An interview with a care-driven ophthalmologist who treats patients like family

Dr. Bajic is a comprehensive ophthalmologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Independence, Ohio, serving adult patients. She enjoys doing cataract surgery, minimally invasive glaucoma surgery, diabetic eye care and routine eye exams. She loves connecting with and caring for her patients, leading with the care philosophy of treating patients like family members. She’s also a current board member of the Ohio Ophthalmological Society. We recently had the pleasure of chatting with Dr. Bajic, learning what led her to a career in ophthalmology, her advocacy for proactive eye health care, and excitement about the future of ophthalmology.

Q. Let’s start at the beginning—what led you to a career in ophthalmology? What brought you to Ohio and the Cleveland Clinic?

A. My mom was a surgical nurse but she actually did not want me to do medicine—she wanted to shield me from some of the difficulties with it. But as I got older it seemed like such a fun club to join, a little society where they were tasked with helping heal people. And I really admired the camaraderie that develops when you work together to fix and heal people in sometimes challenging scenarios—I really liked that idea. And I like using my hands to help significantly improve someone's quality of life. It’s such a special thing. I’m a Chicago girl born and raised. But I’m married to Cleveland boy. That’s what brought me to the Cleveland Clinic.

Q. Being a comprehensive ophthalmologist, do you see a lot of eye injuries that could have been prevented by wearing eye safety gear? 

A. I think the worst sort of trauma comes in overnight—so it’s whoever’s on call at that time. But I frequently see the minor trauma, i.e. most frequently a man in his 30’s to 70’s who is doing something in the workshop with metal or wood and then felt something in his eye. I'll always ask them, “Where was your eye protection?” And so we talk about wearing the right gear—wraparound goggles or something that’s very wide and flush with the skin—because there are some people who are unfortunately frequent offenders and I’m all about preventing problems before they happen!

We had a party over the weekend with some of my ophthalmologist friends and someone broke out the champagne. You could tell who the ophthalmologists in the room were because they all covered their eyes. We’ve all seen a champagne bottle incident!

Q. If you could give any advice to people about taking care of their eyes and eye health, what do you wish they knew?

A. So, the biggest thing is just because it seems like you see well doesn’t mean that there’s not something going on that needs to be addressed. A lot of people think, “Oh well, I see fine—so I know my eyes are okay.” That’s not necessarily true. There can be glaucoma, which we call the silent killer of vision, because it starts from the outside. And so people don’t typically notice that far peripheral vision loss until maybe its end stage and they're left with tunnel vision. There’s a lot of other things that can be going on, potentially that people don’t notice, and you’d be shocked how often people feel like they’re seeing fine and they have significant loss of vision from something else be it a cataract or something other than that. I’ve had the occasional patient who's technically legally blind due to a cataract. But they don’t know. They think that they see fine and they’re driving!

I think it’s so important that we all have things checked in on because we all have different thresholds for what’s okay and what’s not for all different facets in our life, and that goes for vision as well. And some people can be more discriminating, and they know the second that something’s not quite right. But a lot of us may not realize it, and so it’s just good to have something checked out. It’s an easy thing to do, and it can mean the world of difference because, as we say in ophthalmology, time is vision. So the sooner we catch something, the sooner we can take care of it and hopefully prevent permanent vision loss.

Q.  When you think about your career and serving patients in the Northeast Ohio area, what makes you the most proud or is the most rewarding?

A. One thing that I think is very interesting is the use of artificial intelligence in ophthalmology—so we’re able to better catch things. From a diagnostic standpoint, I think it’ll be interesting to see how we can incorporate those tools, because while there are some diagnoses that are very easy to make, there are some that can be trickier and it would be really wonderful to harness the power of AI in order to catch those. It would be so fantastic to be able to use AI to help with it’s a bit of a muddled picture, and maybe help catch the connecting threads that would lead to one diagnosis versus another when it’s not so clear to the human.

In ophthalmology, we have retinal scans—retinal pictures—and AI can detect the gender based off someone’s retina. It’s so interesting, because it’s very hard for us as humans to look at those and say, “Oh, that’s, that's the retina of a male.” So, there are very subtle, imperceptible findings that AI can pick up on and help us deliver better and potentially more efficient care moving forward.

Q. Here at Superspecs, we encourage kids to be super in everything they do. What advice would you give to them as they look to their futures? Any advice to those wanting to pursue careers in ophthalmology, or excel in their chosen fields?

A. I didn’t have an exact sense of which direction I wanted to go early on. But I think the most important thing is, even if you don’t know if you don’t have an exact idea, don’t get intimidated by your peers that say, “Oh, I'm gonna be an interventional radiologist and I’m gonna do X, Y and Z…” You’re in high school and there’s a lot that can happen between now and then! And so, I think the most important thing is to keep an open mind until you figure out what you want, but also do your best and in everything that you do so that you can keep your options open. Don’t close any doors before you know you know what you want. We can only have so many YouTubers, you know? Focus on your education and keep your options open.


A super big thank you to Dr. Bajic. We admire her compassion toward others, and we know that with doctors like her in the field, the future is bright! For more information about Dr. Bajic,  learn more here.