1. Tell us a bit about yourself

I am Dr. Jyotee, anterior segment surgeon, cornea and refractive surgeon who has been practicing for
more than 17 years now as an ophthalmologist.

2. What do you like most and what do you like least about your typical day as a corneal specialist?

Being a corneal surgeon is an enormously fulfilling career and one that allows a surgeon to make
a tremendous impact on the quality of life of patient. It is always fulfilling when you can help a
patient preserve or regain their sight. It’s a terrible situation when I have a patient with me and I
am helpless to do that.

3. You have received the Dr. Geeta Lakshmi award and the Angel of Vision award. Congratulations for
these and other awards. Please tell us about the work for which you received these awards.

Angel of vision was awarded to me in 2017 at Victoria Seychelles in recognition of committed
and excellent services in conducting cataract camps in Seychelles. I have been going to
Seychelles every 2 yearly since 2013. It was the only country in the world to be cataract free in
2014 when we had done 234 cataracts in 3 days.
Dr. G. Sitalakshmi- Gift of Sight award was given to me in 2016-presented on the Hellen Keller
Remembrance Day held in Chennai. It was for outstanding service in providing corneal care to
the underprivileged thereby rendering significant, meaningful and everlasting contribution
towards Conquering Blindness in Kenya

4. What advice would you give to your pre-cornea-specialist self, today?

  • Innovate and you can do it.
  • Learn it and you can do it.
  • Implement it and you can do it.

5. Gender disparities in surgical volume between male and female ophthalmologists have been reported in
some published literature (example – https://www.aaojournal.org/article/S0161-6420(20)30956-
8/abstract). What do you do to maintain your surgical productivity in cataract surgery?

Being a woman in itself is hard, as you know. So I will share some tips to help with that:

  • Don’t be in a hurry to get married
  • Treat people like people-each person deserves equal respect and generosity- addendum to this is ‘no matter what sex you are, be a feminist’.
  • In every country and culture, I have visited, whether Europe, Africa or Asia – it is very clear that when women are given respect and the freedom to pursue their personal dreams and ambitions, life improves for everyone. I didn’t define myself as feminist until recently but I had always lived like a feminist and I always believed that women were as capable and energetic and as inspiring as men. Over the years I have come to realize that feminism is not an abstract concept- but it’s a necessity if we have to move forward. I would encourage each woman to be the same. Don’t let men be the sole decision-makers for the health care of this country while a large percentage of services in healthcare industry are delivered by women. And many eye care services are leaving women behind. An addendum.
  • Ignore the people who judges how you look.
  • Don’t be afraid of fear- am I good? /am I smart? / will I fail? Look at that fear in its ugly face and move forward with confidence.
  • Don’t overcomplicate things. Do say thank you when it’s necessary. Do not lose your sense of humour. Do confront bullies. Do call your parents -they are the ones you inherited genes from. And tell them you love them. Don’t dive into the water when you don’t know how deep it is down.
  • You will stumble and fall. You will have disasters and triumphs. But it is so important to remember that they don’t last forever- they will all pass and there will be new sunrise – you just make new sunrise count

6. Please tell us a little about the first chapter of your book ‘Wings of Hope’ How did you get the idea and
how did you prepare to start writing?

Actually never to lose hope in life -is my mantra since the time I arrived in Kenya. There has
been lots of ups and downs in my life, similar to an ECG pattern. I survived all that and that’s
why I thought of writing down my own story for other people to learn from it. Hope keeps you
going-and wings will make you fly to reach that hope.

7. Do you have a writing routine? When do you write? Where do you do the writing?

There’s nothing magical about writing daily. In fact, writing daily is all about routine. You simply
have to get used to it, in order to keep the same writing pace every day. But getting used to
writing daily demands some conditions we cannot escape from. Even if it is just our passion, it
requires at least one condition above all: discipline. A hell of a lot of it. It’s easier done than said,
but I’ll say it anyway. All you need to do is set up a writing schedule and in order to do so, you
have to organize your day.

8. How has writing your autobiography influenced your understanding of your identity, history and family?
What are the joys and challenges of finding this information and writing it up? Many ophthalmologists
dream of writing – fiction, blogs, autobiography, papers for publication or books. What tips do you have
for overcoming the sort of challenges that busy ophthalmologists who also have other responsibilities at
home, work, business or other engagements? How can they increase their productivity as writers?

Whether you are writing a novel, short stories, small or big essays, memoirs or articles, the same
principles apply. Firstly, reading is the bread for a writer and without it, he or she may starve,
both metaphorically and physically. The more we read, the more we learn and improve our
writing skills.
Secondly, even though you may disagree, your day job can be a very good source of inspiration
for writing. I work in a hospital and I have various patients, each one with a very different
character, mood, obsessions and traits. They are all interesting characters and I look at them,
talk to them and each day I get to know them more. Each one of them has their life experience
and this can motivate you to create fictional characters for your writing. And you can write
about your own experiences at work.
Thirdly, the path is quite linear and easy to follow; it is really just a matter of self-awareness
(what do you want to write about), developing will power and starting to write. Here all of you
are smart intelligent ophthalmologists and you have what it takes to write. Just start.

9. What are some common myths/misconceptions about fitness and how does this influence your decision
to engage in running, dancing, hiking and yoga?

People tend to overestimate their physical activity and underestimate how much food they eat.
They constantly think they’ve worked out more and also think they’ve eaten less.
Technically, you should do something every day, and by something I mean physical activity – just
move – walk, jog, run, swim, and exercise. Because we’re finding out more and more that the
act of sitting counteracts any of the activity you do.
You don’t have to run long distances. You can get many of the benefits of long-distance running
without ever passing the five-mile mark. Running fast and hard for just 5 to 10 minutes a day
can provide some of the same health outcomes as running for hours can.
Do you have to run in the morning? Not necessarily. The best time for a workout is whatever
time allows you to exercise most consistently. Ideally, you want to make physical fitness a daily
habit. And remember – most sports drinks are just sugar and water so avoid them as you do your
run or exercise.
Is exercise sufficient? ‘Aerobic exercise is the key for your head, just as it is for your heart’,
wrote one of the Harvard authors. However in terms of weight loss, diet plays a much bigger
role than exercise.
Should women do weight training? Through dynamic patterns of movement, a good core
workout helps strengthen the entire set of core muscles you use every day. Weight training is a
great way to strengthen muscles, and has nothing to do with gender. Muscle tissue can start to
break down within a week without regular exercise. Consistency is therefore important.
Does exercise turn fat into muscle? You can’t turn fat into muscle. The best way to reduce fat
tissue is to eat a healthy diet that incorporates vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and –
somewhat paradoxically – healthy fats like olive oil and fish.

10. Writing and running both require determination. In your experience, which is harder – running a
marathon or writing a book? How can one stay determined to achieve the set goals?

Of course yes- both require determination. They have different strides- one is physical/ one is
mental. At the beginning of both, you get an idea. And the next steps always seem difficult.
Writing a book is viewed differently than other forms of art and entertainment. Writing is the
most common form of communication- The words are only one part and that part alone is
extremely tough. You need to create a well-made product that people not only enjoy, but love so
much that they can’t stop talking about it. This is not only difficult and time-consuming, but also
removes some of the romanticism people have about the art of writing. That’s a BOOK. It’s the
rare day that the writer finds that the words come out exactly the way they were in their head. In
fact, it’s usually the opposite — one is disappointed, distracted, struggling, committed but
unproductive. It’s a special day when the flow is pure and uninterrupted, when one doesn’t stop
somewhere short of where they would like to be.
I go running because I love it. Because it’s good exercise. It’s the only exercise I’ve ever really
been good at, and I’ve done it essentially non-stop for 11 years. But I also run for another reason,
the same reason that many writers apparently run: it makes me better at my job. A run is almost
always good, and if you don’t take your phone, hardly ever interrupted. If you set out to run five
kilometres and five kilometres is within your capabilities, you will accomplish that goal. It’s rare
that one leaves their house for a run and somehow doesn’t make it back. In this way, running is
predictable, dependable, satisfying and thus a counterbalance for the mercurial muses of the
creative professional.

11. How and when did you discover Salsa dancing, and why should non-dancers sign up for a Salsa dance
class?

I finished my M. Med Ophthalmology and started working. Around 2005 thereafter I had time
on me to do something which I have not done before. There was a movie in Hindi- Zindagi na
Milegi Dobara- That means Life is only once. It inspired me for Salsa. You may not think Salsa
dancing is your thing, but I can assure you that if you try it you will discover a new world. When
you’re Salsa dancing, you’re so focused on your body’s movements and the music. You’re fully
engaged in the moment, so it’s truly a mind-body exercise. After a hectic week, you definitely
deserve this. You get to be mentally alert and on your toes all the time and this keeps you in a
good mood! Salsa dancing also trains you to become a better listener, gives you get the cardio
that your heart needs, improves circulation and increases respiration. It strengthens a variety of
muscles and bones and keeps your joints flexible. Watch a movie on Salsa- especially ‘Shall we
dance, Dance with me’ and you will love it.

12. You have raised money for prevention of blindness through singing. It is incredibly inspiring that people
run, cycle, walk, hike and sing to raise money for this cause. How did you engage supporters and what
did you learn from it?

Reducing visual impairment and blindness has always been on agenda ever since I graduated
from the university. I wish to help the underprivileged and address reversible blindness. First
and the foremost – is building Awareness of reversible blindness- then ensuring Availability of
treatment and then comes Affordability of services. We have Maharashtra Mandal in Nairobi I
am trustee to that Foundation – We have a lot of talent in the community and have made use of
the opportunity to help the reversible blindness by treating them through the donation which
came through this community. – cataract and corneal blindness- especially.

13. You are in the final year of your MBA in Global Health Care and Leadership. Why should an
ophthalmologist consider taking this MBA?

Finished my last module just last week – got a distinction. Society has given us all a lot. There is time
you start thinking ‘I can give back to society’. Joining may be some NGO to set up some guidelines
and policies and train the ophthalmologists for the future of this society. It will great to see this
country curbing the blindness due to cataract and cornea. I would love to be a part of it.

14. What is the source of all your energy?

‘Do what you love and love what you do’- That would be my favourite quote.
Enjoy the work
Set up triggers
Be around energetic people
Dr Jyotee can be reached at jyoteeye29@gmail.com and also on Facebook