'The tires aren't worn out': No plans to retire just yet for Dr. Howard Gimbel

He just turned 84 last week but he’s got no plans to quit his ophthalmology practice anytime soon.

Cataract surgery pioneer considers Order of Canada ‘biggest honour one could ever have’

Dr. Howard Gimbel, shown in 1992 when he was awarded the Alberta Order of Excellence. Gimbel was recently named to the Order of Canada. (

He just turned 84 last week but he's got no plans to quit his ophthalmology practice anytime soon.

"I tell people that the tires aren't worn out," Dr. Howard Gimbel told The Homestretch on Tuesday.

"I don't feel like I want to retire because I don't really anticipate I could have the joys that I have in practice doing anything else."

Gimbel, of the renowned Gimbel Eye Centre, can now add being named to the Order of Canada to his long list of accomplishments and awards. Literally, dozens of awards over his four-decade career in eye care with a focus on new technologies.

"Canada is a big country. It's a country I love and it just seems like the biggest honour one could ever have," Gimbel said of his Order of Canada distinction.

His embracing of technology has improved patient care dramatically.

"I got started in this new method of cataract surgery back in 1974," he explained.

"Any new method naturally goes through refinements early on. Being privileged to be one of the early adaptors, and having a high volume of surgery, they say necessity is the mother of invention. It was just in response to trying to modify the technique to avoid complications. Other things I have innovated were to manage complications after successful surgeries because of age change, and things like that."

'It has changed drastically'

Cataract patient recovery time is one of the big changes he has observed and contributed to over the years.

"It has changed drastically," Gimbel said.

"When I was in training, we had patients stay in the hospital for a week. They were bed-ridden and they had risks of pulmonary embolism and others. They wore a patch. Now, not even having to change clothes to have the surgery, it's more like going to the dentist."

Gimbel is optimistic for the future of ophthalmology.

"Technology is certainly changing our field. I just read recently about how the digital time we are living in might even make it so that we won't be looking through a microscope to do the surgery. It will be a digital 3D image. When I started practice, the first laser in medicine was introduced, that was the argon laser for ophthalmology. Now we have different wavelength lasers that do different things. It is just amazing."

Musical saw and writing

When he's not performing around 20 surgeries a day, which is up from around five a few decades ago thanks to technological improvements, he loves playing the musical saw.

And Gimbel is also putting his vast knowledge on paper.

"I am publishing a book chapter right now," he said.

"I was asked to write a chapter on some of the techniques that I have developed."

With files from The Homestretch