Bay Ridge

Faces of Bay Ridge: Jovin Lombardo, Octogenarian Ophthalmologist

July 28, 2023 Wayne Daren Schneiderman
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BAY RIDGE — Octogenarians don’t typically spend their days working as doctors of medicine, seeing more than 125 patients in a week’s time. But that’s what Jovin Lombardo, formerly of Lombardo Ophthalmology, did for more than 50 years — up until the ripe “young” age of 82 — at his practice on Fourth Avenue and 78th Street.

Lombardo, who officially retired this past June, boasts myriad accolades, most notably being one of the early innovators and developers of the intraocular lens, which was used clinically in the United States in the mid-1970s. This tiny, artificial lens for the eye replaces its natural lens that is removed during cataract surgery.

But he also has quite an extensive history, and a deep love for Bay Ridge, where he first began practicing back in 1971.

Although born in Flushing, Queens, Lombardo stationed his practice on Fourth Avenue primarily because of family that lived there. But it was just a matter of time before he would fall head over heels for the neighborhood and the community, Lombardo told The Brooklyn Eagle.

Lombardo has been practicing in Bay Ridge for more than 50 years.

“Bay Ridge is great for a number of reasons — most notably, its natural diversity,” he said. “Through the years, it’s absorbed waves of different immigrants with such grace and dignity, and I’m proud to call it my home base for the past 50 plus years.”

Lombardo said that he always wanted to be a doctor as far back as he could remember. Ironically, though, his uncle, a cardiologist, suggested ophthalmology.

“I took an elective in ophthalmology in my junior year of college, and while using the facility’s slit lamp [a magnifier of the front of the eye], I couldn’t believe the beauty and the power of it all,” he recalled. “That convinced me on the spot.”

Lombardo said that ophthalmology is very much akin to being a general practitioner of the eye.

“We make the diagnosis; we do our own treatment; and if necessary, we do our own surgery; and I like that,” he explained, noting that a good ophthalmologist must have good eyes, a good heart and good hands — as they are very well known for their surgical results.

“When someone comes to you who can’t see, and you help them to see, that’s a big deal,” Lombardo said.

“I’d be operating, doing six to 10 patients in a week — with cataracts, glaucoma, retinal detachments, and corneal transplants,” Lombardo said. “It’s really very unusual for one doctor today to do all of this.”

He added that it’s also about the quality of time that you dedicate with the patient.

“I’ve been told countless times, ‘No one talks to me like you do, for as long as you do.’”

However, the most rewarding aspect of being an ophthalmologist, according to Lombardo, is pretty simple, yet incredibly significant.

“When someone comes to you who can’t see, and you help them to see, that’s a big deal,” he said.  “Whether it’s prescribing glasses or performing a surgery; it’s a visual problem and you solve it.”

Lombardo graduated from Columbia College in 1961 and New York Medical College in 1965; he completed his residency at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai in 1969. From 1969 through 1970, he was an ophthalmologist in Da Nang, Vietnam, with the rank of major, and awarded the Bronze Star Medal. This, one year before opening his practice in Bay Ridge, where he would remain for the next half a century.

So why continue working until the age of 82?

“I liked it; I’ve always liked it,” Lombardo said. “But my family finally approached me, and said ‘you’re still vertical; while we can still enjoy each other, let’s enjoy life — life after ophthalmology.’”

Lombardo and his staff: office manager Denise DeVito (left) and Kelly Norris.

Although calling it quits was no easy task. Lombardo even described saying goodbye to patients and staff as “pretty gut-wrenching.”

“I’ve had some of the same patients for decades,” he noted. “In fact, back in 1971, I treated a woman who had crossed eyes as a child; she was two and a half; and I would later treat her as a patient in her 50s.”

As of July 2023, Lombardo has relocated to southern Minnesota with his wife of 45 years, and now lives near a lake in the middle of a prairie — quite a switch from bustling Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge. But he said that you can never erase the fond memories he has as a “Bay Ridgian.”

“Among other things, I will really miss its diversity.”

Today, Lombardo is still on the move, and far from sedentary; he is often seen riding one of his many motorcycles daily.

“I also just landed a position volunteering at an art museum,” he said. “And I hope to get another one as a volunteer at a local theater group; I’m a big fan of art and theater.”

 


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