Will Flanary is an ophthalmologist, writer, and comedian who moonlights in his free time as “Dr. Glaucomflecken,” a top hat wearing, mustachioed cartoon ophthalmoscope who has become a leading voice in ophthalmology and healthcare on social media. Effortlessly blending humor with education, Dr. Glaucomflecken has spent the last 5 years informing audiences on a wide range of topics, from navigating the confusing world of over-the-counter eyedrops to his own experiences as a patient in the healthcare system, all with his characteristic acerbic wit.
His writing has been featured in The Ophthalmologist and The British Medical Journal. He has a passion for educating non-ophthalmologists about ophthalmology and is a frequent speaker at medical conferences across multiple specialties, including emergency medicine, primary care, and critical care medicine.
Dr. Glaucomflecken will deliver the keynote address during EMS World Expo, Sept. 14–18, 2020.
EMS World: For those not familiar with you and your work, can you briefly introduce yourself and give us a quick background?
Dr. Glaucomflecken: My name is Will Flanary. I'm a comprehensive ophthalmologist practicing in Oregon, but I'm more well known as Dr. Glaucomflecken, my Twitter alter ego. I've been involved in standup comedy and comedy writing since high school. Instead of pursuing standup as a career, I decided to go the much easier route of becoming a doctor. I joined Twitter in 2016, slowly gaining a following by making fun of all aspects of medicine, and now here I am.
We’re looking forward to having you speak at EMS World Expo. Can you relate your recent experience with emergency medical services?
I suffered an out-of-hospital V-fib cardiac arrest. It took us completely by surprise, as this kind of thing typically does, but as a previously healthy 34-year-old, the whole event was hard to believe. My wife performed CPR and saved my life. I woke up in the ICU two days later. Nobody was sure what kind of mental capacity I would have when weaned off the sedation. I then found out that my wife had deleted all the social media apps from my phone, and accurately reasoned that if I could figure out how to download them again and remember my passwords, I was safe to tweet again. Since then, I've been documenting my post-arrest recovery on Twitter and TikTok. We are still not sure about the underlying cause, but I have fortunately been able to make a full recovery.
What do you hope to convey to this audience of EMS responders?
I want to describe what an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is like from the patient perspective, both in the immediate aftermath and over the ensuing months. I want them to understand the toll it takes on family members. Most importantly, I want them to know how incredible they are for choosing this career and the difference they can make in people's lives.
You are active on social media—particularly TikTok. Any thoughts on the U.S. government’s stance on this platform and how it might affect your work?
Honestly, I would be fine if the U.S. government takes TikTok away. The last thing I need is to get addicted to another social media platform. Please, U.S. government, help me, because I clearly can't help myself!
Are you working on any projects or future initiatives you’d like to tell us about?
I hope to start a Youtube channel this year with a primary aim of ophthalmology education for non-ophthalmologists. One of my strengths is the ability to convey ophthalmology topics in an easy-to-understand way that keeps people interested and hopefully, laughing. I'm also planning on winning the Nobel prize in medicine, but not sure what the topic will be just yet.
Jonathan Bassett is editorial director at EMS World. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org