Issue 1 » “The Doctor Will See You Now!”
If you live in Santa Clarita and have an urgent need for an eye doctor, you won’t have to travel on the 405 freeway to the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA because right here in Valencia the Helm Vision Group has one of best eye doctors in the country.
“America is not great because it is diverse, America is diverse because it is great. If you work hard, you will better your situation, and you will succeed in some measure. Regardless of your race or gender, if you want to achieve the American dream what you need is opportunity. Opportunity is the American dream.”
In fact, Dr. Craig Helm completed his residency at the prestigious Jules Stein Eye Institute as a Heed fellow training directly under world renowned physician Dr. Bartly Mondino, Chairman of the Jules Stein Eye Institute.
Dr. Helm states, “At Helm Vision Group we have patients who travel from Virginia, Minnesota, Washington, Oregon, and Arizona; basically all over the country because we have all the latest technology, and best eye surgeons right here in our offices in Valencia. Whether patients need basic eye care to the most advanced laser or cataract surgery or even corneal transplants, I can successfully treat them right here in my medical office.
He shares an interesting story, “When I was practicing in Virginia, one of my patients happened to be a billionaire; he started the Weather Channel. I found him to be a very humble man as we discussed surgery and treatment for a solution to his condition. His daughter was understandably protective and approached me saying, ‘Dr. Helm my father can fly a private jet to anywhere in the world. Where should he go for his eye problem?’ And
I said ‘well, he can go to UCLA where I trained with Dr. Bartly Mondino the Chairman of the Jules Stein Eye Institute and one of the top expert surgeons in the world on this condition, or your father can stay right here and I can do what Dr. Mondino trained me to do.’ So, he stayed and got the treatment from me and he did just fine.”
Dr. Helm is a cornea subspecialist by training. He performs partial-thickness corneal transplants, sometimes called “endothelial keratoplasty” or “sutureless” transplants, a highly skilled procedure that has revolutionized his practice. While Dr. Helm believes it is important to stay ahead of the curve as it relates to the latest technologies, realizing that things are going to progress and then adapting to them when there’s clearly something better is extremely challenging and takes vigilance.
Dr. Helm received a gymnastic scholarship to UCLA earning a B.S. degree in biochemistry then went on to Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, where he was an academic scholar and member of Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society. Later, Dr. Helm completed his residency at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA and also a fellowship as a Heed fellow. He then went on to serve his country in the United States Air Force at the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center in Virginia.
After leaving the Air Force in 1996, Dr. Helm began his private practice in Virginia, specializing in cataract surgery, corneal transplantation and laser vision correction. He built a successful practice there utilizing his unique talents and compassion for healing people from every walk of life. Today Dr. Helm runs a state-of-the-art facility in Valencia, where he continues to provide world-class treatment, excellent patient care, and cutting-edge technology while continuing to stay at the forefront of medicine.
According to Dr. Helm, “Laser vision correction, cataract surgery and corneal transplants are literally life changing for those who get it.” Dr. Helm elaborates, “Corneal surgery has gone through a revolution in the last 8 years, unless you’re careful, you will think you’re cutting edge, but you’re not anymore. He states, “If you’re still practicing the way you were 10 years ago, you can look around and realize you’re out of date and you’re not offering the best care for your patients.
“Doctors are like athletes in that we have a passion to practice and constantly train to learn new skills to stay on top of our game. By way of example: years ago I was so excited about a new technique that I flew up to Oregon to learn from Dr. Mark Terry one of the world’s leading experts in corneal transplantation. He was doing this procedure and other procedures that I’d been reading about and when I saw his results I was blown away. I thought ‘This is unbelievable; I have to do this!’ This is way better than what I’ve been reading. To say that it was eye-opening was an understatement (pun intended!). Learning to do these procedures totally changed my corneal practice.”
Because Dr. Helm continues to stay on top of his field of expertise he is often called upon to improve results from prior surgeries. Here below is an example of how Dr. Helm fixes problems that others have encountered from surgery.
Seeing is Believing
Dr. Helm has a warm laugh that sets his patients at ease. It’s been said that most people would rather be deaf than blind, which speaks to the serious nature of this profession, but as Dr. Helm says, “We’re trying to solve problems here, and they could range from itchy eyes to blindness, and certainly it’s most dramatic when you take someone from blindness to sight.” The ability for Dr. Helm to be cheerful while his patients put their sight in his hands shows his level of confidence, and their trust in him.
“I’ve done surgery on my mom, I’ve done surgery on my dad, and I’ve done surgery on my brother. And people have asked me, ‘How can you perform surgery on your own family members?’ I simply say to them that every surgery I do, and every person I treat is like family.”
Sensing such passion and confidence in Dr. Helm, I asked him if he had a bit of cowboy in him. Without hesitation, he replied “Oh, of course! Absolutely. To be a good surgeon you have to be very, very self-confident. You have to believe that whenever you operate on somebody that you’re going to do a great job; you’re going to do the best job and there’s nobody that can do a better job than you.”
“We take pride in our work because we know Helm Vision Group is a top medical facility comparable to any in the world. When I interview someone for a job, their skills have to be the best in their field, but I always ask them to tell me what the most important thing is in their life. Their response tells me who they are as a person.
It quickly becomes a very deep interview because I want to know what they’re all about under the surface.
“America is not great because it is diverse, America is diverse because it is great. If you work hard, you will better your situation, and you will succeed in some measure. Regardless of your race or gender, if you want to achieve the American dream what you need is opportunity. Opportunity is the American dream.
“My staff enjoys what we do so we naturally attract people through our innate desire to help and love all people regardless of their background. We have a very diverse community here in Santa Clarita from all over the world; places like Egypt, Syria, India, Pakistan, South and Central America, Asia, Japan, and Korea. And everybody is treated like they’re part of our family.”
As we came near the end of our time together, Dr. Helm spoke in a subdued tone, “I’ve done surgery on my mom, I’ve done surgery on my dad, and I’ve done surgery on my brother. And people have asked me, ‘How can you perform surgery on your own family members?’ I simply say to them that every surgery I do, and every person I treat is like family.”
“I’ve had many experiences where we were able to restore a patient’s sight dramatically.” Dr. Helm continues, “We recently had an active but elderly attorney who had only one good seeing eye which was failing due to hereditary disease causing swelling of his cornea. He was not able to drive and was struggling to read and work. He underwent our new technique of corneal transplantation (DEMK) and was seeing 20/20 within two weeks of surgery.”
He continues, “On another occasion we had a woman who was developing cataracts. She was so fearful of surgery that she let herself go blind. For 15 years she was unable to recognize faces. When she came to my office something clicked and she felt enough trust to allow me to perform her surgery. On her ride home after surgery, her daughter reported that she was speechless because of her recovered vision. For the first time in 15 years she was able to see faces and recognize her children and grandchildren.”
When asked how he finds inspiration to keep personally motivated in life and with his medical practice, Dr. Helm said, “I feel that I am on this earth for a purpose and that I have found my calling. I am energized by helping people maintain and recover their sight. Most people consider sight be their most precious sense. Helping someone to regain their vision is highly rewarding. I am by nature a perfectionist. Eye surgery and taking care of difficult eye conditions is all about attention to detail. Also, I have always been of the mind that everyone can teach you something. It makes life interesting to meet so many kinds of people. When you are helping them with respect to something they really cherish, they share more of themselves with you. It keeps life exciting!”
Dr. Helm received a gymnastic scholarship to UCLA earning a B.S. degree in biochemistry then went on to Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, where he was an academic scholar and member of Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society. Later, Dr. Helm completed his residency at the prestigious Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA as a Heed Fellow, then went on to serve his country in the United States Air Force at the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center in Virginia.
Helm Vision Group Valencia
27420 Tourney Road
Valencia, CA 91355