Southern Eye Center Celebrates 35 Years

Thirty-five years ago, the citizens of Hattiesburg frequently had to travel out of town to receive specialized eye care. Dr. Lynn McMahan, the founder of Southern Eye Center, was determined to change that for his hometown. He pursued advanced training in ophthalmology and, upon returning to the Pine Belt, he began to construct a state-of-the-art facility to house the multi-specialty eye surgeons he planned to bring into his practice.

Dr. McMahan was among the first in the nation to perform outpatient cataract procedures, pioneering a new way to perform cataract removal outside of a hospital setting and without the necessity for general anesthesia. As a result, Dr. McMahan began to be invited to teach and speak nationally on the improved results of this revolutionary accomplishment. By making the cataract procedure easier and offering improved patient results, Dr. McMahan became one of the busiest cataract implant surgeons in the country; and he was able to begin to realize his dream of providing Hattiesburg with access to excellent sub-specialty ophthalmologists.

Later, Jamie Jiménez, M.D. was brought on board to take care of complicated retinal disorders such as diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and retinal detachments. Dr. Jiménez became one of the first retina surgeons in the country to perform retina procedures on an outpatient basis and he remains the only full-time retina specialist in the Pine Belt.

Next, Southern Eye Center built Mississippi’s first outpatient surgery center which was devoted entirely to patients with eye problems. Fellowship-trained cornea and glaucoma surgeons were brought on to increase the range of specialties available here in our area.

Kiper Nelson, M.D. arrived in 2000 and completed a fellowship in Cataract and Implant surgery.  “I pushed him pretty hard teaching him Southern Eye Center’s unique way of practice,” says Dr. McMahan. “But Dr. Nelson loves cataract surgery, and he stuck with it and he is now one of the best cataract surgeons in the country.” Dr. Nelson frequently teaches other eye surgeons the innovative techniques used at Southern Eye Center and has branched out to embrace newer, more advanced procedures such as iCataract, blade-free cataract removal. Dr. Nelson also founded Southern Eye Lasik Center, South Mississippi’s only full time, state of the art LASIK facility, offering iLASIK, blade free laser vision correction. With the opening of the LASIK Center and the increased popularity of LASIK, a laser procedure done on the cornea to improve vision without glasses, Southern Eye Center is fortunate to have the Pine Belt’s only fellowship-trained cornea specialist in Dr. Cameron S. Griffith. Additionally, as a corneal specialist, Dr. Griffith is able to perform corneal transplants and implants to restore vision in patients that require such advanced procedures.

Today, Southern Eye Center has almost 100 employees and has accomplished so many firsts it is impossible to keep up with them. Styles and techniques implemented here have been featured in over 60 national publications. The surgeons of Southern Eye Center have lectured on six continents and in almost every major American city. Our surgeons have served on the national council for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and as officers on numerous national ophthalmology organizations. Our Gift of Sight program, which provides free eye surgery for patients unable to pay, won the national Make a Difference Day award from USA Today. We have received the Governor’s Volunteerism Award from Governor Musgrove, had several of our surgeons recognized by the MS Business Journal’s Top Forty Under Forty, as well as being named Health Care Heroes for outstanding patient care and community involvement.

Governor Barbour and the Mississippi Legislature issued a proclamation honoring the work done at Southern Eye Center. Our practice also received the Key to the City of Hattiesburg.

“When every goal you have set has been met and even exceeded, you have a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. Southern Eye Center is prepared to meet the challenge of leading Mississippi in sub-specialty eye care for another 35 years,” Dr. Lynn B. McMahan.