Thomas Castillo, DO named department’s 2023 Distinguished Educator


To Thomas Castillo, DO, MBA, being ‘distinguished’ is all in a day’s work.

Castillo, a clinical adjunct professor with the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, has been named the department’s 2023 Distinguished Educator.

“I have always felt that I am just doing my job and have never really been one to track things,” Castillo said, in accepting the award. “I just do my thing as part of a team of wonderful people.”

The Distinguished Educator Award, now in its 9th year, recognizes department faculty who have demonstrated an outstanding lifetime contribution to education.

After earning his Bachelor of Science in Biology from Loyola University in Chicago, Castillo earned his Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine at the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1977. He also has a Master of Business Administration from St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa.

“Ophthalmology was the best medical field for me because of the diversity of conditions I’m able to treat,” Castillo said. “I believe what defines a physician is compassion, and my goal is to provide complete and compassionate care for all of my patients, utilizing all of my God-given talents.”

For the majority of his professional career, Castillo has worked at Beaver Dam Eye Clinic, specializing in medical and surgical diseases of the eye, including cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy. He routinely performs cataract surgery, intravitreal injections for wet macular degeneration, laser surgeries for glaucoma and secondary cataracts and eyelid surgeries.

He credits his cousin with influencing his career choice. “While I was a medical student, my cousin was a resident in ophthalmology at Chicago Osteopathic Hospital,” he said. “Whenever I was at the hospital he would say ‘hey, come take a look at this,’ and his enthusiasm for the profession rubbed off on me. Of course, back then ophthalmologists were the only ones with lasers with maybe the exception of Goldfinger and The Who.”

For Castillo, who has been teaching medical students at UW-Madison since 2010, teaching has always been part of his life. “I guess I have always loved teaching,” he said. “I was teaching guitar to the younger kids in the neighborhood when I was taking guitar lessons when I was 12. I found out back then that teaching was the best way to learn.”

Castillo also teaches residents from several different universities as part of the department’s annual cataract extraction course. He also has trained dozens of certified ophthalmic medical assistants and technicians throughout his career.

“Dr. Castillo has been invaluable to our educational mission,” said Daniel Knoch, MD. “His teaching is highly regarded by the medical students and his commitment to also teaching our residents at the Multiphasic Phaco Course is best illustrated by him (and his wife Debbie) volunteering to be part of the infamous ‘5:00 AM crew.’  We are deeply grateful for his numerous teaching contributions.”

Dr. Thomas Castillo
Dr. Thomas Castillo at the department’s 2023 Phacoemulsification cataract extraction course (Photo © Andy Manis)


professor wearing a mask delivering a lecture
Dr. Thomas Castillo delivers a lecture at the department’s Phacoemulsification cataract extraction course in 2021 (Photo © Andy Manis)


“I’m proud of the fact that collectively they have been able to help tens of thousands of patients, and they will continue to help people long after I’m gone,” Castillo said. “It’s said that an inheritance is what you leave to people, but a legacy is what you leave in people. All of these students are my legacy.”

“I am grateful to be part of the DOVS faculty,” Castillo added. “If I can light a spark in a medical student to become an ophthalmologist or encourage a resident to always continue to grow in his profession, then I’ve done my job.”