Zion Eye’s Derek Denney can’t see himself doing anything else but helping others with their vision

Composite image. Background photo shows the Zion Eye Institute, St. George, Utah, Sept. 4, 2019. Foreground image features Dr. Derek Denney, location and date not specified | Background photo by Andrew Pinckney. Denney photo courtesy of Zion Eye Institute, St. George News

CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — The last thing a person losing their eyesight wants to hear is that their condition has no cure, but for Dr. Derek Denney, it was the spark that helped him become an ophthalmologist.

Dr. Derek Denney, Zion Eye Institute, location and date not specified | Photo courtesy of Zion Eye Institute, St. George News

Denney, who started working with Zion Eye Institute earlier this year, told St. George News he has two nephews who suffer from retinitis pigementosa, a rare genetic disease that changes how the retina responds to light, making it progressively harder to see. 

“It’s the reason I got into ophthalmology. It got me wanting to help out in any way,” Denney said. “I really wanted to get involved in research during medical school.”

After graduating with honors from Weber State University, the northern Utah native earned his medical degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin, where he involved himself in several research studies in the field of ophthalmology. Even though he already had a passion for science courses like anatomy and physiology, it was through research that he found his calling.

“That’s where my love for the eye grew as I shadowed clinicians and saw different surgeries,” he said, adding that observing the clinicians’ level of knowledge and how they interacted with and helped their patients made him have a burning desire to work hard to become the best in his field. 

“It really impressed upon me the need for doctors who are willing to put in the hard work.”

Denney specializes in cataract surgery, glaucoma surgery and LASIK surgeries at Zion Eye, but as a general ophthalmologist, he said every day is exciting because he can never predict what kind of problem might walk through the door. From trauma cases where the patient’s eye has burst out of the socket to construction workers with metal shavings lodged in a cornea, Denney said it can be challenging but that it is important work they are doing.

He said even after performing hundreds of cataract surgeries, they are still exciting.

“After you get that cataract out and that new lens in and it’s nice and clear during the surgery … it’s always a very fulfilling moment. Every surgery, I think it’s still great when they’re healed up and say, ‘Wow, this is amazing.'”

New advancements in the industry also help to keep things exciting, he said. Recently, a new trifocal lens was approved that not only gives the patients good distance vision but also intermediate and near-vision, which can hopefully get people out of their glasses entirely – and with less side effects like glare and halos. Zion Eye Institute was the first clinic in Utah to receive the lens from the manufacturer for patient use, and although they are still in the early stages, Denney said they have seen great success.

“From what we’ve seen so far, it’s very promising,” he said.

As a father of four, Denney said he and his wife both love St. George’s “great playground to live in,” and they are happy to be here settling down to raise their family. He is looking forward to meeting new patients and helping them understand their eye problems and finding solutions. 

“I couldn’t see myself doing anything else besides looking at people’s eyes and doing eye surgeries for the rest of my life.”

They’re your eyes, he said. Ask questions, do research, talk to your doctor. And as you make decisions together, really try to be involved in discovering what problem you have and what treatments are available. 

For more information about Dr. Denney and other physicians at Zion Eye Institute, visit their website. You can also call for an appointment today at 435-656-2020.

Written by ANDREW PINCKNEY, St. George News.

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