undertaking, he planned extensively and practiced repeatedly until he achieved perfection second best was never an option.”
Dr. Bradley Wong also described Camara as a “brilliant, talented and innovative eye surgeon” who was loved not only for his skills as a doctor but also for his personal interest in his patients’ lives and their improved health and well-being.
“He cared deeply for his patients and was a friend to anyone who would reach out to him,” says Dr. Wong.
Richard Pecson, a personal friend, knew Camara for the past 20 years and was also his patient. He describes Camara as a very thoughtful and grateful individual.
“No matter how busy he was, he made the time to remain in touch via voicemail, text or email just to convey edifying words of friendship,” Pecson says. “He always acknowledged in a special way even the littlest favor I did for him. I will terribly miss our conversations about spiritual matters and a sovereign God who loves all of us.”
A Doctor’s Doctor
Camara was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the eldest of 12 children. He grew up in Manila, where he studied medicine at the University of the Philippines. He later moved to Houston, Texas where he completed his training in ophthalmology at Baylor College of Medicine Cullen Eye Institute. He completed a post-residency fellowship in Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, also at Baylor. In 1982, he joined Straub Clinic and later opened the Camara Eye Clinic at 2226 Liliha Street, where he provided the very best possible eye care to his patients.
Always a pioneer of new surgical procedures, Camara performed the first YAG laser capsulotomy in Hawaii, developed a laser procedure to treat blocked tear ducts, and discovered a condition found in Asians called Involutional Lateral Entropion wherein the upper eyelids turn inwards and rub on the surface of the eye.
In 1999, he performed the world’s first orbital surgery via long distance telemedicine on a 16-year-old female patient from the Big Island. Camara’s cutting-edge surgical procedures in ophthalmology were featured many times on the local and national television news, including NBC, CBS and ABC news, and internationally on CNN Headline News. His numerous scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals included a description of the use of radiofrequency in pterygium surgery, a new test to diagnose blocked tear ducts, and the use of an image guided system in orbital surgery.
He received many awards over the years, including the 2001 Physician of the Year Award by the Hawaii Medical Association. Camara was chosen by his peers in recognition of his medical accomplishments and for outstanding service to the community. As further proof of his medical expertise, Camara was named by Honolulu Magazine as one of the “Best Doctors” in Hawaii, in its 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012 issues.
In 2005, he again made history by playing the piano live in an operating room. The music he performed for patients prior to surgery was shown scientifically to lower the blood pressure, heart and respiratory rates, and reduce the need for medications before and after surgery.
Camara is also the first surgeon to produce a CD recorded live in the operating room. The CD, entitled “Live From the Operating Room,” included Debussy’s “Arabesque No. 1 in E Major” and Chopin’s “Etude in E Major, Op. 10 No. 3,” to “The More I See You,” by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon.
One of his patients said that the live piano music made a huge difference. She wrote: “The music soared above me, swirled around me. It penetrated through my pores, beyond my ears, past my mind and somehow, into my heart. I felt at peace. I felt safe. I felt like everything was going to be just fine. And it was.”
Camara utilized his piano skills beyond the operating room and encouraged other musically-inclined physicians to join him in benefit concerts for the Aloha Medical Mission. A small recital was initially planned at the Sanders’ Piano store on South King Street but it was scrapped in favor of the much larger Neal Blaisdell Concert Hall. Concerts were held in 2004 (“Four Doctors and a Patient”), 2005 (“Four Doctors, a Patient and an Idol”), 2007 (“Four Doctors, A Patient and the Mayor”) and 2009 (“Four Doctors, a Patient and a Sweetheart”).
The four sold-out concerts raised about $130,000 each and were a major source of funding for AMM’s projects. Dr. Camara also performed in two of the AMM’s “Meet-and-Greet” fundraisers.
For all of his skills as a top-notch ophthalmologist, many say Camara was equally gifted on the piano as he was in the operating room. He enjoyed a wide range of composers and could play many pieces from memory.
“I considered Jorge to be a very good pianist,” says Dr. Vernon Ansdell.
One person who had the opportunity to know Camara’s passion for music was Dr. Wong, who was often invited over to listen to him play the piano and critique his performance. About four months ago, Camara invited himself over to Wong’s residence to test his newly-tuned Steinway piano.
“I was a bit surprised that he was so interested in hearing how my newly-tuned piano would sound, but in retrospect, I see now that it was his way of connecting with me,” Wong says. “I recall his usual playing pose of chin up, eyes closed, head and shoulders splayed back. I knew he was happy, showing off to me his latest newly-learned piece. That’s what I admired about himhis intensity, his passion with which he threw himself into his playing.”
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