Getting a specialist for a medical procedure can sometimes, itself, feel like a bit of a procedure.
For eye patients in the Comox Valley, a recent challenge has been a change of ophthalmologists, with Dr. Pieter Claasen needing to find a replacement. After more than 20,000 patients, Claasen, who has worked in the area since 2005, is now on extended medical leave, and his practice is being taken over by Dr. Victor Penner.
“There was no hesitation in deciding to apply,” says Penner. “I feel incredibly lucky to take over Dr. Claasen’s patients and office.”
The sign for the office at 1530 Cliffe Ave. still refers to Dr. Claasen’s office, but they are in the process of changing it.
Penner was born and raised in Winnipeg, Man. After high school, following in father’s footsteps, he enrolled in engineering at the University of Manitoba, but in his third year, he decided to switch to optometry, this time at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. After four years he graduated with his Doctor of Optometry. In his last year of optometry school, he did an ocular health rotation with an ophthalmologist in Brandon, Man.
“It was during this rotation that I developed a desire to perform eye surgery,” he says.
This required returning to school for another 10 years, including four years of medical school, followed by a five-year ophthalmology residency and one year of subspecialty training. While in the final year of his ophthalmology training, the position for the Comox Valley was posted, as Dr. Claasen was retiring.
Penner graduated as a surgical ophthalmologist with a glaucoma subspecialty. His scope of practice includes managing a variety of ocular conditions, with a focus on cataracts and glaucoma.
During his education, Penner met his wife, Mercedes, as his lab partner in undergrad chemistry. They attended optometry school together and were married during a summer break. In her final year of optometry, she had a rotation with optometrists on Vancouver Island in Sooke and Goldstream. At that point, the couple considered moving to Vancouver Island, but Penner’s interest in attending medical school sent them back to Winnipeg.
Starting a family was always a priority for the couple, and the first of their three children was born on Penner’s first day of medical school. He had to call the administrative office on his first day to inform them he could not be attend classes that day. Penner and his family are looking forward to “all the adventures” they will have in the community.