By Dr. Gary Hall
PHOENIX, Ariz., July 13. I’VE always thought that a family-run business would be the best kind of business to have. Not that our family always gets along. The fact is, when you raise a bunch of strong-willed athletic children, you consider yourself lucky to get through a family dinner without a major fight breaking out. But since none of my six elected to follow their father into the field of medicine, thereby breaking the string of three generations of doctors, I decided, "if you can't beat ‘em, join ‘em".
This year, after 50,000 plus eye surgeries spanning a 24-year career, I am retiring from ophthalmology. Well, not quite. I am changing my focus from the surgical treatment of eye disease to the prevention of eye disease. One of my pet peeves of ophthalmology is that day after day I see solar-related eye diseases galore: cataract, macular degeneration, pterygium, lid cancer, etc. Yet, not many out there in the world get it. They don't understand how damaging the sun is to the eye. So I am going to try to change that and, hopefully, prevent some of these serious eye diseases for future generations. More about this in a moment.
While I am making this life-changing decision, an incredible opportunity arose. My son, Gary Jr., invited me to be his partner in the Race Club. Wow! Usually it’s the other way around, but to tell you the truth, I was very flattered he asked me. So I said "yes", and we didn't stop there. We invited my daughter, Maria, who recently graduated from the University of Miami, to be the communications director. We asked my daughter Bebe, who graduated from the University of San Diego and was on a year sabbatical from elementary teaching, trekking in New Zealand with her Kiwi boyfriend, Steve, to be the manager of camps and clinics.
Their mother, Mary, who did a pretty darned good job of raising them all, and is undoubtedly the most organized person in the family, has become the Race Club bookkeeper. So Gary Sr., the visionary, and Gary Jr., the artist, have put this Hall group together in hopes of creating something really special, and the first of its kind: The Race Club Fantasy Camp or as Jr. likes to call it Camp Race Club.
Mary and I have so fallen in love with this special place in the Florida Keys, called Islamorada, that I am selling our home and medical practice in Arizona and moving to help run Camp Race Club. Can't wait to get there. Nestled into a small park overlooking Florida Bay, the multimillion-dollar Olympic training complex in Islamorada is the perfect place to truly enjoy a week focused on health and fast swimming. Actually, for all of you out there stressed out about life and looking for the perfect escape, Camp Race Club will be your therapy. Or, if you or your kids are burned out on swimming, we’ll show you it can be fun again.
Training along side some of the fastest swimmers in the world (The Race Club World Team), relaxing afterward at the famous Cheeca Lodge and Resort, and a little snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of the Keys is just what the doctor ordered. But don't come alone. Bring the whole family or a friend. We promise an unforgettable week.
I have never been very good about keeping secrets. Ask Mary. So, with Mike Bottom's and Jon Olsen's permission, the two Race Club coaches, we are sharing the secrets of the training, which enabled our swimmers to dominate the 50-meter freestyle in the last two Olympics. What! You're not a sprinter! Too bad, you are like me. But don't worry, even the poor guy with one single, long, red (slow twitch) muscle fiber, encircling his bony frame like a string of spaghetti, still likes to out-kick his rival at the end. We'll show you how to do that.
The thing about our secrets is that it doesn't matter whether you are a triathlete swimming 2.5 miles in Kona Bay or an open-water swimmer training to cross the English Channel. Learning the techniques of mental focus, strength training, nutrition and recovery (yes…everyone forgets about recovery) will help you in whatever swimming you choose to do. Just remember to be at your best, you have to learn all five disciplines.
Now, back to preventing solar eye disease. When I am not mingling with the Race Club Campers (and training with them) you will find me trying to bring the sunglass industry to a higher standard for rating their products. Leave it to me to pick easy projects! Twelve years ago, I was challenged by a professor at UCLA to develop the analogy of the SPF for sunscreen products for sunglasses. So what I thought was a weekend project has turned into a long journey, one I hope to complete soon.
Even if you did understand that the sun is causing all this serious damage to your eyes, which you probably didn’t, when you go down to Sunglass Hut and look for some cool shades to protect yourself, the problem is you don't have a clue how much solar protection you are getting. But the lens says it blocks 100% UV. What more do I need to know? A lot.
There are four factors which all contribute to sun-related eye diseases: UV, blue light, infrared and frame coverage (that is how much the sunglass lens and frame wrap around the eye). Until the development of the EPF (Eye Protection Factor), which measures all four factors, all you got is the UV information (maybe).
So, I am trying to get every sunglass manufacturer in the world to have their products tested and EPF rated, which will hopefully do three things: 1) Bring more public awareness to solar related eye diseases. 2) Allow consumers to make intelligent choices about protecting their eyes. 3) Prevent some serious eye problems later in life (which, like skin cancer, start with early exposure).
By the way, on one of my many trips around the world campaigning for the EPF system, I sat next to this nice lady who has four grandchildren and after listening to my quest, she asked a simple question. "Why doesn't anyone make sunglasses for children that work?" “I don’t know,” I replied, “I don’t make sunglasses. I just encourage people to wear them.”
With that, she pulled out her napkin and started writing a business plan. When we touched down in Phoenix, she turned to me and asked, “What are those four factors you measure for the EPF again?” “Frame coverage, UV, blue light, and Infrared,” I answered.
She thought for a moment. “Frubi Shades! That’s what we’ll call them!” She reached out her hand and shook mine exclaiming, “You are my new partner.” Last week, we launched Frubi Shades
So, as you can see, I am not really retiring, just changing direction. Please plan to come down to Islamorada and join us for a week. We promise you will have a great experience. Not only will you swim faster, but where else in the world can you order a fish sandwich and get a choice of four different fresh fish caught the day before?