The windows to the soul

Dr Kuheli is a reputed name in the field of ophthalmology in the state


Dr Kuheli Bhattacharya’s life has been all about recognising opportunities and making important choices. Living by the principle “when one door closes, another one opens,” Dr Kuheli has moved from hurdle after hurdle, to find her true calling in private practice. In an eye-opening session with Dr Kuheli Bhattacharya, we found out just what can be achieved with determination, passion and inspiration.

For Dr Kuheli, choosing to pursue medicine was largely due to the fact that both her mother and grandfather were doctors. She completed her MBBS from Seth Gowardhandas Sunderdas Medical College, and King Edward Memorial Hospital (KEM), Mumbai. She then went on to do her Masters in Surgery in Ophthalmology from the Goa Medical College.

Nothing surpasses the privilege of restoring sight and curing eye defects. The almost instant results and the immediateness of the treatment was what drew Dr Kuheli to specialise in ophthalmology. She then went on to pursue two fellowships at the International Council of Ophthalmology (Basic Science Examination in Ophthalmology and Optics and Refraction Examination in Ophthalmology) followed by two separate training fellowships at PBMA’s HV Desai Eye Hospital at Pune (Phacoemulsification Surgery and Medical Retina). She then undertook yet another fellowship in Paediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismology at Aravind Eye Hospital, Madurai, followed by an International fellowship in Paediatric Ophthalmology, where she trained under Dr Brian Campolattaro of the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary at Mount Sinai, New York.

Today, as one of the few doctors in Goa trained in treating paediatric cataracts, squints, nystagmus, double vision, and congenital diseases of the eye, Dr Kuheli is a reputed name in the field of ophthalmology. Established in April 2017, the Spectrum Clinic located in St Inez has diligently been effecting change and bringing quality eye-care services to Goa. For Dr Kuheli, taking the leap into private practice wasn’t part of the plan. “As they say, when one door closes, another one opens. It took me a massive leap of faith to realise I wanted to change my working for someone else, to get to the stage where I work for myself. Starting Spectrum Clinic was the single most defining moment, for me. After four years of freelancing, I finally jumped into starting something of my own, and I could finally do so many creative new things for ophthalmology as I wish to practice it.”

Of course, starting a solo ophthalmology practice proved to be intimidating – especially for a young ophthalmologist. In private practice, in addition to patient care, young practice owners must learn to run a business and master management concepts that were glaringly absent during training. One of the biggest challenges Dr Kuheli faced was the initial response from the public. “People were not willing to go to a lady doctor; some were reluctant because I looked young and inexperienced.”

Today, with more and more females entering the medical field, it should be no surprise that the number of female doctors reaching prominence is ever increasing. Despite this, Dr Kuheli admits that there are still some struggles that apply to lady doctors more strongly than as compared to their male counterparts. “Growing up, I was never made to feel lesser, weaker or inferior to my male counterparts. In fact, I had never faced the ‘boy-girl’ discrimination. It is only now that I am beginning to notice it in society – when they don’t trust your judgment, simply because you are a woman. Ultimately, it’s all about proving yourself as a doctor – you have to be confident in yourself and your abilities as a doctor. I am extremely grateful to my patients who have put their faith in me and my abilities,” she says.

There’s not a big epiphany where you change things dramatically in medicine. Progress is achieved by the constant pursuit of the elusive goal of perfection. Dr Kuheli goes the extra mile in keeping current on the latest innovations in eye care and introducing them to Goa. Spectrum Clinic holds nystagmus awareness drives, patch parties, and continue to grow and change the way ophthalmology and medicine at large is practised and perceived in the country.

In addition to being a published author and a fortnightly columnist on eye diseases, Dr Kuheli is a very active blogger and has an extremely lively presence on social media. She stresses on the importance for doctors to cultivate an online presence, by saying, “As doctors, we are privileged to be able to contribute to society through our profession itself, and it is our duty to share our knowledge. Social media acts as a great medium to do the same. Finding purpose in your work is important, whether you are a homemaker, or the CEO of Facebook, or whether you are an eye surgeon. In some fields, it is easy to lose sight of your purpose, but in the medical field we are reminded of it every day.”

On being asked what her advice to young students wishing to pursue a career in medicine would be, Dr Kuheli says, “It is important to enter the field with your eyes open. Don’t choose medicine for the reputation or glamour that comes with it. You have to be aware of all the grim realities that come with the job.”

Speaking about how she manages to strike a balance between her professional and personal life, Dr Kuheli says, “It’s all about putting all your heart into what you are doing at the moment. Besides, when you’re juggling a career, a family, a social life – when you’re juggling all these balls, you are bound to drop some of them. But, it’s about how fast you can pick them back up and continue; that counts.”

She continues, “Women still have to conform to the standards set by society. If they give up practicing medicine, to take care of their family, society will say they wasted their seat. If they choose their profession, society will say they are abandoning their family.”

“I realised I have never been made to sacrifice, neither have I sacrificed my career for my marriage or my child. I have a great support system that never demands less of me. I now hope to work with extra zeal, so that women after me feel the same – that they are not fettered, and can make their life choices unhindered by their gender,” she concludes

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