmology. The first year will be more research oriented and the second will focus on clinical pediatric ophthalmology. “For me, I loved all of my rotations within ophthalmology, and pediatrics gives you a way to be broad but specific at the same time,” she said.

Outside of ophthalmology

In her free time, Dr. Glaser enjoys both swimming and water polo, noting that she swam frequently growing up. She also played water polo in college and continued this interest in club teams when living in San Francisco. “I swim for exercise, and I find it has been a great way to relax,” she said, adding that North Carolina offers good weather for swimming.
Dr. Glaser has also developed an interest in pottery. She noted that she thinks the ophthalmology community in general is very driven toward art.
Dr. Glaser made pottery as a child and got back into it after spending time in Asheville, North Carolina during her ophthalmology training. North Carolina is known for pottery and folk art, she said. “There’s a whole artist community in Asheville,” she said.
Dr. Glaser was looking for something to do after work in the clinic when she stumbled upon pottery classes.
“Throwing the pot on the wheel, in some ways, is like cataract surgery,” she said. “You have to be focused and centered yourself. If it’s not centered as its first step, the steps after that won’t work.” This is similar to cataract surgery, Dr. Glaser said, because if your wound is slightly off, for example, every step after that is going to be off. Every step in pottery builds from that first step.
After Dr. Glaser returned from Asheville, she continued pottery classes and open studio time in Durham, North Carolina. “Pottery is fun because you can express yourself artistically, then you also have this vase that you can actually use at home,” she said, adding that she finds the mugs she’s made to be “the most useful things that I’ve completed.” She enjoys making pottery that she can use every day like mugs, plates, and bowls.
Making a piece can be quite a process. Throwing something on the wheel can take 10–30 minutes to an hour, Dr. Glaser said. You have to let it dry into what is called greenware, and at some point in the drying process, you want to do a little more editing of it. Once the piece is dry, it goes through the firing process and becomes bisqueware. After that, you glaze it and fire it a second time, and you have a finished product. Dr. Glaser said that it may depend on the season and where the pottery is being stored to determine how long it takes to dry. From start to finish, a piece will take about 7–10 days and sometimes up to 2 weeks, but the actual making of the structure is fast and provides that immediate satisfaction.
“In more ways than one, my pottery classes felt analogous to what I was doing in my training,” Dr. Glaser said. She even convinced one of her co-residents to take a class with her when she was in Asheville for a second time, and she said that “walking her through the experience of pottery was similar to me teaching cataract surgery.”
People who go into surgical subspecialties want to be doing something with their hands, Dr. Glaser said, and that’s similar across many hobbies.

About the doctor

Tanya Glaser, MD
Pediatric ophthalmology fellow
Duke University
Durham, North Carolina

Contact information



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