Fathers and Sons
Dr. Alan Faulkner Finds His Way to Ophthalmology
The apple never falls far from the tree, even if it intended to fall in a different field.
While at Punahou School, Alan Faulkner considered wildly divergent careers: police officer or emergency room doctor? He wasn’t interested in following in his father’s footsteps and his parents encouraged him to choose his own path.
Alan’s father was noted Honolulu ophthalmologist Dr. Gerald Faulkner. He introduced phacoemulsification to Hawaii: a modern cataract surgery technique that uses a thin ultrasonic instrument to break up the lens before vacuuming it out and replacing it with an implant. Before this breakthrough, cataract patients endured bigger incisions and were hospitalized for a week after surgery with sandbags around their heads keeping them from rolling over. After this, patients wore coke bottle glasses for the rest of their lives.
Now, phacoemulsification is considered the standard of care.
Alan Faulkner started out at Northwestern University and chose pre-med studies so he could be an emergency room doctor. In medical school at Tulane University in New Orleans, young Dr. Alan cycled through all the disciplines, including general surgery and emergency medicine. The rush of inner city ER life was addictive, but Dr. Gerald offered his son a wise warning. “He said, ‘General surgery and emergency medicine are exciting and glamorous, but what you need to think about is what you want to do when you’re 55,’” recalls Dr. Alan. “And he was right. I liked general surgery, but it was a brutal lifestyle. It’s a lot of trauma and gunshot wounds. You work 12 hours days and you see the worst of what people can do to each other. It’s not real good.”
In comparison, ophthalmology seemed clean and precise. Dr. Alan had watched his father at work and in medical school did rotations in ophthalmology. “I liked the elegance of the surgery,” remembers Dr. Alan. “It’s not blood everywhere—it’s fine surgery, technology-intensive, and it had great results.”
In his third year of medical school, Dr. Alan chose ophthalmology and never looked back.
In 2000, Dr. Gerald told his son that he was getting ready to retire. Joining his father’s practice seemed the right thing to do, and in May of that year Dr. Alan and his family moved back to Honolulu.
Dr. Alan Faulkner shares his father’s progressive streak and often is the first to bring cutting-edge technology to the islands. His list of “firsts” is impressive: certified first to perform Visian Implantable Collamer Lens procedures; first to use the high-precision IntraLase laser in LASIK surgeries; and the first to bring in the ultra-fast Allegretto Wave Eye-Q laser, capable of customizing surgeries to the shape of each patient’s eye.
“We always want to be not only on the cutting edge, but offering the people of Hawaii the best technology possible,” says Dr. Alan. “Sometimes people think they need to go to the mainland because the doctors there are more experienced, or they have better equipment and technology. That’s not necessarily true.”
Dr. Alan also believes in caring for each patient from consultation to post-surgical follow-up. “The day after surgery is the best day for me,” he says. “The patients haven’t been able to see and now they can. Sometimes they cry and hug us. They’re just so grateful. That’s my success.”
And maybe his father would say the very same thing.