It’s time to get to know the doctors that make up the incomparable ilumin team! This month, we sat down for a one-on-one interview with Dr. Peter Simone.
Dr. Simone discusses his love of music, mathematics, problem solving, and cooking!
When and why did you decide you wanted to become an Ophthalmologist? What drew you to it?
I became interested in ophthalmology because my father was an ophthalmologist. I remember when I was young seeing recordings of surgeries on VHS tapes he’d brought home and being intrigued by all the equipment at the office. When I started medical school I knew I’d probably end up in ophthalmology, but I kept an open mind.
While I was working on my Ph.D. I was able to do occasional rotations in various specialties including ophthalmology, otolaryngology, and radiation oncology. In my 3rd and 4th years of medical school during the required and elective rotations I got experience in other specialties. Ophthalmology stood out for a variety of reasons. I enjoy the blend of medicine and surgery.
I think the eye and vision are fascinating from a scientific perspective. I enjoy the mathematics of how optics works to allow us to see. And most importantly, I think ophthalmologists are able to make a major impact in their patients’ lives by improving their vision.
What draws you to the research side of what you do?
Since I was in grade school I’ve been drawn to science. Understanding how things work has always been something I enjoy. On a fairly regular basis when I’m explaining things to a patient, I’ll use the term “idiopathic” and explain that this is the fancy doctor word for “we don’t know what causes it.” So, despite all that we do know currently, there is still a lot to figure out and this is what draws me to research.
As a music lover, what are your favorite kinds of music to listen to, write, and play?
My mother was a music lover, so that’s probably where things started. My grandmother on my father’s side also taught piano and I still regret not getting piano lessons from her. When I was about 11 my older brother got a guitar and started taking lessons. He’d show me some of the stuff he learned and I had a knack for picking things up, so on my 12th birthday I got a guitar and started taking lessons. This was during the time when Nirvana and grunge music were popular, and this was my main influence at the time, but my brother was a big fan of Metallica at this time and we learned a lot of their older music, which is quite difficult and was good for improving my skills on the guitar.
Probably when I was 13, I started writing my own songs, most of which were basically Nirvana rip-offs and not that great. Later I started getting interested in making more unusual chords and playing around with different time signatures. If I had to name two bands as my biggest influences, I would say The Smashing Pumpkins and Radiohead. When I was about 17 or 18 my mom got me a cheap keyboard and I started teaching myself piano (again, I regret not getting lessons from my grandmother). I’m by no means great at the keyboard, but good enough for my purposes.
In my early 20s when I was living with my brother we bought a drum set, and again, I’m by no means great, but good enough for my purposes. More recently I’ve acquired a mandolin and a ukulele, which I play occasionally.
What are your favorite kinds of projects to do at home? Any favorites?
I think I just like fixing things in general. My kids have broken a fair number of things over the years, and I’ve been able to fix quite a few of them (there’s only so much that can be done for some things). In fact, they (too) often say something alongs the lines of “Papa can fix it.”
Regarding home repair, when I was in medical school, the house we lived in was built in the ’30s and needed a fair amount of upkeep. One of the most extensive things I did was redoing all the old wiring in the basement. Another thing that stands out was a leaking pipe from a second story bathroom. I ripped out the damaged lath and plaster in a closet to find the problem. I must admit, I did hire a plumber to fix the pipe, but I put up new drywall in the closet and made a little access door in the ceiling so that if something happened again it would be easy to get to. While the wall was down I also took the opportunity to redo some of the wiring that was in there.
Currently, it’s mostly just the occasional leaky faucet and that sort of thing. A few months ago I had a broken AV receiver that I was able to fix by finding a faulty component, desoldering it, and soldering in a new one.
Having spent a lot of your schooling in the Southeast, what are your fondest memories of that part of the country?
I’ll go with the obvious answer and say the winters there. Especially in southern Florida it was nice being able to go to the pool or beach around Christmas time. That being said, I do enjoy having seasons and remember telling my wife, for example, that it was too hot for Halloween when we were out trick-or-treating with our girls.
South Carolina was nice because it cooled off more during winter, but we never got any snow while we were there. Beyond that, it was nice to experience living in different parts of the country and traveling around. While in Florida we were able to make trips to the Keys and the Bahamas and in South Carolina we took several short trips to places like Savannah, Charleston, and Asheville. And one more thing I miss is a place in Boca Raton called V&S Deli. If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend getting a sandwich there.
What’s your favorite thing about being part of the ilumin team?
I feel incredibly fortunate to have joined ilumin. The doctors were all extremely supportive when I first started and I think they have established an amazing practice. Everyone I work with is wonderful and in addition to doing their jobs well, make a fun environment to work in.
So, to put it simply, my favorite thing about being part of the ilumin team is the other people on that team.
What’s an interesting fact about you that you think your colleagues or patients would be surprised by?
I enjoy cooking. My mother was a great cook and I learned quite a bit from her. Some of the things I like to make are sugo and meatballs (“Papa’s famous meatballs” as my kids like to say), something called little meatball soup (a family recipe), and Cajun food such as jambalaya and étouffée.