Dr. Lav Kochgaway, one of the founders of Kolkata’s prestigious Netralayam - The Super Specialty Eye Care Center, describes his career as an ophthalmologist and the unique challenges doctors face in India, including female ones. He also encourages young people to pursue medical careers, noting that the rewards are worth the effort.
Dr. Lav shares that till class 10th, his favourite subject was Maths, and he wanted to become an engineer. However, his father and Ophthalmologist uncle, who were his role models, wanted a doctor in the family and encouraged him to take both Maths and biology in his senior secondary education. Nevertheless, managing both polar opposite subjects became a challenge for him, and Dr. Lav decided to focus on biology, initiating his quest to become one of the most successful pediatric ophthalmologists in the country.
Dr. Lav Kochgaway shared that after completing his initial medical education in 2003, he had planned to take admission for higher studies in the US. However, he met with an unfortunate electric current accident which led to him being ill for about three to four months. This led to the cancellation of his US plans leaving him frustrated and depressed. This was when he got a call from Sankara Nethralaya, a Chennai-based Eye Care Hospital, where he had applied for a fellowship program two years ago.
The call from Sankara Nethralaya proved to be like a light at the end of the tunnel for Dr. Lav. After clearing all the exams and interviews, he was accepted into their fellowship program. At Sankara Nethralaya, he was interviewed by future long-term mentors Dr. T S Surendran and Dr. K Ravishankar, who also offered him a job in the pediatric department at a hospital in Kolkata. Interestingly, at that time, Sankara Nethralaya didn’t offer a fellowship in Pediatric Ophthalmology, and Dr. Lav was the first pediatric ophthalmologist to come out of there.
Later, he also helped set up Sankara Nethralaya’s hospital in Kolkata in 2007. And finally, he founded his own Eye Care Hospital – Netralayam, after getting inspired by business tycoons like Dr. S S Badrinath and Dr. Davi Shetty.
Dr. Lav insists that children are a gift of god and that helping them in improving their vision should be a passion for doctors, not a profession. He shares that children with down syndrome are more affectionate. He narrates a story of a child on whom he operated at the age of one; 4 surgeries and frequent follow up helped the child regain normal vision, and later the child brought handmade cards for him.
Dr. Lav Kochgaway discusses the importance of regular eye exams for children, stressing that even if a child is not reading or responding in an obvious way, there are many ways to assess their vision. He also discusses the importance of early detection and treatment of conditions like cataracts and amblyopia, noting that if detected and treated early, many children can lead normal and healthy lives.
Dr. Kochgaway suggests taking time for oneself outside of work is very important. He recommends that doctors should try to cut down on their visits to work to spend more time with their families and that in their free time, he reads biographies of successful people and watches different types of videos. He believes that by following great people, one can build upon their skills and knowledge.
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Dr. Lav Kochgaway tells the story of a time when his mother sustained a 50% third-degree burn, and luckily he had just landed in the city then. Just because he had worked in the burn ward for 15 days during his internship - he could make the right decisions in the first 24 hours, which is very crucial for such patients. A non-medical person wouldn’t have been able to be alert of this, and she would have definitely succumbed to the injury then.
While Dr. Kochgaway acknowledges the challenges of his specialty, noting that pediatric patients can be challenging to work with and also rural areas tend to have lower minus power levels. He asserts that while these challenges are important, they are outweighed by the satisfaction he feels when he is able to help patients see better. Hence, he encourages young people to pursue medical careers, noting that the rewards are worth the effort.
Dr. Lav Kochgaway’s inspiring story and advice provide valuable insights into the importance of pursuing a career in the medical field. Aspiring doctors and nurses should consider the unique challenges that female doctors face in India and the importance of taking time for oneself outside of work. With the right guidance and dedication, a career in the medical field can be immensely rewarding.
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