How to win a DNB Ophthalmology Gold Medal!

Dr. Sashwanthi Mohan, MBBS, DNB (Gold Medalist), FICO
  • Dr. Sashwanthi Mohan completed her MBBS from Govt. Kilpauk Medical College and Hospital, Chennai and went on to pursue her DNB in Ophthalmology from the prestigious L V Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad. She is currently working as a consultant at Rajan Eye Care Hospital, Chennai. She will be joining Vitreo-Retina surgery fellowship at Sankara Nethralaya, Chennai.
  • She won the Dr. G. Venkataswamy Gold Medal for Ophthalmology in DNB Final Examination December 2018 Session – National Board of Examinations.

Interview

Q1. Elaborate on the books you referred.

A1. The books I used are the usual books that almost every DNB resident would already be using. I have highlighted the ones that are not used as often and I found useful for my preparation.

Theory Books:

  1. Yanoff – Throughout my residency Yanoff was my go-to Textbook. The chapters are very well written and cover almost everything. I found it useful for both theory and practical exams.
  2. Kanski – Kanski is a must for exams but it cannot be the only book as it does not have everything in detail. I went through Kanski several times while referring to other books as well. Chapters such as Uvea, Tumours, Neuro-ophthalmology are covered very well in Kanski.
  3. Zia Choudhary – For theory exam, Zia is a very useful book. Make notes from Zia and other standard textbooks.
  4. DOS articles – DOS articles were a lifesaver for me! I collected almost all articles they have ever published. The format was so easy to replicate in the exams. It’s especially useful to learn about the advances in ophthalmology. Read DOS articles for various investigations in anterior and posterior segments.
  5. Other review articles – The internet and PubMed has so many review articles which are perfect for exams.
  6. AIOS CME Series.
  7. Slideshare Presentations – I also went through many slideshare PPTs made by various ophthalmology residents and fellows. From what I can recall, there were really good ones for optics, glaucoma drugs, glaucoma drainage devices, embryology etc.
  8. Ocular and Visual Physiology by Springer Publications – An excellent book for physiology of the eye! The diagrams are very easy to replicate in the exams. I printed this book out and I still use it.
  9. A K Khurana for Anatomy and Optics – I stuck to this standard book for both anatomy and optics.
  10. Elkington Optics – Some of the diagrams in this are easier to follow/draw.
  11. Pradeep Sharma – few chapters for Squint.
  12. Shields for Glaucoma

Practical Books:

  1. Namrata Sharma’s Ophthalmology Clinics.
  2. Aravind FAQ by Dr. Ventakesh Prajna.
  3. The Ophthalmology Examinations Review by Wong.
  4. mrcophth.com 🔗 is a good website to go through before practical exams.
Q2. Tell us about your study plan.

A2. I honestly find it very hard to stick to a study plan. I shuffled between different subjects but I made sure I covered the often repeated and frequently asked questions. I have elaborated a little more about this in my preparatory leave timetable.

Q3. How did you juggle between your study plan and hectic residency?

A3.

  • I was lucky as I was trained in an Institute that had academics interspersed between clinics on a regular basis. We had theory classes, practical case presentations and morning classes every day.
  • The residents would always be asked to answer questions in all morning classes and hence we had to come prepared based on the topic.
  • In the clinics, the consultant we were posted with would ask us many questions and give us homework to do as well. All this kept us on our toes. We would go back after clinics and brush up on what we had seen that day.
  • I suggest that day to day learning is the best way to stay ahead. Reading whatever you saw that day in the clinic or the OR from standard textbooks can help you in the long run.
Q4. Ideal number of revisions to write the exam confidently?

A4.

  • This depends on each individual. I revised a couple of things more than others.
  • I am not a good artist, so I spent more time with anatomy and physiology drawing and redrawing the diagrams. Similarly, I spent a lot of time revising optics as it is very volatile, and you tend to forget it easily.
  • I would suggest revising subjects you are not confident in around 4-5 times and the ones you are confident in can be revised 2-3 times depending on time availability.
Q5. Tell us your preparatory leave time-table?

A5.

  • I was posted in Nellore for 6 months April – September 2018. We came back in October but we had clinics and duties till 20 days before exams. I did not follow a particular timetable as I find it hard to stick to one subject as it gets monotonous. In September, I studied a little bit of anatomy and physiology.
  • Once I got back to Hyderabad in October , I started studying one subject weekly – cornea, retina, pediatric ophthalmology, neurophthalmology, glaucoma, oculoplasty. I spent more time on stuff which I had not touched much before – my weak points were oculoplasty and glaucoma.

Roughly my timetable was:

  • September: Anatomy, Physiology, little bit of optics
  • October 1-7: Cornea and Cataract
  • October 8-14: Retina and Uvea
  • October 15-21: Pediatric and Neurophthalmology
  • October 22-28: Glaucoma
  • October 28 to Nov 1st: Oculoplasty
 

This wasn’t the exact timetable as did other subjects in between too so that it wouldn’t get boring. I started optics simultaneously one chapter per day in the second week of October.

  • In November, I started revising everything that I was not confident with along with the help of past ten years DNB questions.
  • I revised anatomy, physiology and optics multiple times as I found the diagrams hard.
  • I also revised things I was not confident in multiple times.
Q6. Practical exam – important tips and your study plan.

A6.

  1. Go through case discussions you have had earlier and the notes that you have taken.
  2. Present common cases to each other and to your consultants.
  3. For all the common cases- read the theory behind it, and then the practical questions that can be asked.
  4. Learn to draw perfect diagrams for cornea, retina, eyelid etc.
  5. Keep the case proformas at your fingertips so that you’ll be able to replicate that during the exam.
  6. Do not miss simple and straightforward findings
  7. Basics should be strong eg. You cannot miss detecting RAPD and answering related questions.
  8. Findings are more important than the diagnosis so do not get confused if you already know the diagnosis.
  9. Do not panic during the practical exam and just replicate what you’ve learnt in your clinics. 
Q7. Quick checklist to follow in order to be a gold medalist.

A7.

  1. Make your own notes with diagrams and flow charts whenever possible.
  2. Go back and study whatever you have learnt in clinics on the same day.
  3. Be thorough with your basics.
  4. Last ten year DNB questions should be thoroughly revised multiple times.
  5. Be calm during your preparation – one cannot learn everything, but try to know a little bit of everything.
  6. Be calm during the theory exam and allot time to each question and do not overfill the pages either, use as many diagrams and flowcharts as possible.
  7. During the practical exam, do not miss simple findings, and think before you answer without panicking.
Q8. How does securing a gold medal give you an edge after your residency?

A8. I don’t know if securing a gold medal will give me an edge but I am more confident of what I have learnt so far and hope to do well along the same lines.

Q9. Mantra that kept you going!

A9. I didn’t have a mantra but the support of some of my mentors at LVPEI, my friends and family is what kept me going.

If you have a secured a Gold medal or are a Topper of your University in the last 3 years, please get in touch with us at eyelearn.in@gmail.com