As My Eye Hospital completes 25 years, Dr. Chandrakant and Dr Madhavi Gaonker speak on their journey
My Eye Hospital, a brainchild of a couple, ophthalmologists Dr Chandrakant Gaonker and Dr. (Mrs) Madhavi Gaonker was inaugurated in December 1997 as a pioneer day care centre, the concept of professional eye care in Goa was nascent. It heralded the practice of hi-tech eye care based on least invasive cataract surgery (Phaco).
Dr. Chandrakant was born and grew up in Canacona, attending Katyayani Baneswar High School. A rank holder in the tenth standard, he later went to Chowgule College and entered the Goa Medical College, completing the undergrad and post graduate studies. Dr. Madhavi was born and brought up in Mumbai to Goan parents. She too completed her education from Goa Medical College. After completing the tenure at Goa Medical College, the couple shifted to Manipal for a few years. Later on to Mumbai and outside the country for a few years, and would often come to Goa for holidays.
Hi-tech and expensive equipments had just entered the eye care practice then. The sheer pressure of financial investments made them continue to practice outside Goa although they always wanted to come back and settle down in their motherland.
Finally, the time to take the plunge arrived in December 1997, recalls Dr Chandrakant Gaonker, and My Eye Hospital was set up in Margao. With no backing from any corporate or support of any organisation, they had to solely rely on bank loans for setting up the centre and acquiring equipment. In just a couple of years all their hard work paid off and the centre began getting more patients simply by word of mouth, as it was a technologically advanced eye care centre in Goa; people did not find it necessary to move out of the State for advanced eye care. Soon, the Gaonkers began getting patients from other states including Goans who were working abroad. Later, many foreigners began consulting them as medical care is a very expensive affair abroad and they would avail of the same facilities here in Goa at reasonable rates. “The team at MY EYE has never compromised on quality and has worked with some of the best equipments so that they could provide superior eye care in Goa.” says Dr. Chandrakant.
Back in the 70s, there were only 2 career options – medicine and engineering. But thanks to his high scores Dr. Gaonker was able to get into medicine and he began enjoying the process. He chose ophthalmology as his specialisation since he believes that eyes are the windows to the world outside and one of the most important amongst the senses. He states that vision is one of the higher functions of the brain and considered it a pleasure in helping people see well or try and repair someone’s vision.
Their early years in the profession involved practicing and learning technological advanced eye care. For ten years the Dr Gaonkers practiced outside Goa but never wavered from the focus to set up an eye care centre in their home state. Since then, there have been regular up-gradations in terms of acquisition of technology/equipments and space expansion.
One of the major upgradation was of Laser Eye Surgery – the LASIK Excimer laser technology from Carl Zeiss, Germany in 2007 and it remained the sole laser eye centre for a long time. Facilities and services of expert consultants were made available for super-specialties of surgical retina, occuloplasty, glaucoma and childhood eye diseases.
Apart from this, the centre conducts charitable camps for financially backward people without diluting the quality of eye care. Dr. Chandrakant says that he feels extremely happy when his patients meet him after a long time and say that they are doing extremely well thanks to his care.
The centre was shifted to a spacious big building in Gounloy, Nuvem, Salcete in 2011 where it is functioning with a number of specialty eye doctors both in-house and visiting (local, as well as from outside the state).
My Eye Hospital completes 25 years this year and Dr. Chandrakant Gaonker recalls the journey has been a long and interesting one. Having always wanted to set up an eye care, he didn’t hold back when it came to achieving his dream. Coming from a middle class background with little financial support he had to take loans and pay them back with interest. Yet he feels that the struggle was worthwhile as his patients have expressed total satisfaction with his services. He mentions that he has invested in a large place with the best of equipment to treat people. He feels that it is the blessings and goodwill of his patients that has seen him and his hospital through tough times. Dr. Gaonker says that he wouldn’t live his life in any other way and if he had a chance to do it all over again he would do the same.
Their daughter, Tanvi, a student of Manovikas school, Chowgule College and Goa Medical college, a top rank holder in the 10th and 12th exams has finished her Master of Surgery in Ophthalmology from the prestigious Maulana Azad Medical College and Guru Nanak Eye Centre, New Delhi and will be joining the hospital soon. The Dr Gaonkers plan on adding more people to the team, have a training faculty, start a satellite centre and pass on the baton to the future generation. “It’s a continuous process; you have t be with the flow,” says the doctor.
Speaking on the most challenging thing about his profession Dr. Chandrakant Gaonker says that with technological advances people are looking out for the best in eye care and sometimes it is not possible to help everyone. There are some special cases like degeneration of the retina, brain damages or people born with multiple eye defects where medical help is limited. He feels the challenge is to make these people happy and that he tries his best to make them comfortable with the idea that it is not possible to have perfect eyesight.
As far as future plans are concerned, there are plans to expand further in multiple sub specialties, establishing training facilities, have technician courses for graduates and post-graduates and expand the team to a higher level so as to provide the best of eye care to the people of Goa.