Seeing a Future in Eye Care

By Richard Westlund

Seeing a Future in Eye Care

By Richard Westlund
Miller School of Medicine graduate Ryan Diel, who graduated among the top in his class, is pursuing a career in ophthalmology.

Ryan DielRyan J. Diel, a 2018 M.D. candidate at the Miller School of Medicine, exemplifies the University of Miami values of scholarship, research and service. 

“Ryan is at the top of his class,” said Chrisfouad R. Alabiad, M.D., associate professor of clinical ophthalmology and assistant dean for Student Affairs. “He is passionate about learning and has a bright future in ophthalmology.” 

As a child, Diel moved with his family to several cities around the United States, before settling in Las Vegas. “That experience gave me a real understanding of the importance of positive human interactions, and fostered my own development as a resilient individual,” he said. 

Diel enrolled at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) as a first-generation college student interested in the sciences. He thought about becoming a dentist, but decided on a career in medicine after shadowing a local oncologist, Paul Michael, M.D. “I saw the impact Dr. Michael made on individuals’ lives, not just by treating cancer but by creating trust and understanding with his patients,” Diel said. 

Diel volunteered at a Las Vegas hospital while taking pre-med classes in immunology, microbiology, anatomy and other subjects. After earning his bachelor’s degree, Diel had to choose between the University of Nevada’s medical school in Reno and the University of Miami. 

“When I visited UM on interview day, I was inspired by the size of the medical center and having three major hospitals within one block of each other,” Diel said. “I felt confident that coming here would give me the clinical experience, as well as a great education, that would allow me to pursue a career in medicine.” 

Diel also credits his wife Candice, an intensive care nurse, for helping him succeed in medical school. “She understands the importance of clinical training, and also enjoys learning new things every day,” he said. 

As a third-year student, Diel was inspired by his rotation in ophthalmology. “I enjoyed getting to know the faculty and seeing the great work being done at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute,” he said. During his rotation, Diel observed a surgery on a 3-year-old girl with a rare congenital eye movement disorder called Duane Syndrome. “She felt shy about her appearance before the surgery, which did more than correct her vision. It will have a profound effect on this young girl for the rest of her life,” he said. 

In the past two years, Diel has served as president of the honorary Alpha Omega Alpha, and as a student representative to the school’s curriculum and reaccreditation committees. He has also been an active volunteer in the school’s Ophthalmology Interest Club, coordinating vision screenings in South Florida neighborhoods. 

Diel has also taken an active role in research, collaborating with Anat Galor, M.D., M.S.P.H., associate professor of clinical ophthalmology, on several projects. “Ryan came to me to ask about doing research,” Galor said. “He led an important study on the connections between migraines and dry eye syndrome that was published as a brief report in the journal Ophthalmology last year.” Diel was lead author of the study, “Botulinum Toxin A for the Treatment of Photophobia and Dry Eye Photophobia,” which covered a chronic debilitating condition that, in severe cases, causes individuals to become prisoners in their own homes.

Now, Diel is looking forward to starting his ophthalmology residency at the University of Iowa this summer. “Ryan will be able to continue learning at one of the nation’s top ophthalmology programs,” Galor said. “He is one of our best students and is well on his way to becoming a leader in our field.”