The Moment The Story Started

Each of us can point to a pivotal point in our past that would change the trajectory of our life. Perhaps even many lives. That moment for me was Paris 2003 on a bone-chilling January evening.

Imagine two young lovers enjoying a lingering kiss between sips of red wine, coddled by a fireplace in view of the shimmering Eiffel Tower... Aha, just kidding.

That particular night in Paris, far from any hint of romance—found me bundled head-to-toe, pacing Place Saint Michel on the Left Bank ahead of my meeting. I was in town to promote TFOS, a global nonprofit I had just launched with my father, Dr. David A. Sullivan, to promote literacy and educational aspects of the tear film and ocular surface [translation: front of the eye diseases]. Back then, we were a mere seedling of what would blossom to a 100+ nation network of scientists, academic clinicians and industry representatives advancing momentum in ophthalmological research.

As the blood flowed to keep my body warm, ideas swirled in controlled chaos forming  a virtual evidence board in my head. Think: a crazy Carrie (Homeland) moment.

I inhaled my surroundings with every frosty breath. The Latin Quarter, known to draw eclectic crowds of students and intellectuals over the centuries, was the perfect co-conspirator for my aha moment.

Could it be that mascara causes or exacerbates dry eye disease?

That was the question. An unanswered one, even among 'the experts.' I was simultaneously disappointed and energized. Growing up in a medical and scientific family taught me to question and analyze everything. More important, to imagine, seek and, when necessary, create solutions.

Unlike the scientists, I was required to translate research and consensus for a non-scientific audience. After pouring over reams of research on Dry Eye Disease (DED), I couldn’t escape the nagging question: “Why is this condition twice as prevalent in women than men?"

I thought: Hmm… Women pay more attention to their faces. Women touch their eyes more. Women apply makeup on their eyelids and lashes. There are a multitude of chemicals in cosmetics. Are these chemicals approved for eye safety, like pharmaceuticals? There must be a correlation between our use of cosmetics and the prevalence of DED!

Like the nighttime explosion of light from the top of the Eiffel Tower, during one of my turns in Place Saint Michel, I stopped mid-thought, and asked out loud, “Could mascara cause or exacerbate dry eye disease?” 
It was as if the Heavens had listened and, winked.
The rest, as they say, is HerStory.

But your story, our story... Indeed the rest of The Story, one that you will help write,
is as exciting as that night in Paris long ago.