By Aaishah Raquib
Scheie Vision Summer 2016
One of our very own esteemed alumni, Dr. Sepideh Tara Rousta, has had many wonderful accomplishments in her career and family life since completing her residency at the Scheie Eye Institute and her fellowship at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). A pediatric ophthalmologist, Dr. Rousta joined the University Children’s Eye Center, a private practice in East Brunswick, NJ, affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) and Saint Peter’s Hospital.
Dr. Rousta was always drawn to healthcare. Growing up, she was inspired by her father’s work as a surgeon and the esteem and gratitude he received from his patients. However, Dr. Rousta’s affinity for ophthalmology did not begin until her second year of medical school at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, when she attended a lecture about the retina. “I found it fascinating,” Dr. Rousta recalled. “Ophthalmology is a field that combines clinical continuity of patient care along with surgical procedures, and that really appealed to me then as it does now.”
As a Scheie resident, Dr. Rousta spent 20 weeks at CHOP, which was the first time she was exposed to pediatric ophthalmology and adult strabismus surgery. Initially, examining children and diagnosing them was a daunting task. “But, with the help of amazing instructors like Dr. Graham Quinn and Dr. Richard Hertle, I became inspired to consider a future in pediatric ophthalmology,” she said.
The mentorship Dr. Rousta received at Scheie has sculpted her into the well-rounded and accomplished physician she is today. “Dr. Stephen Orlin taught me that cataract and corneal surgery can be down flawlessly, and Dr. Sandy Brucker gave amazing encouragement and support,” she said. “Dr. Kozart would call me out of the hectic resident clinic, into his own busy lane, to share a pearl of wisdom about a detailed slit lamp finding that sealed the deal diagnostically! He taught me to always listen to the patient, because the clues are in the history – and always take time with the clinical findings because therein lie your answers.”
One of Dr. Rousta’s fondest memories was her first cataract surgery with Dr. Volpe. “He was unbelievably patient despite my lack of experience. He taught me by allowing me to do the steps myself while he confidently talked me through them,” she remembered.
In addition to her tremendous mentors, Dr. Rousta is thankful for the lifelong friends she made at Scheie, including Drs. Nancy Benegas, Andy Hall, Layla Kamoun, and Dan Tran, and Mina Massaro. “I was also lucky to meet my dear and brilliant friend, Dr. Mina Massaro!” Dr. Rousta exclaimed. “When she was a first year resident and we both had to stay in-house for call, I called her the ‘black cloud!’ We had some crazy calls together, but would end up making each other laugh a lot and learn a lot, which we still do today at AAO and Alumni Day!”
Today, Dr. Rousta applies her training to her practice at the University Children’s Eye Center where she treats a range of patients, including newborns, teenagers, and adults with strabismus. She works alongside two pediatric ophthalmologists and three pediatric optometrists who see routine cases, while she focuses on medical and surgical issues. Dr. Rousta also has a specific interest in pediatric uveitis and works with rheumatologists in New Jersey and New York City to co-manage difficult cases.
“This is a great privilege, as it keeps me on my toes with lots of challenging medical cases and trauma referred to us from the surrounding area hospitals and clinics,” she said.
Dr. Rousta enjoys how rewarding adult strabismus surgery can be. “Adults with strabismus are so grateful when something can be done to improve their situation, whether it’s from a previous childhood issue, or a new neurologic or traumatic event. Double vision and strabismus as an adult can have debilitating consequences for a person both functionally and psychologically,” she explained.
Pediatric ophthalmology gives Dr. Rousta an opportunity to make a significant impact on children’s futures by catching and treating problems during their beginning stages. She feels it is a tremendous responsibility, which motivates her to stay current with new developments.
“A good pediatric ophthalmologist should have a focused center of playfulness and poise,” she said. “Our field requires patience and problem-solving skills, which remain unwavering despite the frequent turmoil of dealing with young children and nervous families. Working with children brings out the best in me.
Despite her busy clinical schedule, Dr. Rousta continues to place a strong emphasis on academic medicine. She teaches residents and pediatric ophthalmology fellows at Wills Eye Hospital, where she presides over a pediatric and adult strabismus clinic in the morning and operates in the afternoon.
Dr. Rousta is married with two sons in New Jersey. Her older son Alex is a rising senior in high school and her younger son, Cameron, is starting seventh grade. “Neither one has expressed an interest in medicine (yet!). It may sound trite, but I tell them what a privilege it is to be able to do something each day that may an improvement in someone else’s life. A life in medicine gives us this opportunity to be of use.”
The Scheie Eye Institute is very proud of Dr. Rousta and her strong commitment to medicine, academics, and family.