Maximizing Oculoplastics and Ocular Oncology Fellowship
Dr. Ankit Singh Tomar, MBBS, MD, FICO (UK)
- Dr. Ankit Singh Tomar completed his Fellowship in Orbit, Oculoplastics & Ocular Oncology from Center For Sight, Hyderabad under Dr. Santosh Honavar and Fellowship in Ocular Tumors, Orbital Diseases and Ophthalmic Radiation Therapy from The New York Eye Cancer Center and The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, New York, USA under Dr. Paul T Finger.
- He completed his Ophthalmology Residency from Dr. R. P. Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi.
- He holds an MBBS degree from KEM Hospital and Seth G. S. Medical College, Mumbai.
- He has 15 publications in peer-reviewed national and international journals and multiple chapters as contributions in books. His special interests include Retinoblastoma, Orbital Tumors, Eyelid Reconstruction, and Thyroid Eye Disease.
Q1. Why did you choose Orbit, Oculoplasty & Ocular Oncology as your Superspeciality of interest?
A1. I was first drawn to Oculoplastics and Ocular Oncology due to the diagnostic challenge presented by the sheer range of diseases in this specialty, their varied presentation, and the need for customized treatment plan in every patient. My oncology posting in residency taught me the difference between simply watching and actively observing. I still remember my professor saying “The eyes don’t see, what the mind doesn’t know”, which gave me the life lesson of having a strong foundation of basics.
Retinoblastoma was the other thing that had a profound impact on me. The aspect of saving lives and as much of vision as possible in a young child with cancer was very appealing to me. India has one of the highest incidence of Retinoblastoma in the world and there is an acute need for more trained specialists in our country.
There are a lot of factors which play an important role in your decision making regarding your specialty: your intended place of practice, practice setup, financial incentive, research interests, etc. Personally, I feel the most important thing is finding out what you’re passionate about. Do you want to do this for the rest of your life. If you truly enjoy your craft, you will have no trouble achieving success.
Q2. Why did you choose Center for Sight for your fellowship?
A2. I did my research in the different Oculoplastics and Oncology fellowship programs and concluded that there is no one in India that has done more for ocular oncology than Dr. Santosh Honavar. The fellowship program was a well-structured training program with a balanced mix of clinical and surgical exposure. There are only 2 fellows at a time and Dr. Honavar personally trains us in clinics and the OR. You learn something every moment of the day spent around him and over that, there were weekly formal classes and presentations. He actively encouraged and helped me with research and presenting our work at national and international conferences. I can confidently say that there is no training program that could parallel it.
Q3. What were your areas of interest?
A3. My particular areas of interest include Retinoblastoma, Orbital Tumors, Eyelid Reconstruction, and Thyroid Eye Disease.
Q4. Is it mandatory to have had some surgical experience before joining Orbit, Oculoplasty & Ocular Oncology Fellowship?
A4. Any previous experience will definitely aid. It will help you understand the minutiae of the procedures. Rest assured, Dr. Honavar is an amazing teacher and he will teach you along every step of the surgery. You will have developed your surgical skills to mastery by the end of your training. In addition, you get more than enough surgeries during your training.
Q5. How important is wet lab/simulator training according to you?
A5. Everyone has a different technique for learning, and surgical skills are very variable. A wet lab/simulator training will help improve your surgical acumen and speed and help to accustom a surgeon with the hand movements, instruments, and techniques. In oculoplastics and oncology, a very clear idea about ocular and orbital anatomy is essential, which can be aided by these modalities.
Q6. Clinics, Research, Conferences and Surgery – please elaborate on each, your challenges and how you tackled them and experiences.
A6. Clinics: They were always busy, with a large number of patients. This made the learning curve very steep because you are still relatively inexperienced at the beginning of your fellowship. However, as you see more types of cases, you develop a sound knowledge fund. Dr. Honavar always encourages you to observe for subtle signs, read radiological films yourself, and correlate clinical and radiological findings. As unbelievable as it sounds, you would see every pathology under the oncology and oculoplastics umbrella in his clinics and that is invaluable in your training period.
Research: Research is something I became more accustomed to in fellowship, particularly in regards to manuscript writing and statistical analysis. I always had clinical questions that could be addressed by research, but the ability to conduct it effectively came with time. Dr. Honavar helped me in every step along the way.
Conferences: Conferences were strongly encouraged during the fellowship, and were a great place to learn about how to conduct and present research, as well as develop strong relationships with mentors that you will keep for a lifetime. The exposure and experience you get in these conferences is an invaluable part of the fellowship.
Surgery: Managing the operating room, along with the staff, and nurturing a level of confidence with the surgical complexity of a wide variety of ophthalmic cases is the primary focus of fellowship with Dr. Honavar. You will be exposed to all the different types of surgical procedures.
Q7. How to build a good rapport with your mentor?
A7. Work with perfection and with honesty. Do your best, and your effort will be seen, and you will learn. This builds you a strong rapport with your mentors.
Q8. How important is the support of your colleagues?
A8. It is crucial. They are the ones who encouraged me to strive, to compete, to always push the envelope with how well surgeries go, how much research we conduct, how much we learn in general. Colleagues shape your fellowship experience into a good one or a bad one.
Q9. How to cope up with the stress and not let it reflect in your work?
A9. You have to remember that you are a person and know who you are and the things that are important to you. If you lose sight of these things, and of the people who care for you, it is very difficult to maintain the quality of work demanded of you.
Q10. Quick checklist for young aspiring Orbit, Oculoplasty & Ocular Oncology fellows to follow during their fellowship.
- Keep a checklist of what you want to have learned by the end of your fellowship.
- Be organized with your goals for the year and for every single day.
- Read, read, and more importantly, read.
- Remember to be thankful. Take every opportunity, and make the best use of it. This can be an amazing and formative year for you in your career.