How to win a WBUHS MS Ophthalmology Gold Medal!
Dr. Sneha Jain, MBBS, MS (Gold Medalist), FICO
- Dr. Sneha Jain is currently working as a Senior Resident (Vitreo-retina services) at Regional Institute of Ophthalmology, Kolkata.
- She completed her MS Ophthalmology with a Gold Medal from West Bengal University of Health Sciences in 2019 and and is an alumnus of Regional Institute of Ophthalmology, Kolkata.
- She holds an MBBS degree from Burdwan Medical College in West Bengal.
Q1. Your year of passing, name of university and your score.
A1. 2019 batch of MS Ophthalmology, with a score of 80.1%, from the Regional Institute of Ophthalmology, Kolkata affiliated to the West Bengal University of Health Sciences.
Q2. Elaborate on the books you referred.
- Kanski Clinical Ophthalmology: This was the book I used as my foundation to prepare for the exams. I struggled with it at the beginning since the format of this book is not easy to comprehend. That said, once you persist with it this is the ‘Go To” book and students must read each line carefully. Although it lacks details and I had to refer to other books to gain a better understanding of the topics, as a ready reference book for exams in my opinion this is the best book.
- Anatomy and Physiology of Eye by A K Khurana
- Theory and Practice of Optics and Refraction by A K Khurana
- CME series by AIOS
- Articles from DOS: The compilation by Dr Ashutosh Singh was very helpful and contained most of the recent advances in Ophthalmology. This enabled me to reduce the time spent on searching for articles related to specific topics. Ocular pharmacology and investigations are a few must-reads.
- Pradeep Sharma: few chapters for Squint
- Eye Rounds Atlas (eye rounds.org)
- Ophthalmology Clinics for postgraduates by PK Maharana: This has a case-based approach and is written concisely while being comprehensive enough to mention all the important short and long cases commonly asked in postgraduate examinations.
- Aravind FAQs in Ophthalmology: This is a good book from the viva point of view and has an exhaustive array of differential diagnosis and tables.
- AAO textbooks– I referred to these for a few topics that were not mentioned in ‘Kanski’.
Q3. Tell us about your study plan.
A3. I had no definite study plan until the last two months before my exams. I took the approach of trying to learn something new each day and ensured that I had covered the question papers from the last 10 years.
Q4. How did you juggle between your study plan and hectic residency?
- It is quite impossible to have a structured study plan during residency. I would advise aspiring students to therefore study whenever they have any spare time.
- In our Institute we had two classes per week and all the residents were expected to participate actively. This kept us on our toes and in the process, we went through all the topics at least once.
- Further, the approach we were advised to follow in our institute was that whatever cases we came across in the OPD, we should study related to that on a daily basis.
- The good news for students is that with each year, residency progressively gets less hectic so I would suggest that they increase their study hours accordingly.
Q5. Ideal number of revisions to write the exam confidently?
- It varies from person to person and for me it varied from topic to topic.
- For the ones I found easy, I was confident with four revisions.
- However, for the more arduous ones I revised multiple times and continued to do so right until the day before the exams.
Q6. Tell us your preparatory leave time-table?
- I followed the 0-1-3 Rule i.e. whatever I studied on a day, I revised it the next day and then again on the 3rd day after. My belief is that one may read less but its more important to retain what one reads.
- I was much more focused in the last month before my exams. I have never been that focused in all my years as a student. My routine was to study from 7 am to 1 am with one 2 hours break.
- This may sound a bit intimidating, but the trick is to not study continuously. I took small breaks every 20 to 25 minutes which helped me to remain fresh and be able to concentrate.
Q7. Practical exam – important tips and your study plan
- Have faith in yourself. This is very important.
- A good nights’ sleep is crucial before any exam especially. the practical exam.
- Be thorough with the basic concepts before you approach the tougher ones.
- If one doesn’t know the answer, they should not try to bluff. Being honest and admitting to the examiner that you don’t know is fine. It’s acceptable to not be able to remember everything during the exam.
- Instruments and charts (HFA, OCT etc).
- Color coding of retina and cornea.
- YouTube videos on examination (e.g. ptosis , proptosis, pupillary examination etc)
- Short case and long case (from Maharana)
- Studies pertaining to important topics like ARMD and Diabetes (the 2nd edition of FAQ has an entire section on this).
Q8. Quick checklist to follow in order to be a gold medalist.
- Speed: Time yourself. Divide the time for each question and try to complete all the questions.
- Always start an answer to a new question on a fresh page and never forget to number them.
- Wherever possible make flowcharts and tables.
- Highlight important points.
- Do try to include points on recent advances and studies related to the topic.
- A schematic diagram is a must. If possible color the diagrams. For example instead of writing down all the signs for a particular disease try drawing a diagram and labeling it appropriately. This is also applicable for questions involving surgical procedures.
- Be through with ophthalmological examinations starting from ‘how to take vision’ and right up to ‘how to perform an indirect ophthalmoscopy’.
- Colored labeled diagrams are a must.
Q9. How does securing a gold medal give you an edge after your residency?
- I don’t think it gives anyone any edge in the long term barring the fact that one can add a suffix after their degree and add to their resume.
- Winning the gold medal is a matter of great pride to me and I worked very hard for it. However, being a gold medalist on its own is not a guarantee that a person will be a successful and respected doctor.
- Students should aspire for it but not get fixated on it or disheartened if they cannot get it. Ultimately, success as a surgeon depends on one’s expertise in their area of specialty, the surgical skills one has acquired, the trust of their patients and they reputation they are able to build.
Q10. Mantra that kept you going!
A10. Enjoy what you do and don’t stress yourself out. Exams, marks, prizes won – all these are a part of the learning process, but they are not the only measure of how good a clinician or surgeon you are. Whatever we learn is not just for the purpose of passing exams rather for being able to give patients the treatment and care they need. Learning is a lifelong process so keep your knowledge up to date.
I would like to end with a favorite quote of mine from the Bhagavad Gita:
“Karmanye vadhikaraste, ma phaleshou kada chana, ma karma phala hetur bhurmatey sangostva akarmani”
which roughly translates to,
“You have a right to “Karma” (actions) but never to any fruits thereof. You should therefore never be motivated by the results of your actions, and must keep on performing your duties without being attached to the result of your actions.”
In short, karm karo, phal ki chinta mat karo. Don’t worry, be happy. Good luck!