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Dr. Kline Stresses the Importance of Relationships

Lanning B. Kline, MD, professor and former chairman of the UAB Department of Ophthalmology, remembers his youth in Alberta, Canada. His father was the proprietor of a successful jewelry store and would enlist his son’s help during busy holidays. Dr. Kline’s father was trained as an optometrist but never practiced. Instead, he took over the family jewelry business.

“What I learned from my father was that business is all about relationships,” Dr. Kline says. “What I learned from my mother was that I wasn’t going into the jewelry business.”

Dr. Kline knew from an early age that he would either go into law or medicine. His father’s best friend was a cardiologist who served as a role model during his early years, and Dr. Kline would spend Sundays listening to his father and this cardiologist talk about what’s important in life. These discussions had a major influence on him. One summer, while at home from Duke University School of Medicine, he followed this family friend around his clinic to learn more about the daily routine of a physician. The physician-patient conversations were very impactful for Dr. Kline.

“He could explain medical things clearly to his patients in an uncomplicated manner,” he recalls. “You could just see that his patients loved him. What I learned is to treat everyone like they are your family. Take the time and explain to your patients what is going on without any fancy words. In medical school, we are often taught how to prescribe this medication and treat that patient, but we often overlook how physicians care for and talk to a patient. I think that is a really important part of medicine that isn’t adequately taught in medical school. Some physicians can be the best surgeon but have a poor bedside manner. Teaching communication and professionalism are important when mentoring residents.”

When Dr. Kline was in active practice at UAB, he emphasized to residents the importance of communication, compassion, and fostering relationships. He has seen many years of evolution in residency education. Libraries that once were the cornerstone of information have been replaced with tablet computers, but Dr. Kline continues to teach the importance of building relationships with patients, much like he saw years ago when shadowing his father’s friend.

Ongoing Role in the Department

Dr. Kline stepped down as chairman in 2011 but remains on the faculty, continuing to see patients and teach residents. This allows him to continue playing a role in the department’s continued growth and evolution.

“Our residency training program has always been top-notch, as we provide outstanding clinical training,” Dr. Kline says. “The Lions Eye Clinic serves as a residency training clinic and is an excellent resource that served over 4,000 Alabamians last year alone. UAB Callahan Eye Hospital houses 16 operating rooms for surgical exposure, making it one of the largest eye facilities in the U.S. These are the fundamentals of ophthalmology residency education, but I still teach every resident that relationships and communication are vital to comprehensive patient care.”

Dr. Kline and his wife, Ricki, celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in April 2017. He has two children and one grandson. His son, Aaron, and his wife live in San Diego with their four-year-old son, Andrew. Dr. Kline’s daughter, Evelyn – named after Kline’s late mother – was married in Seattle in July 2017. He still dedicates his spare time to medicine and serves as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Neuro-Ophthalmology and on the board of directors of the American Board of Ophthalmology.