“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt
The mission to help budding eye surgeons become future ophthalmic leaders was the driving force behind the first-ever AIOS-YOSI Young Ophthalmologists Forum. Held in New Delhi, India, this 1-day meeting for members of the Young Ophthalmologists Society of India (YOSI) and All India Ophthalmological Society (AIOS) was designed to address the unique issues faced by young ophthalmologists today (Figure 1). The international liaison for the event was the Singapore Society of Ophthalmology’s Young Ophthalmologists Chapter, whose members also joined us in New Delhi. This was the first such event organized in India for the young ophthalmic community to discuss topics that are not directly clinical but form the backbone of one’s surgical skillset and clinical acumen. This article details some key highlights from the forum.
Acing an Ophthalmology Residency Program. The first section of the program touched on topics such as improving one’s diagnostic acumen, developing surgical skills (Figure 2), nailing the residency exams (Figure 3), and using online resources for residency success. Neha Goel, MS, DNB, MNAMS, FRCS (Glasg), coached residents about the correct way to develop a thesis (Figure 4), and Devendra Venkatramani, MS, DNB, FRCS (Glasg) sketched the main points of preparing for the Fellowship of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons (FRCS) and Fellow of International Council of Ophthalmology (FICO) examinations (Figure 5). Both the choice of topics and the way the speakers candidly talked about their own experiences made this session extremely useful for residents from all over the country.
Maximizing the Fellowship Experience. Following residency, a freshly minted eye surgeon looks for training options, so the next session focused on maximizing the fellowship experience (Figure 6). Kelvin Teo, MBBS, MMed (Ophth), of Singapore, discussed how to find one’s fellowship fit. He explained why moving away from his home city for 1 year ultimately proved to be the right decision and offered him unparalleled career advantages. Next, tips on acing fellowship interviews were shared by Prerana Tahiliani, MBBS, and followed by discussions on the role of mentors, led by Awaneesh Upadhyay, MBBS, DNB, and productivity in fellowship, led by Raksha Rao, MS. Last, Saurabh Agarwal, MD, MBBS, shared his stepwise approach to excelling at the Fellowship of the All India Collegium of Ophthalmology (FAICO) examination, a challenging test conducted by the AIOS.
After the inaugural address and traditional Indian lamp lighting (Figure 8), I described YOSI’s journey from its 2013 founding until today (Figure 9). Dignitaries from the AIOS shared their pearls of wisdom with the young audience members, and Diva Kant Misra, MBBS, DO, DNB, presented a bouquet of video messages from ophthalmologists all over the world in support of the AIOS-YOSI initiative. The latest issue of YOSI’s digital publication, Young Ophthalmologists Times or YO Times (Figure 10); the YO Mentor-Mentee Program; YO Tube; and YO Flash Notes were also formally introduced during the inaugural ceremony.
Research & Publication Tips for YOs. The research and publication session included presentations on reporting cases, writing papers, and conducting innovative research. Anna Tan, MD, provided excellent insights into young ophthalmologists’ participation in ophthalmic research in Singapore (Figure 11). Dr. Misra discussed the advantages of attending international conferences as a young ophthalmologist, and Ashwin Mohan, MBBS, DNB, PhD, described his experience earning a PhD while investigating a new concept in retinal oximetry. These talks were very well received because of the speakers’ valuable pearls, which were pertinent to this age group. For example, as discussed, simple solutions such as plagiarism detection software or a citation manager can help lighten one’s workload—a benefit overworked residents can truly appreciate.
Management Session for YOs. After completing medical school, I heard a lot of opinions about ophthalmology in India, ranging from “It is a cool branch with no emergency work and tons of money,” to “It is a branch where settlement is very difficult and resource-intensive, unless you are related to an eye surgeon.” However, to those who choose this field, ophthalmology reveals itself slowly. I have found that it can be as hectic or as languid as desired, depending on one’s personality and choices. The various aspects that make ophthalmology “cool” are not dependent on ophthalmology but on the ophthalmologist and his or her attitude. Therefore, the last session of the forum was dedicated to covering how young ophthalmologists can find time for fitness, navigate the struggles posed by maternity, and handle professional jealousy. Indeevar Mishra, MBBS, DNB, offered valuable advice on the business acumen needed in private practice, and Wong Chee Wai, MMed (Ophth), described his community outreach efforts with the Singapore mobile eye clinic (Figure 12).
YOSI officially started its activities in January 2014, and it has grown progressively since then. Our quarterly publication, YO Times (http://www.yosi.in/yo-times.html), has been actively read all over India since its inception. But YOSI is not only for young Indian ophthalmologists younger than 40 years; there is also an option for international members to become involved. One of the goals of YOSI is to facilitate international exchange of ideas among young ophthalmologists. We truly believe that a wise man learns from his mistakes, but a wiser man learns from mistakes of other wise men.
In addition to those who attended the AIOS-YOSI forum in person, more than 1,000 ophthalmologists joined remotely via a live webcast. From the discussion, one young ophthalmologist learned about a community ophthalmology program he could apply to in India. Pearls of information such as the importance of purchasing one’s own instruments early on proved to be of paramount importance to another young surgeon. For me, attending this meeting and being a part of the organizing team was like sitting in a garden full of budding flowers. The stalwarts of Indian ophthalmology who attended witnessed young minds blooming with ideas, showing just how much untapped talent is waiting for the right opportunity.