Restoring Vision Locally and Globally

William Osler said, “The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease.” Dr. Frank Venzara III and Dr. David Neely of Florida Retina Specialists embody, epitomize and exemplify this philosophy. From Brevard County to developing countries across the globe, these ophthalmology and retinal surgeons are proving no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. 

Comprehensive Care to Patients 

Dr. Venzara and Dr. Neely provide high-quality, world-class, comprehensive medical and surgical retinal eye care to patients throughout the community and developing countries while striving to maintain a humble servant attitude. With over decades of combined experience in retinal eye care, the Florida Retina Specialists team provides unsurpassed service to patients. 

“Vision is our primary concern,” said Dr. Venzara. “We deliver the latest diagnostic methods and treatments for retinal disease. Our facilities hold the most sophisticated ophthalmic equipment available for diagnostic testing and treatment.”  

By using the most technologically advanced medicines and techniques available to preserve long-term vision, Dr. Venzara and Dr. Neely specialize in treating macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, flashes and floaters, retinal detachments and tears, infections and inflammation, eye trauma, cataract complications,
and retina and vitreous related diseases. 

Ophthalmology through international travel

Medical missions remain an integral element of Dr. Venzara and Dr. Neely’s personal, professional and philanthropic purpose since medical school. Dr. Venzara decided to become an ophthalmologist after traveling to Nicaragua on a mission trip during medical school. “Watching the doctors perform cataract surgeries, I realized the tremendous impact ophthalmologist have on patients in a short amount of time,” said Dr. Venzara.

Dr. Neely always had a keen interest in medicine but did not know much about ophthalmology at first. “During a seminar, I heard a missionary eye surgeon speak about performing cataract surgery in Uzbekistan and giving individuals their sight back,” said Dr. Neely. “Through research and international trips, I pursued ophthalmology, which blossomed into the career I experience today.”

The doctors continue the tradition of visiting third-world countries, such as Central America, Haiti, Mexico, and Nicaragua, to share the knowledge, medical expertise and surgical skills to treat and take care of complex eye disease and perform complicated retinal detachment repairs. This coming year, Dr. Neely will spend an extensive amount of time performing eye surgeries at the National Center of Ophthalmology in Managua, Nicaragua.

Changing Lives for the Better

Due to a lack of quality healthcare in developing countries, medical conditions tend to be more severe. Vision problems worsen and often lead to permanent blindness. 

“Tragically, if you do not have money in a developing country, you just go blind,” said Dr. Venzara. “For example, an older woman, supporting herself as a seamstress, lost her livelihood to cataracts. Surgery allowed her to support herself again.”

Individuals with vision problems are often teased, ostracized, and shunned. In Haiti, Dr. Venzara performed a retinal surgery on a little girl suffering alienation, humiliation, and loneliness because of her crossed eyes.

“She was forbidden to attend school because of the village’s superstitious aversion to her cross-eyed appearance,” said Dr. Venzara. “The villagers believed the child was cursed or possessed. After we straightened her eyes, she resumed daily life and returned to school.”

Usually, patients do not need surgery. But, their lives change with the gift of eyeglasses. “We hand out eyeglasses, literally by the thousands,” said Dr. Neely. “In developing countries, a pair of eyeglasses may appear to be insignificant. In third-world countries, eyeglasses make a huge difference to individuals.”

The Gift of a Mission Trip 

“Many live far from medical treatment,” said Dr. Venzara. “Patients walk for hours and hours and hours to see a visiting doctor. They are so grateful and appreciative to have
you there.” 

Bringing the gift of sight to those examined is especially rewarding; but, the benefits to patients are only part of the reason Dr. Venzara and Dr. Neely commit to these mission trips. Their overall purpose is not to sweep in and perform surgeries. Ultimately, their goals are to elevate care through the sustainability of treatment and ability to train local doctors in the latest procedures and new technology. 

For example, Nicaragua has very few retinal specialists, making the prognosis bleak for individuals suffering from retinal trauma or detachment. When Dr. Neely visits, he works closely with local doctors and surgical residents to offer advanced training, medical equipment, and needed supplies.

“It remains gratifying to be part of these medical mission trips,” said Dr. Neely. “It is fun to restore vision. But more than that, it is a privilege to do it.”

The Journey from Alabama to Florida c

For Dr. Neely, moving to the Space Coast emotes special childhood memories of his father. 

“My dad was an engineer at NASA for over 30 years,” said Dr. Neely. “As a child, family vacations often entailed trips to Cocoa Beach when he needed to visit Kennedy Space Center. It is a cool feeling to return for this new chapter in my life.”  

Dr. Neely received his Bachelor of Science in biomedical sciences from Auburn University and his Doctorate of Medicine from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School (UAB) of Medicine, followed by an Internship in General Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. He moved on to Ophthalmology Residency at Callahan Eye Hospital at UAB where he served as chief resident and furthered his specialty training with a Fellowship in Vitreoretinal Surgery at Retina Consultants of Alabama and UAB. He has co-published numerous Ophthalmology Research papers and abstracts on the underdiagnoses of age-related macular degeneration during his training as well as participated in resident education to train the next generation of eye surgeons. He is an active member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and American Society of Retina Specialists. 

The Road to Florida Retina Specialists

The Space Coast medical community recognizes the Venzara family as talented, caring, and compassionate physicians. Since the early 1980s, Dr. Venzara’s father has remained a renowned, distinguished and esteemed board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon.

“I had every intention of following in my dad’s footsteps of becoming a general or plastic surgeon,” said Dr. Venzara. “Even though I choose a different medical specialty, I look to build on my dad’s longstanding reputation and legacy to deliver high-quality, compassionate care to patients throughout the Space Coast.”  

Dr. Venzara, a board-certified ophthalmologist and retina surgeon, earned a biomedical engineering degree and a medical degree from the University of Miami. “In engineering school, my design project was an eye dropper,” said Dr. Venzara. “I did not know it at the time, but that project started my future career.” 

He received the Edward W.D. Norton Memorial Award for Excellence in Research and Clinical Ophthalmology for his yearlong clinical research at the prestigious Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. At Texas A&M Scott & White Eye Institute, he completed a four-year internship and ophthalmology residency program where he served as Chief Resident. Following residency, he completed a two-year surgical retina fellowship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and renowned Callahan Eye Hospital. During his fellowship, he performed over 1,100 retina surgery cases, which is 2.5 times greater than the national average. Additionally, he has a membership and standing with the American Society of Retina Specialists, American Academy of Ophthalmology, Florida Society of Ophthalmology, and the Christian Ophthalmology Society. 

Dr. Venzara founded Florida Retina Specialists in August 2014 next door to his father’s practice. He now sees patients in three locations – Merritt Island, Rockledge/Viera and Sebastian. He was awarded the 2014 Central Florida Humanitarian Award for his medical mission work in Haiti, Nicaragua, and Mexico.