Dr. Petra Schollmayer, FEBO, is a skilled anterior segment surgeon working at the University Eye Hospital in Ljubljana. She runs a private Eye Surgery Centre known as Hawlina & Schollmayer on the Slovenian coast and lives between Slovenia and Italy. In this way, she can enjoy the best of both countries and the best of ophthalmology.
Tell us a little bit about yourself…
I was born in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia that became a very popular tourist destination. At that time, Slovenia was a part of Yugoslavia, giving us multicultural values. In my family, I had shared a happy childhood with two younger sisters.
Why did you choose to be a doctor?
I studied in the Austrian capital of Vienna that has been, with a reason, named the best city for quality of life for 10 years in a row.
I was enchanted by Viennese culture and rich tradition of Vienna University. Despite my studies, I had a chance to travel a lot around the world and discover how important it is to learn from others. I finished my residency at the University Eye Hospital in Ljubljana where I work as a cornea consultant and anterior segment surgeon. We also run an eye bank at the hospital and have a research group focusing on limbal and epithelial cell cultures. I do all kinds of keratoplasties (PK, DMEK, and DALK) and ocular surface reconstruction like conjunctival-limbal grafts and amniotic membrane transplantation. However, I still visit Vienna every year, where I am a faculty member of international wetlab for cataract surgery.
Why did you choose ophthalmology?
I always wanted to be a surgeon, and I still find it fascinating performing surgeries such as DMEK or even refractive lens exchange that are state of the art, in my opinion, with all the new technologies that enable our patients to see after the surgery almost as when they were young. Ophthalmology is least but not last where I met my partner, Marko Hawlina, with whom I share a family. We run our private eye surgery center in Portorose and Ljubljana.
Do you have any children? How is your relationship with your children?
I have two daughters, whom I am very proud of. I try to spend as much time as possible with them, which is not easy given our busy schedules. My older daughter, Ava, is 20, and we love to “escape” somewhere on our own. Every year we “steal” part of holidays and go scuba diving. I hope this coronavirus pandemic will not stop us this year. My younger daughter, Pavla, is 6 and goes to bilingual primary school in Trieste, just across the border in Italy. We moved to Trieste few years ago when Ava was an active swimmer, a national backstroke record holder. She was training and visiting international school in Trieste. We all fell in love with this Mediterranean region where Italian, Slovenian, and Austro-Hungarian cultures meet.
What do you do in your free time and holidays?
There are so many things that I love to do with my family or friends. Sailing is the best summer holiday I can imagine. I love swimming and scuba diving. Every winter, we try to go skiing for at least a week. Last year, we started to dance tango, which gave me the best relaxation after a long working day. Studies show that dancing prevents dementia as it simultaneously activates many different brain areas. I hope to find some more time for theater, concerts, and reading books.
How many hours do you work in a day? How do you motivate yourself?
As I am not a morning person, unfortunately I have to wake up before 6 a.m. to prepare and plan everything for my work and my family that day. We bring our daughter to school, stop for a real Italian cappuccino, and then work till around 6 p.m. I always try hard to spend some “play time” with my younger daughter every day. Many times, we go running together along a scenic Trieste coastal promenade, so we combine sports and play time.
What is the best/memorable moment of your life?
It is definitely the birth of my two daughters.
If you could go back to 10 years, what would you advise to your younger self?
You can achieve anything you want if you fight for it.
Can you please share a personal note for our readers regarding Covid-19?
Covid-19 has changed our
Covid-19 has changed our life in many different ways. Some countries, such as Italy, have been hit very hard, whilst some are happy to be able to start lifting the restrictions. In Slovenia, we are slowly opening our practices and thinking of strategies to prevent a second peak, including social distancing. Unfortunately, the borders still remain closed preventing us to go to our second home in Trieste and to live in Europe without borders.