Determination and serendipity lead to long career for N.Y. alum

There’s a place where luck and hard work intersect fortuitously, and Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine alum Barry Drucker, D.O., ’71, F.A.C.S., found himself in that place quite frequently in his groundbreaking career.

His list of credentials is impressive: chief resident at Beth Israel Medical Center, diplomate of the American Board of Ophthalmology, fellow of the American College of Surgeons, and LASIK eye surgeon for the bustling city of Queens, N.Y.

However, one distinction stands out above all else and set the stage for the rest of his career – the New York native became one of the nation’s first osteopathic doctors to take the boards and become a certified ophthalmologist by the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Knowing the right person was key.

When Dr. Drucker sat down for his test, he noticed that it made no allowance for doctors other than M.D.s to apply, and notified the chair of the ophthalmology department for Beth Israel. Fortunately, the chair had connections to the American Board of Ophthalmology in Chicago, which administered the test, and one brief phone call to the board later, Dr. Drucker was eligible both to take the test and to be certified.

“It was amazing to me,” he says. “The whole process took no more than two or three minutes.”

Dr. Drucker’s path to a career in ophthalmology started much earlier, however, when he boarded a plane in the late ’60s and left New York for the first time to head to Missouri for medical school. He made the decision to go to KCOM at the last minute, after deliberating between dental school at New York University or KCOM. With only hours left to act on his acceptance, Dr. Drucker made his choice.

“I always wanted to be a physician, and that was my chance to do it,” he says.

On his journey to Missouri, he discovered that the student whose place he was taking at the school was on the same plane. He had declined a spot at KCOM to attend an allopathic medical school in Tennessee, leaving an opening for Dr. Drucker to fill.

And fill it he did. Dr. Drucker threw himself wholeheartedly into his studies in Kirksville. He studied voraciously, and his work made him one of the top students in his class. Eventually, he was honored with an appointment to Sigma Sigma Phi, the osteopathic national honor society.

After completing his degree in 1971, Dr. Drucker returned to New York to take an allopathic residency in internal medicine at the prestigious Beth Israel Medical Center. But the stress of the demanding field began to wear him down, and eventually he was persuaded to switch rotations and pursue ophthalmogy, which required a little more fortunate timing.

“I put my application in, and they couldn’t take me for another year,” he says, “but at the last second someone dropped out, and I got that spot.”

This luck, and more hard work, propelled Dr. Drucker to the position of chief resident at Beth Israel, allowing him to study under and observe distinguished oculoplastic surgeon Dr. Pierre Guibor, as well as train at Massachusetts General Hospital for practice in Queens in 1976, where he specializes in LASIK surgery, as well as facial cosmetic procedures. Thanks to his osteopathic training, Dr. Drucker feels comfortable as a generalist, and he performs numerous services for his patients.

Today, he’s racked up countless hours at work, but one of his most memorable experiences came in residency, when he vetoed removing the diseased eye of a young patient in favor of a cornea transplant. The transplant gave his patient 20/20 vision, and she continues to see Dr. Drucker to this day.

“I love helping people, and when you can take someone who’s blind and help them see, it’s an amazing feeling.”

One of the keys to Dr. Drucker’s success has been the valuable experience he gained from working with knowledgeable physicians, and his story is a reminder to current and future students about the importance of making meaningful connections.

“If you’re with good people, it will rub off on you.”