Ophthalmologist and AUA graduate Whitney Boling, MD, distinctly remembers the thrill and intensity of competition. The gymnasium lights unsympathetically glaring down on the volleyball court at the University of Indianapolis or that of a rival school. The hum of the crowd filling the background with cheers and gasps that rose during the most critical seconds of play.

None of it mattered. Nothing could crack the invisible barrier Dr. Boling built to ensure her focus was uninterrupted and every last reserve of energy and concentration was put into the game. As a lifelong athlete and a member of The Greyhounds, a Division II women’s team, Dr. Boling knew that defeat was as much a part of competition as victory, and that in a way, the two defined each other.

Those were perhaps the two principles that most prepared Dr. Boling for her medical education and career—shut out all distractions while pursuing a goal and walk beyond a loss towards the next win. Today, Dr. Boling is finished with her residency in the highly competitive field of ophthalmology and is now an ophthalmologist in private practice.

“I Quit” Is Not In Her Vocabulary

As she looks back on the ten-year journey of her medical education, she sees parallels between sports and academics. She was valedictorian of her graduating class at AUA and says that the discipline she developed as an athlete helped get her through the toughest moments of medical school. “I’m a naturally competitive person, and in med school, that gave me the laser focus I needed to be successful. ‘I quit’ is not in my vocabulary and that often led me to work past the point of exhaustion if it got me closer to my goal.”

At the same time, when Dr. Boling learned she hadn’t matched to her dream ophthalmology residency
on her first attempt, she was devastated. She wanted to follow in the footsteps of her father and grandfather, both ophthalmologists who completed their residencies at Indiana University Health.

Dr. Boling’s father now runs the family practice opened originally by her late grandfather in Elkhart, Indiana, about three hours north of Indianapolis. Naturally, she envisioned a rewarding career working there as a third-generation ophthalmologist. “It was like that dream was snatched away in a second leaving me in the fetal position for a week,” Dr. Boling half-jokes as she recalls how it felt when failing to match. After taking a moment to regroup and reassess, she picked herself up, true to form, and prepared to defy the odds.

How She Got Her Ophthalmology Residency

While many of those close to Dr. Boling encouraged her to apply to residencies in less competitive specialties, she harnessed the determination she developed as an athlete and reapplied to ophthalmology programs. The following year, Dr. Boling matched into a transitional program at Wayne State/Detroit Medical Center.

Then she got her big win. Like her father and grandfather before her, she was offered a residency position in ophthalmology at Indiana University Health. Although her transitional year took her out of her home state, she had an incredible learning experience at Detroit Medical Center, where she also met her husband, a hospitalist.

Dr. Boling has finished her residency and now works alongside her father at the Boling Vision Center. She  performs laser procedures, cataract surgery, and intravitreal injections, as well as LASIK and other types of refractive procedures.

“You wouldn’t expect it, but I’ve had patients hug me after an intravitreal injection,” Dr. Boling says about a procedure that involves sticking needles into the eyes. The same is true of her cataract patients. “They go from not being able to see their own hands in front of their faces to being able to read with almost 20/20 vision immediately after the operation. We are truly in the business of restoring sight.”

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