Eye doctor has seen changes

Still go­ing strong: Dr. John Sil­i­quini Sr., an oph­thal­mo­lo­gist, has been treat­ing pa­tients in the North­east for the last half-cen­tury.

Oph­thal­mo­lo­gist Dr. John Sil­i­quini Sr. can re­call catar­act sur­gery that re­quired large in­cisions.

“We’d cut an eye halfway open” to re­move a catar­act, the 80-year-old oph­thal­mo­lo­gist said, and then have to put sev­er­al stitches in the eye.

In the 50 years he’s been prac­ti­cing medi­cine, Sil­i­quini said last week, sur­gic­al tech­niques have be­come so soph­ist­ic­ated and in­cisions so tiny that barely a stitch is needed.

Dur­ing his half-cen­tury of treat­ing North­east Phil­adelphia pa­tients, that change is among the most dra­mat­ic he’s seen.

Sil­i­quini works with his son, John Jr., so he is known as “Seni­or” to the staff of Key­stone Eye As­so­ci­ates on Blue Grass Road. The doc­tor in­terned at Naz­areth Hos­pit­al. He began his ca­reer in 1963 and opened his own prac­tice in May­fair in Ju­ly 1966 on his 33rd birth­day.

“It was a one-man op­er­a­tion,” he said. Now, with Key­stone, he’s with a staff of nine, in­clud­ing his son.

On the day his prac­tice opened on Ju­ly 19, 1966, he said, “I ex­amined five pa­tients. Two were fam­ily friends and three were re­fer­rals.”

Word got around. The num­ber of pa­tients grew.

There were many pa­tients in Key­stone’s wait­ing room early on Dec. 4 when a re­port­er vis­ited the doc­tor. The prac­tice moved to the 9100 block of Blue Grass about five years ago, Sil­i­quini said.

Now 80, Sil­i­quini is not about to stop.

“Not a chance,” he said. “I can­not even ima­gine no longer see­ing those pa­tients who have be­come like fam­ily to me over the years.”

When he was in his forties, however, the doc­tor was afraid his ca­reer might have closed.

Sil­i­quini ex­per­i­enced some numb­ness in one of his hands, something a sur­geon, who re­lies on his hands, would dread. He thought his sur­gic­al ca­reer was over. But, Sil­i­quini is a doc­tor who knows doc­tors. Sil­i­quini called one of his friends, who de­term­ined the eye doc­tor needed some spin­al sur­gery. The op­er­a­tion was a suc­cess, and Sil­i­quini kept go­ing.

Some years later, in the 1980s, the doc­tor broke his left wrist. He had got­ten up on a chair to reach something in his of­fice. The chair had wheels. It moved, and Sil­i­quini fell.

“Dumbest thing I ever did,” he said. He drove him­self to the hos­pit­al to have the arm seen to. It was the same wrist he had broken be­fore — when he was in kinder­garten.


Not even a snow storm, no, make that bliz­zard, could keep Sil­i­quini from his pa­tients.

In­jury or in­fec­tion can rob a pa­tient of his or her sight, he said. One of his pa­tients was shot in an eye, and a little thing like 18 inches of snow wasn’t go­ing to keep the doc­tor from op­er­at­ing on her.

The wo­man’s hus­band was clean­ing a gun at their kit­chen table and the gun went off. The bul­let hit the wo­man in an eye and ex­ited through a temple. 

He ar­ranged for her to be taken to Wills Eye Hos­pit­al, then on Spring Garden Street, but he couldn’t get to her be­cause it was snow­ing so heav­ily. To the res­cue came a friend who had a four-wheel-drive vehicle, which was not that com­mon in the 1970s when this in­cid­ent oc­curred.

Need­less to say, Sil­i­quini made it down­town to op­er­ate on his pa­tient.

The doc­tor did a lot of re­con­struct­ive sur­gery, he said, but now, he con­fines his ef­forts to what he can do in the of­fice. 

“No oth­er oph­thal­mo­lo­gist has been as ded­ic­ated to this geo­graph­ic area and is still act­ively prac­ti­cing,” said Dr. Den­nis Slo­chow­er, Key­stone’s man­aging part­ner. “Seni­or con­tin­ues to provide wis­dom and lead­er­ship to the oth­er phys­i­cians in our prac­tice,” said Dr. Leo San­tam­ar­ina, an­oth­er Key­stone part­ner.

For more in­form­a­tion, call 215-552-8331.••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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