How to win a Gujarat University MS Ophthalmology Gold Medal!

Dr. Minhaz M. Karkhanawala, MBBS, MS (Gold Medalist), FICO
  • Dr. Minhaz M. Karkhanawala is currently working as an Ophthalmologist in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. 
  • He completed his MS Ophthalmology with a Gold Medal from Gujarat University in 2019 and and is an alumnus of M and J Western Regional Institute of Ophthalmology; B J Medical College, Ahmedabad. 
  • He holds an MBBS degree from B J Medical College, Ahmedabad. 

Interview

Q1. Your year of passing and name of the university.

A1. 2019, Gujarat University.

Q2. Elaborate on the books you referred.

A2. The books that I referred to are the following;

  • Cornea:  ‘The Cornea’ by Smolin and Thoft, ‘Corneal Ulcers’ by Dr. Namrata Sharma, ‘Corneal Transplantation’ by Vajpayee
  • Retina: ‘Retinal Detachment’ by Benson,  ‘Diabetic Retinopathy’ by Carol Lee, Albert and Jakobiec’s ‘Principles and Practice of Ophthalmology’, ‘Retina’ by Stephen Ryan
  • Strabismus: Pradip Sharma and Von Noorden
  • Oculoplasty: Jakobiec, Yanoff, Dutta
  • Glaucoma: Shield and Baker Shaffer
  • Anatomy and Physiology: Khurana
  • Lens, Cataract: Jaffe, Steinert and Khurana
  • Refractive surgery: Yanoff
  • Neuro-ophthalmology: Yanoff
  • Other sources: Online sources are a treasure when it comes to understanding complex subjects and topics not discussed in detail elsewhere. Articles published in IJO and DOS times can be accessed online for free. Certain landmark articles like that on retinal vein occlusions by S. S. Hayreh are a must read. Videos by Sinjab academy are great for understanding topography, keratoconus and refractive surgery. 
Q3. Tell us about your study plan.

A3.  Studying during the majority of residency period, except for the last few months, is not exam oriented. It’s more targeted at understanding concepts and for that you need to refer to more than one source for most of the subject, as mentioned above. I always stressed more on developing a sound understanding of a topic,  that would translate into clinical acumen. As we had a 6 month rotation in each subspecialty, I tried to read the books of that particular sub-speciality during that posting. This helps to correlate things clinically, which leads to better retention.

I gave the last 2 months to exam oriented study. This mainly involved making my own notes for most topics (that could be revised quickly) and having a time frame for completing topics, as the subject is very vast and it is impossible to cover everything if you do not have a time table.

It is important to have a list of the sources from where you would revise a topic before your exams. You cannot afford to read a topic from one place and revise it from another book.

Q4. How did you juggle between your study plan and hectic residency?

A4. I think most of the learning actually happens during the duty hours. Seeing patients in depth, discussing cases with seniors and consultants, following up your patients closely – all these contribute as much to the learning process as reading. So rather than seeing it as an obstacle to learning, making those hours productive is what postgraduate trainees should aim for. Many a times, performance in practical exams in what sets the topper apart from the rest. And these exams are designed to test your clinical acumen thoroughly – something you will excel at only if you’ve taken your rounds sincerely!

Q5. Ideal number of revisions to write the exam confidently?

A5. I think most of my colleagues will agree that Ophthalmology is a very vast subject. You’ll always find some topic left out. So one needs to strike a balance between reading new topics and revising old ones, especially when the exams are closing in. One should aim for at least one revision. Personalized notes makes the job easier.

Q6. Tell us your preparatory leave time-table?

A6. We had one month of preparatory leave, so I had around 2-3 days allotted to each sub-speciality. But it was very difficult to follow it as you need change in order to keep going. So along with the topics I’d decided to read in a day, I would also read miscellaneous and new topics to keep the boredom factor away. On days I didn’t feel like reading theory, I’d solve MCQs as I was simultaneously preparing for part B FICO.

Q7. Practical exam – important tips and your study plan.

A7. There is no shortcut to performing well in the practical exam. You cannot substitute 3 years of active learning by any amount of reading. So my advice would be – be mindful in your OPDs and wards, there’s something to learn from every patient. Practice case presentation in front of your colleagues and teachers. Even if you know everything, case presentation is a different ball game. You need to be mindful about each and every word you speak. That only comes through practice. We used to have clinical meetings every week at our institute where we would have to present cases in front of the faculty, who would ask questions. It helped us a lot. Do not forget to practice corneal diagrams and fundus charting. It does carry significant weightage in the major case.

Q8. Quick checklist to follow in order to be a gold medalist.

A8. I believe in having power over one’s actions, not one’s results. I’m sure no gold medalist studies hard to get that medal. You need to study hard because you cannot do otherwise – it would be an injustice to your patient if what you can offer to the patient is limited by your lack of knowledge. If you keep this in mind, you don’t need any other motivation. “The checklist is simple – read standard text books, access online articles generously, and do your residency with your eyes and ears open.” Never hesitate to ask questions, residency is probably your one and only chance of making a lot of mistakes and learning from them, and being in touch daily with some of the best surgeons, who happen to be your teachers too. Most importantly, make your patient your most revered teacher.

Q9. How does securing a gold medal give you an edge after your residency?

A9. Very honestly, the system in our country has evolved to value experience much more than a rank. Even with a gold medal, I would be of no use to an institution if I can’t perform a basic procedure like phacoemulsification, unsupervised and confidently. Very few training programmes in the country actually equip their trainees with such set of skills in a 3-year tenure. ‘Do you know phaco?’ is the only question you’ll face when you go looking for jobs. So yes, a gold medal does improve your CV, maybe chances of getting a fellowship (I’m not sure as I haven’t applied), but skill acquisition post residency is what you should look for as soon as you pass your exams. Unlike engineering or management, not even corporate hospitals are going to come and recruit you based on your grades.

Q10. Mantra that kept you going!

A10. It is a privilege to be in a speciality, that influences the lives of people so deeply, by helping them regain their gift of sight lost to ocular pathology. It demands the best of us and that requires the best of our efforts in all possible ways. I think it is the culmination of these efforts – the smiling patient, that keeps 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