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One To Watch | Oct/Nov '13

One to Watch: Shameema Sikder, MD

In case there was ever any doubt, the future of ophthalmology is in good hands! MillennialEYE presents a series highlighting the “One to Watch.” In each issue, we will profile a rising star, one who may not be advanced in years but has already made great advances in our field.

Shameema Sikder, MD

Shameema Sikder, MD

Shameema Sikder, MD, is Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, Cornea, Cataract and Refractive Surgery, at Johns Hopkins University, School of Medicine, and the Medical Director, Wilmer Eye Institute in Bethesda.

Thank you for accepting our invitation to be our “One to Watch.” Please share with us your background.

I am an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins. I specialize in corneal disorders, including Fuchs dystrophy and keratoconus, refractive surgery, cataract, and external eye diseases. My clinical interests include surgical treatments for corneal diseases, such as endothelial keratoplasty (DSEK, DSAEK), deep anterior lamellar keratoplasty (DALK), and treatments for keratoconus.

I received my bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and biochemistry from the University of Arizona, where I also received my medical degree. I completed my ophthalmology residency at the Wilmer Eye Institute and fellowship in cornea and refractive disease at the renowned Moran Eye Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah, where I received the Claes Dohlman Fellow of the Year Award, recognizing the most distinguished cornea fellow in the nation. After fellowship, I returned to Wilmer and served as assistant chief of service (Chief Resident) and associate director of ocular trauma.

I am currently medical director of the newest Wilmer clinic location in Bethesda, Maryland. 

What drew you to ophthalmology and your field of interest?

There are two qualities that I love about ophthalmology: the ability to help patients and feel like I am making a difference in their lives, and the technology involved in practice. I have a background in engineering and found ophthalmology to be a natural transition into medicine. I love how we can use math and science to address the problems that our patients have. I also really enjoy the surgical aspects of ophthalmology, and I found my research interest of surgical education to be a natural fit for me. 

Describe your current position, both clinically and academically.

I’m currently an assistant professor of ophthalmology at Johns Hopkins. I’m also the medical director for the Wilmer Eye Institute in Bethesda. The satellite represents our tenth location within the Wilmer Eye Institute. It’s very exciting to head up an academic practice and deal with the issues of practice development. Academically, my research interest is in surgical education. I’m interested in making surgical education more of science than a skillful art. I truly believe that by improving the way in which we teach surgery, we can improve the quality of ophthalmic care around the world. As a former assistant chief of service at the Wilmer Institute, I am involved in surgical education for residents, specifically in cataract surgery. 

I’m also the medical director for our new Center of Excellence and Surgical Innovation and Education (CESIE). In this role I am developing a center to be used for surgical education, not only for trainees, but also those in practice who wish to learn new surgical skills. 

What are some new technological advances that you have found particularly exciting in their application? Which advances in the pipeline are you most enthusiastic or curious about?

I’m fascinated by the introduction of the femtosecond laser for cataract surgery with regard to surgical training. I think it will be very interesting to see how established surgeons adopt new technology, as well as how this technology will be used to train new surgeons. Over time we will see how much femtosecond laser is incorporated into the standard of practice, but its incorporation into surgical training will be an interesting subject.

Who were/are your mentors?

I’m fortunate to have many mentors within the Wilmer Institute in various subspecialties. I also was very fortunate to have my fellowship training at the University of Utah, Moran Eye Center, where I was mentored by Drs. Moshirfar and Mifflin. They both took me under their wings as esteemed future colleagues and trained me tremendously, both clinically and in academic excellence.  

To what do you attribute your success?

I think my successes come from a desire to make an impact in our academic field. Ophthalmology is such an exciting area of medicine, there’s so much technology that we now have available to us! As we all strive to take better care of our patients, I think it’s very important to understand how that process of education can be optimized so we really can provide the best in a uniform manner on a global scale. 

On what does some of your research focus?

My research focus in is surgical education. Specifically, I am looking at how we assess surgical ability through the use of objective tools such as rubrics, as well as the use of simulators in ophthalmic education. I think that virtual reality simulators will offer a new avenue of training excellence, however, we as educators must understand how this technology can best be used. We have responsibility to make sure our trainees are well educated in the best way possible, which may vary from learner to learner.

What publications are you most proud of or feel have been the most important to your career?

During my fellowship year I published more than 20 peer-reviewed articles. These publications reflect a broad range of projects, from clinical retrospective studies to prospective studies to translational work in the field of surgery. They also represent collaborations with medical students, residents, fellows, and faculty. Rather than being proud of one specific paper, I’m proud of the mentorship I received that allowed me to realize my publication potential. 

What is a typical day in the life for you? What keeps you busy, fulfilled, and passionate?

Like any junior faculty member, my typical day is still in flux. At the onset of one’s career, I think it’s important to be dynamic and accommodating. My typical week has 2 days of clinic, 1 day of OR, and 2 days of research. On my research days, I typically spend time working with residents and medical students in research projects. 

As a medical director I also have a number of administrative tasks that require a lot of attention. It’s nice, however, to be able to look at our clinic in Bethesda and see its growth and potential and feel like I made a significant contribution.

What is your 10-year game plan, personally and professionally, if you wish to share.

Ideally in 10 years I would like to see myself as a full professor of ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute. I’d like to be able to have a clear body of work that supports my mission of improving surgical care around the world by focusing on surgical education. I would like to be thought of as a leader in the field and responsible for changing the landscape of surgery, by impacting how we teach surgery and more importantly how we assess surgical ability. I think it is of utmost importance that we as an ophthalmic community have a high standard of care that we provide to our patients. 

Any advice for younger ophthalmologists? What would you tell someone just now choosing his or her career path after finishing his or her residency or fellowship?

I think one of the most important things you can do is have an open mind and see what opportunities present themselves to you. At the end of the day, if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing you’re not using your time well. Don’t be afraid to find mentors in different fields, not just your ophthalmic subspecialty, but even in different fields of medicine. There are a great number of individuals from whom you can draw inspiration. Don’t worry if you feel like you haven’t figured it all out yet!