On Dr. Jacob Mong’s desk sits a Mike Wazowski action figure from the Pixar movie Monsters, Inc. It was given to him by the high school students of his first cataract patient during residency and he keeps it there as a reminder of why he became an ophthalmologist.
“’One-Eyed Mike’ was a father of three in his mid-thirties, one of the working uninsured in Detroit who had developed a white cataract in one eye but unable to afford the complex surgery. As a new resident, I was allowed a certain number of uninsured cases if I had a willing proctor. Somehow, I convinced Mike to be my first cataract surgery and it was probably one of the hardest procedures I have done in my life. It went well and the joy Mike expressed and shared with me the next day solidified my decision to pursue this specialty.”
Dr. Mong grew up on a farm in Emmett, studied at Northwest Nazarene University, and spent several years as a deployed National Guardsman before attending Michigan State University Medical School. As a member of the Army (Active, National Guard and Reserve) for the past 20 years, he was most recently deployed to Iraq in 2018-2019. It’s there he met Carl, one of many military working dogs who go face first into dangerous situations to neutralize or distract while our soldiers do their jobs.
“Carl was one of those dogs who ended up with significant facial lacerations after one such mission. Due to the lack of available flights and specialty care for canine injuries in Iraq, a decision about Carl's fate was being discussed. However, I happened to be near the veterinary office that day and walked in to see if I could lend a hand. I spent the next two hours studying a sandy old textbook on canine anatomy then another three hours working with the veterinarian, who provided the anesthesia care, while I repaired Carl's "face" to include all three of his eyelids (look it up).
“We were able to save his eye and surrounding structures. Six weeks later, Carl was back in the fight and I found myself the new Iraq canine ophthalmologist. While I have no desire to seek training or even attempt to ever get involved with veterinary care here in the states, the experience of growing under pressure and making a needed difference, simply by being willing to step up, continues to shape the way I think about healthcare.”
For several years, Dr. Mong worked with long-time Boise eye doctor John Sonntag at Vision Quest Medical Center. Upon his retirement in 2017, Mong purchased the practice and now has three other physicians and 28 staff members he leads. He is excited to play a role in shaping the future of eye care here in the Treasure Valley.
Before 2017, if you wanted state of the art cataract surgery, you would need to go to Salt Lake or Seattle. Now, Dr. Mong feels fortunate to offer the Treasure Valley laser cataract surgery, real time intraoperative measurements, and verification of implant alignment and power. In fact, Vision Quest was also the first in Idaho to bring newly FDA approved implants which correct vision at the time of cataract surgery for all ranges, distance, intermediate and near.
He encourages other physicians to only provide care they would give their parents or siblings (assuming you actually like them). Sometimes, he says, listening to hear is the only treatment necessary. And he emphasizes we cannot truly care for patients if we can't care for ourselves and loved ones first.
To that end, he treasures the titles in life that have the most meaning: Husband, Daddy, and friend. With four children under the age of seven, he is often engrossed in building Legos, going over homework, and taking them up for ski lessons. For his own fun, he is learning to play the guitar and logging hours towards a private pilot’s license behind the controls of a Cessna 172.