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For your eyes only: Why this Bahamas-based world renowned surgeon values his bond with his alma mater

Rated among the Top 40 ophthalmologists less than 40 in the world, Apeejay School, Pitampura alumnus, Dr Tarun Arora is on the cutting edge of advances in cornea, cataract and refractive surgery

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Not far from where Roger Moore shot for the iconic James Bond franchise film For Your Eyes Only, at the Bahamas Vision Centre, Dr Tarun Arora, an alumnus of Apeejay School, Pitampura, rated among the Top 40 ophthalmologists less than 40 years of age across the world by the renowned magazine “The Ophthalmologist”, perfects his practice as a consultant specialising in Cornea, Lens and Refractive Surgery. 

Based in the Bahamas in the Caribbean islands, Dr Tarun Arora (MD, DNB, FICO) has completed his MD and Senior residency in Cornea, Lens and Refractive surgery services from the country’s apex institute, Dr Rajendra Prasad Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. He has contributed to more than 75 international and national scientific publications and book chapters in the field of Cornea, Lens and Refractive surgery. At AIIMS, Dr Arora won the Best Senior Resident award for his outstanding work.
His key areas of interest include Keratoconus, Femtosecond based Refractive Surgeries that include LASIK and SMILE, Implantable Collamer lens for correction of high refractive errors, Lamellar Corneal Surgeries and Femtosecond assisted Corneal transplantation. He has a vast surgical experience of managing various complicated scenarios related to Cornea, Lens and Ocular Surface and is a reviewer of a number of international journals publishing in the field of Cornea, Lens and Refractive Surgery.

In an interview, he talks about the strong bond he shares with his alma mater, the life lessons he picked up from his teachers; how the Covid -19 pandemic has exacerbated eye-strain, the secret of being a successful eye surgeon and the 20:20:20 rule to alleviate eye discomfort. Edited excerpts:

You were featured amongst the Top 40 ophthalmologists less than 40 years of age across the world by the renowned magazine The Ophthalmologist. Please tell us about your journey in the world of medicine so far?

I did my medical education from the Maulana Azad Medical College followed by my post-graduate training in ophthalmology and subsequently sub-speciality training in the field of Cornea, Cataract and Refractive Surgery from All India Institute of Medical Sciences. I am also a Fellow of the International Council of Ophthalmology in the field of Cornea and External eye diseases and received my Diplomate from the National Boards. During my training at AIIMS, I was fortunate to receive the Best Senior Resident Award at the institute’s foundation day. The recognition by The Ophthalmologist was in view of my early achievements in scientific publications and initiating the Young Ophthalmologists Society of India which has become the single largest platform for educating and raising the concerns of the ophthalmologists in training. 

Did you always want to be in the field of medicine during your childhood?

Dr Tarun Arora

Having both parents working in the field of medicine, I was quite familiar with the perks and downsides of being a doctor. However, I took the final decision to become one quite late. I did prepare for both medical and engineering, got selected in the best colleges for both (IIT, DCE, MAMC) and finally decided to take on the journey of being a medical professional.

How was your experience in school? Please share some memories of your student life.

My experience at Apeejay was quite excellent. The school taught me the important virtues of discipline, hard work and perseverance. We were fortunate to have an excellent principal who provided us with a broad exposure to fields such as meditation, technology, dramatics, sports etc. There was an environment of striving for excellence and those who did were suitably rewarded and recognised.

What role did your teachers in schools play in your life? Is there any favourite educator you remember from your days in Apeejay?

The teachers at Apeejay hold utmost respect in my heart. They maintained a well-balanced approach of being strict on one hand and having a soft attitude when necessary. I remember all of them and am still in touch with a few. I have always been inspired by our principal Dr DK Bedi sir, Malini Sridhar mam, Arvind Kaushal sir and Vandana Kapoor mam.  The teachers at Apeejay always felt like family, they were overjoyed at your achievements and highly encouraging at failures.

How difficult is it to pursue a career in eye surgery? Please give a few tips for aspiring students to be a good eye surgeon.

To become an excellent eye surgeon is quite a tough journey. It requires hard work, constant learning attitude, compassion and the will to strive for excellence. However, if you love what you are doing and are passionate about serving humanity as an eye specialist the path becomes much easier.  

What are the challenges and opportunities in pursuing a career in ophthalmology?

The journey to becoming a successful ophthalmologist is quite long and arduous however extremely rewarding. It consists of six years of medical training followed by three years of post-graduate training. Super specialty training in a certain part of Ophthalmology is almost necessary in today’s era and that involves further two to three years of training. After you finish all that, you come out as a young and fresh ophthalmologist ready to serve the world. It takes a while, however, to get out there and establish yourself in a manner that you start feeling accomplished.

What are the adverse implications of increased screen time during the Covid pandemic on people’s eye-sight? What is the solution to prevent it?

Increased times in front of the digital devices specially accentuated in the Covid times. That can cause eye strain and heaviness around the eyes, especially referred to as the Computer Vision syndrome. To help alleviate digital eye-strain, follow the 20-20-20 rule; take a 20-second break to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes.

What are the life lessons you picked up in school?

Going to various inter Apeejay meets for computers and dramatics competition gave me an insight into the talent that is there outside of the four walls. It gave me a lesson early on that even if you are the best in your school, it is not enough. That you must work harder and show exceptional results to achieve your dreams.

In which year did you clear your medical entrance exams to study medicine? Is it easier or more difficult to crack the entrance exam these days?

I cleared my MBBS entrance exams in 2004 when I opted to study at the Maulana Azad Medical College, one of India`s premier institutions for medical education. I am not up to date with the current level of competitiveness, but I assume it would be similar.

What is the secret to being a successful Cornea, lens and refractive surgeon?

Having a strong drive to deliver exceptional results to your patients and being compassionate to their challenges is the key to being a successful surgeon.

Aasheesh Sharma is a seasoned journalist with an experience of more than 25 years spread over newspapers, news agencies, magazines and television. He has worked in leadership positions in media groups such as Hindustan Times, India Today, Times of India, NDTV, UNI and IANS. He is a published author and his essay on the longest train journey in India was included in an anthology of writings on the railways, brought out by Rupa Publications. As the Editor of Apeejay Newsroom, he is responsible for coverage of the latest news and developments in the Apeejay institutions. He can be reached at [email protected] He tweets @Aasheesh74

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