Celebrating Dr. Noah Saipe’s 1-Year Anniversary at New England Vision and Vermont Eye Laser
To celebrate physician and surgeon Dr. Noah Saipe M.D.’s first year with the practice, and to introduce him to patients new and old, we conducted the following interview with him. Enjoy!
Tell me about yourself.
I guess I’ll start at the beginning. I was raised in the Chicago suburbs as the youngest of my parents’ three children. My older brother and sister were both really good students, so naturally, I was a pretty big nerd growing up. I spent a lot of time with my nose in a book. And even when I wasn’t focusing on homework or science projects, my major hobby was playing the trumpet in all of the school bands (wind ensemble, marching band, and jazz band!). So, if any part of me was trying to be cool, I don’t think I was very successful.
I left the Midwest to do my undergraduate studies at Princeton (my nerdiness paid off!). I absolutely loved my time at Princeton and all of the exciting opportunities that I had in college. After four years, I had succeeded in not only getting degrees in psychology and neuroscience, but also in wooing the woman who would become my wife.
I went back to Chicago for medical school at Rush University, and that’s where I first developed an interest in ophthalmology. After a year of internship, it was then off to Madison, WI for my residency in Ophthalmology, followed by my fellowship in Cornea, External Disease, and Refractive Surgery. Learning to be a clinician and surgeon was gratifying work – especially mastering advanced techniques like corneal transplantation and LASIK surgery. But by far the best part about my years in training was starting my own family. I married my sweetheart Adriana, and we had our beautiful daughter Vivian.
As I was looking at life after schooling and deciding about where to plant roots, Juli made a very convincing pitch for New England Vision and Vermont Eye Laser. I’m glad she was so persuasive! My family and I have fallen in love with Vermont – everything from the beautiful nature to the warm and friendly people. We love living here and being part of such a close-knit community.
(See more of Dr. Saipe’s bio here.)
What do you do outside of work?
I love nothing more than spending time with my family. Watching Vivian grow up (way too fast!) would by itself fill every night and weekend, but I make sure that there’s also enough time for either playing fetch or cuddling with my 70-pound golden doodle Copernicus. When we can, we all love to take hikes together, see shows, or try new restaurants. And if I ever have a minute to myself, I indulge my obsession with story-based podcasts (like This American Life and The Moth) or feed my infatuation with technology.
Is your wife also a doctor?
No, she didn’t have the same sadistic desire for late nights and high stress that I did. Adriana is an illustrator who runs her own internet-based business. She started the company herself, built it up from scratch, and now it’s become a thriving business with multiple employees. I couldn’t be more proud of her! And our dinner conversations are a lot more interesting than they would be if we just talked more about medicine and healthcare. Check out Adriana’s work here.
Why did you choose to go into medicine?
I usually tell people that I didn’t choose to go into medicine; medicine chose me. Becoming a physician was just a natural outgrowth of my interests and personality.
Academically, I’ve always been pretty left-brained. I’m drawn to science and complex problem-solving, and I like how in medicine there is (sometimes) a “right” answer. Personally, I’ve always been dedicated to volunteerism and assisting those in need. From the time I was little through today, I’ve devoted countless hours to serving meals at soup kitchens, collecting holiday gifts for low-income families, building houses for the homeless, walking against ALS, providing medical outreach, and so much more. Giving back is just part of who I am.
And ophthalmology as a specialty just suits me perfectly. What more could a detail-oriented mind ask for than measurements in millimeters (or microns!)? What more could an independent person want than being able to make an initial diagnosis and also perform a definitive treatment? I love how ophthalmology allows me to be a self-sufficient, specialized expert on one particular part of the human body. I also like how there’s a mix of problems that can be quickly solved, and chronic conditions which allow me to build long-lasting relationships with patients.
Why did you choose to practice in Vermont?
With Adriana’s business being based online and her being free to move anywhere that has internet, the country was our oyster when it came to deciding where I should look for a job. After a lot of thought, we decided that we really wanted to be in a small, vibrant, and dynamic setting. Living in Chicago was fun when we were in our 20s, but we just couldn’t imagine raising our children in any sort of crowded or potentially dangerous area. Vermont had everything we were looking for: a high quality of life, a welcoming community, amazing outdoor opportunities, and a rich mix of culture. Plus, my sister and her family live in the Boston area, my in-laws live in New Jersey, and Adriana’s brother is in Brooklyn, so now we live a lot closer to many of our relatives.
I’ve already had many patients tell me that if I wasn’t born in Vermont, I’ll never be a ‘Vermonter.’ But I hope to stay here for a very long time!
Why did you choose to join New England Vision / Vermont Eye Laser?
As cliché as it might sound, I just got the right vibe. Actually, during my job hunt, NEV/VEL was the first place where I interviewed. I was told time and again that I shouldn’t buy the first pair of shoes that I tried on. So, in the following months, I interviewed at a bunch of other practices all over the country, but I never got the same gut feeling of the practice being a good fit like I did here.
On the medical side of things, New England Vision and Vermont Eye Laser has a great mix of patients to satisfy my interests. I am able to practice comprehensive ophthalmology, which means that I can treat cataracts, manage glaucoma, evaluate for diabetic eye disease, and perform routine exams. But I am also able to use my fellowship training to perform LASIK, PRK, and other life-changing treatments, as well as to treat a wide variety of medical and surgical corneal problems. It’s a great balance.
But really what makes New England Vision and Vermont Eye Laser stand out is the people who work here. I have never before encountered such a nice and friendly staff. And I’ve never before worked in a practice where there is such an emphasis on the patient experience. In a lot of places, patients get treated like cattle, shuffling from one station to the next and being forced to wait in one room after another. At NEV/VEL, patients are really treated as individuals, and I like that personal touch. Add to all of these things the strict ethical code and sound judgment of the other providers, and it was an easy choice to join this practice.
How will the practice change now that you are a part of it?
It’s an exciting time at New England Vision and Vermont Eye Laser! My arrival has really allowed the practice to grow in some fantastic ways.
First off, my background of doing a fellowship in Cornea and External Disease allows us to treat a new group of patients and perform a new set of surgeries. This expertise really opens a lot of doors to helping patients who in the past we might have had to send somewhere else. Severe dry eye, corneal dystrophies, corneal infections, conjunctival tumors, inflammatory diseases – there are now so many more conditions that we can treat, and so many more patients who we can help. The practice has never before had someone with the knowledge and experience that I do, especially when it comes to performing corneal transplants or other procedures on the front part of the eye, so the future ahead looks bright!
Secondly, having a second surgeon in the practice really expands our bandwidth. This is especially important to our cataract patients. I’ve had people sit in my chair and tell me about other nearby practices where the wait time for cataract surgery is 3 months or more. This is crazy! With my arrival at New England Vision, Juli and I can get patients the treatment they need quickly, and that makes me very happy.
Lastly, my joining Vermont Eye Laser has allowed the practice to explore new innovations and new technology that just wasn’t possible when Juli was the only one operating. In just the short time since I’ve started, we’ve begun offering the iStent implant to cataract patients who are being treated for glaucoma, the Raindrop inlay to middle-aged patients who want to improve their reading vision, and the Visian intraocular contact lens to young patients who are not good LASIK candidates. And this list just keeps growing!
What is your practice philosophy?
My practice philosophy is pretty simple: The patient always comes first. I will do everything in my power to provide thorough, responsible, and compassionate care to the patients who entrust me with their health. And I will do everything in my power to be available to them in times of need.
In today’s world of healthcare, doctors are getting busier, appointments are getting shorter, and patients are feeling more rushed than ever before. I can’t promise that I will always be perfectly on-schedule, but I can promise that I will give my undivided attention – and as much time as needed – to each individual patient sitting in front of me. I refuse to provide anything less than top-quality care.
Also, I really emphasize including my patients in their treatment decisions. I like to offer options whenever I can, and I’m always happy to give my opinion when a patient can’t decide, but I believe that outcomes are better when patients have a voice in their care and feel active and involved in their treatment plan.
What do patients like most about you?
The one thing that patients comment on almost every day is my ability to explain a problem in a way that they can understand it. The way I see it, it’s my job not just to treat people’s conditions, but also to educate them about what’s going on. After all, the patient is the one who has the diagnosis, so who better to be informed and have a firm grasp on it?
I think patients also appreciate my approachability. I have a laid-back, let’s-talk-person-to-person style. And in a world of medicine with lots of big egos, it seems like patients welcome this approach.
What are your long-term professional goals?
My primary goal is to continue to provide superb care to each and every one of my patients.
As my practice grows, I hope to see more and more cornea patients so that I can use my training to its fullest extent. However, I intend to remain dedicated to treating not only complex and specialized cases, but also routine and common conditions. Variety is what makes this job so interesting!
I have the goal of staying up-to-date on all the latest advances in the field of ophthalmology. In this rapidly-advancing specialty, it’s exciting to hear the newest ideas and see the most cutting-edge gadgets. But more importantly, I want to be sure that I’m offering my patients the best treatment currently available.
At some point down the line, I would love to be able to take an international trip and use the skills I’ve developed to change the lives of people in less fortunate parts of the world with little or no access to ophthalmologic care. Opportunities through Orbis or the Himalayan Cataract Project sound incredible. In the meantime, I hope to become a local leader in the field and an expert at my trade – not to mention a familiar face around town.
What is something that most people don’t know about you?
Despite the fact that I’m a grown man with a daughter – not to mention a physician and a surgeon – I still love chocolate milk and manage to go through about a half-gallon of it per week! I guess I’m still young at heart.