Dr. S. Akbar Hasan grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, where his father served as dean at the University of Kentucky and his mother worked as a librarian at the university. He is a board-certified, fellowship-trained cornea, LASIK and cataract specialist. He came to the First Coast in 2002 and served as the lead cataract and corneal surgeon and director of the Laser Vision Correction Program at the Mayo Clinic for 10 years. He joined Florida Eye Specialists in 2012. His practice's nonprofit arm, Florida Eye Cares, provides eye surgeries and glasses to local residents in need.
Tell me about your career.
I’m an ophthalmologist. I’ve been in Ponta Vedra now coming up on 20 years. I was at the Mayo Clinic for 10 years, and then I joined Florida Eye Specialists. We were really the first ophthalmology practice to have a full-time presence in Ponte Vedra.
In medical school, you don’t get a lot of exposure to ophthalmology. You just don’t. Ironically, my brother-in-law at that time was starting his ophthalmology training in Bethesda, at the naval hospital. He was like, “Hey, why don’t you look at [ophthalmology]?” … And it just kind of clicked.
I like a lot of things about it. It’s kind of a happy feeling in terms of you’re really restoring vision, and it means a lot to people who need cataract surgery, LASIK surgery, corneal transplants. So, it’s really just kind of gratifying being able to do that.
It’s been a perfect fit for me. I couldn’t be any happier.
Tell me about Florida Eye Cares.
We started that about three years ago. We had really big plans, but of course COVID hit. So, we had to kind of curtail some of those plans, but now we’re getting past some of that.
This is the charity arm or foundation of our practice. Through Florida Eye Cares, over the last two or three years, we were able to provide free cataract surgery for a number of patients. We host an event where anywhere between 10 and 20 patients once a year have free cataract surgery. That includes everything: the surgery center, the anesthesiologists … So, it’s really a nice day. Everybody’s there for the patients. It’s huge.
Once you have Medicare it’s covered, but most of these people are under 65 and they have cataracts but can’t afford cataract surgery. So, they’re just losing vision. And it’s very frustrating for them. So, it’s nice to be able to do that.
We have a skill set, so it’s nice to be able to use that skill set for people, as opposed to just donating our time in other ways and our resources in other ways. For these people, it’s life-altering to have cataract surgery.
In addition, we’re looking to restart a monthly charity clinic. We’ve partnered with Vision Is Priceless, which is a more established nonprofit group, and we will run a monthly clinic for them.
It’s for individuals who can’t afford the exam, can’t afford the glasses. They get the free eye exam. There’s an optician there, and through VIP, they’re going to get free glasses, as well.
We’ll be starting that back up again in the fall.
We have a fundraiser, an Eye Ball, in October. It’s kind of a masquerade party. It should be a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to that.
And the next thing, we hope to host a 5K, too, for the community. For us, it’s just a fun way to give back to the community.
We’re part of the community as a practice, and now we’re looking to grow the charity arm of our practice so that we can provide care for the greater Jacksonville community, as well.
How great would you say is the need for the nonprofit’s services?
I think that there’s a tremendous need. I think it’s largely unmet, unfortunately.
We have to cap it. We just get so much demand and so many calls for it, there’s just no way. It’s for people who are underinsured between 50 and 65 who get a premature cataract but may not have the insurance or the means to afford cataract surgery.
The other thing we do at Florida Eye Cares is we host an annual educational event for the local eye care providers.
We had it at Sawgrass Marriott last month. It was well-attended. Well over 100 eye doctors there. Not just from Northeast Florida, but throughout Florida. We had a two-day program. It was great. So, that’s another thing we’re really doing — we have an education arm.
How can people get in touch with Florida Eye Cares if they want to help?
Probably the easiest way is through our website. Either go to floridaeyespecialists.com or floridaeyespecialists.com/about-us/giving-back. And then there’s a way to donate through the website.
What do you like best about living here on the First Coast?
This is home for us now. It’s been 20 years. It’s great. We raised our family in Ponte Vedra. We’ve had four kids. They’ve all gone through the schools.
It’s nice to have a community. In one sense, you’re connected to the community of Jacksonville. In another sense, it’s kind of a small town, which I really like.
Of course, you’ve got all the outdoor activities, from the hiking to the beaches. We’re big hikers. We like the outdoors. It’s fun to do just all the stuff that North Florida offers, we participate in that.
How do you like to spend your free time?
I enjoy reading, which is a big thing. I’m a real big fan of hiking. Just being outdoors — it kind of gives me that sense of peace and calm, just to be out in nature. That’s kind of my big “go to” when I need to kind of renourish or recharge.
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