2018 Top Doctor: Aileen Villareal

Written by Editorial Staff Category: Profiles Issue: April 2018
Group Free

Ophthalmology
Med School/Year Graduated: University of Arizona, 1991
Years in Practice: 22

2018 Top Doctor: Aileen Villareal

You hail from a family of physicians. What do you find so fascinating about sight?
My father is a retired trauma surgeon and my mother [is] a retired pediatrician. They inspired both my sister and me to pursue careers in medicine. Having worn glasses since the first grade, I’ve always had a keen appreciation for the sense of sight. Sight allows us to perceive impressions of people, places and things and to fully interact with the world around us. The eye is a remarkable organ – I’m still amazed at how, with all of its intricacies, it provides us with the ability to see.

What are the most common eyelid conditions?
Most eyelid conditions are inflammatory in nature, and can, in turn, contribute to ocular surface disease. In my practice, the most common condition I encounter is meibomian gland dysfunction [MGD], one of the leading causes of dry eye. Treatment of this condition can be challenging at times, but new therapies for MGD continue to evolve, providing higher levels of relief for those who suffer with dry eyes.

Do you have any favorite patient success stories from over the years?
Early in my career, I took care of a young woman who told me she wanted to go to law school, but decided against it, because she felt that she couldn’t handle all the reading that the curriculum would require. When she read for long periods of time, the words on the page started to move, making it difficult for her to concentrate. Based on other symptoms she described, I sent her to be screened for Irlen Syndrome, a problem with the brain’s ability to process visual information. The person who screened her prescribed colored glasses to help her with her reading issues. Long story short, once my patient had the appropriate correction, she took the LSAT and scored in the top 5 percent in the nation, and ultimately, was accepted to five law schools. I have since lost track of her, but I was happy to play a role in helping her pursue her career choice.
 
You enjoy traveling. What is the single most beautiful or memorable sight you remember from your travels?
The sun setting over Wailea Beach in Maui. I can still picture the sunset through cumulus clouds in a lavender sky, white waves crashing on the beach in the foreground. The thought never fails to take my breath away.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
For fun, I enjoy traveling, exercising, cooking and watching old movies, but what I love most is spending time doing anything with my husband and my son. I also volunteer at the St. Vincent de Paul eye clinic bimonthly, providing eye care to the underserved.

“If I wasn’t a doctor, I’d be...”
A stylist! I enjoy keeping up with the latest fashion trends and love coordinating clothing and accessories for friends and family.