For Lasik's founders, the eyes were the prize

Fixing eyes with lasers may seem like a concept right out of a sci-fi novel, but for the Canadian founders of Lasik MD, it's a lifelong dream come true.

Doctors Mark Cohen and Avi Wallerstein met in their residency at McGill University and after a stint working together decided to open their own private company in 2001. Lasik MD started with just two clinics in Montreal and Toronto and a call centre located in the basement of a photocopy shop, yet today Lasik MD is Canada's largest provider of laser vision correction and has more than 25 clinics coast to coast, including their first American clinic in Syracuse, New York.

Cohen says the rapid growth of Lasik MD has been a whirlwind he never foresaw. Starting a business just wasn't part of his original plan and he had to learn business by doing business.

"I never expected to run a business or a national company, that was never part of the equation. (Avi and I) didn't have any formal business training, we learned by osmosis, just by exposure to being in the presence of business people. That allowed us an opportunity to develop good business skills," Cohen said.

When they started, Cohen and Wallerstein believed offering laser eye surgery for a cheaper price would increase the volume of surgeries performed dramatically, making it more cost effective and ensuring surgeons would become experienced in the best possible techniques much more quickly. That idea has proven true in practice, as today more than 50 Lasik MD surgeons conduct about 60,000 laser vision correction surgeries every year, almost half of all such surgeries done in the Canada.

The surgery itself generally takes less than 10 minutes, meaning a single surgeon can perform up to 20 surgeries each day and the process is painless, with recovery typically taking only 24-48 hours. Of the roughly half-million surgeries Lasik MD has performed since its inception, Cohen and Wallerstein alone have completed more than 50,000 corrective surgeries each, making them some of the most experienced laser eye surgeons in the world.

Cohen's enthusiasm for his job still shines through and the best proof is that he still keeps a full surgery schedule at least two days every week. While he admits to enjoying the business side of his life, the medical side is still the most important to him and Wallerstein.

"We have no interest in selling the company and going public. I eat, drink and sleep this stuff. This is our profession, we're in it for the long haul," Cohen said.

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