From Patient to Colleague: New Faculty Member Praises UK Ophthalmologist for Exceptional Care

When Elizabeth Rhodus, PhD, was 16 years old, she suffered a near-fatal car accident, which left her with significant injuries that included fractures around her eye socket. Dr. Rhodus had already struggled with eye muscle problems that this accident only exacerbated.

The rural Kentucky native was admitted to UK HealthCare and along her journey, was treated by an ophthalmologist who not only provided her with exceptional care, but who also became an influential figure in her own path to a career in academic medicine.

Julia Stevens, MD, professor of ophthalmology and pediatrics and advanced development director for ophthalmology, coordinated care for Dr. Rhodus by treating her eye muscle conditions, providing for corrective lenses, and scheduling surgical procedures to remove scar tissue. Dr. Rhodus said she was grateful for the amount of attention Dr. Stevens paid to her conditions, as well as her compassion in helping her cope with the injuries.

Dr. Stevens said that the development of a relationship with her patients is one of the things that makes being a physician so rewarding. She will mark 30 years at the University of Kentucky in May, and she has known Dr. Rhodus for much of that time. In caring for and getting to know her patient, Dr. Stevens has been inspired in return.

“She’d have to have another procedure, and she’d say, ‘OK, well, we’ll get this done,’” Dr. Stevens said. “It’s one of the testaments to her, being able to be resilient in the face of all of these medical issues. She has required so many surgeries and has done really well. I just think she’s a special person.”

Dr. Rhodus has adapted to lasting visual disabilities and now only visits UK HealthCare for check-ups.

Recently, she also marked a pivotal moment in her career – joining the UK faculty. She completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the end of 2021 and is now an assistant professor in the UK College of Medicine Department of Behavioral Science and Sanders-Brown Center on Aging.

This means she and Dr. Stevens are colleagues. Dr. Rhodus said her “wonderful experience” with Dr. Stevens and UK HealthCare has inspired her own focus on helping others overcome disabilities and educating medical students on the importance of patient-centered care.

“I truly don’t think I could have made it this far in my career without Dr. Stevens’ expertise and care throughout the last 18 years,” Dr. Rhodus said. “She is kind, humble, and absolutely incredible at what she does.”