Please enjoy this interview with Dr Simerdip Kaur, an ST4 ophthalmology trainee in the Kent, Surrey & Sussex Deanery, working at East Kent University Hospitals Foundation Trust.
Can you tell us 3 things about yourself?
I would say that I am constantly trying to improve my multi-tasking skills in order to be able to take on more whilst also searching for an elusive balance between my professional and personal life – I daresay most healthcare professionals feel this way at some point in their life. Also, I enjoy practicing yoga, meditation and running to help me relax and unwind.
Can you tell us about your professional background?
I studied medicine at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry and
during that time spent 2 weeks in Moorfields Eye Hospital on City Road for my Ophthalmology placement – that is where I fell in love with the specialty. After graduating, I moved to the East Midlands where I completed my Foundation and Core Medical Training. I then spent a year in Wales undertaking a Locum post in Ophthalmology before starting my ST1 run-through training in the Kent, Surrey & Sussex deanery.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day for me might start with a morning theatre session followed by an afternoon clinic list and then an evening on call. I usually review the patients notes a week ahead to see what surgery they are attending for and discuss any concerns with my Consultant. On the day of surgery, I’m usually consenting patients around 8am or earlier depending on the start time of the lists and going over the risks and benefits of the surgery again plus answering any further questions the patients may have. Lunch is usually on the go especially if I am working in another site for the
afternoon clinic. Here, I would be reviewing new and follow up patients including any diagnostic imaging and discussing treatment plans with my supervisors and the patients themselves. The on call service usually starts from 5pm onwards and so that’s when my mobile starts ringing with referrals or general queries from GPs, optometrists, A&E and minor injury units. All in all its a full on day that’s very rewarding and dotted with multiple learning opportunities.
What do you think is the role of ophthalmology and the ophthalmology trainee in the Global Health landscape?
So much of what we are able to perceive and perform on a day to day basis is through our sense of sight. Therefore, the absence or lower quality sight has a major impact on an individuals ability to function in society. As ophthalmologists there is ample opportunity to take an active role in various eye health related charities and non-profit organisations as well as undertake research that would benefit patients. Some Ophthalmology services in the UK also have partnerships with overseas eye centres as part of the VISION 2020 Links Programme to facilitate the transfer of
knowledge and skills to improve local capacity and standards of care.
What have been your experience as a trainee in ophthalmology so far?
I have thoroughly enjoyed my training so far and it has been excellent although I
wouldn’t be telling the truth if I didn’t admit that it has been a bit of a roller coaster journey especially so with the steep learning curve initially. Overall, trainers are enthusiastic and keen to teach and trainees are provided with the necessary clinical exposure in order to achieve learning outcomes outlined in the curriculum. Importantly, there is also an active trainee representative group that works closely with the Royal College of Ophthalmologists to address training issues on a national level.
What are some of the challenges you are facing or areas of improvement you are
seeing for ophthalmology trainee?
The challenges for Ophthalmology trainees like for any Ophthalmology doctor is
the increasing demand from an ever growing patient list. Whilst some may envy our outpatient based clinical work it is often very busy with overbooked clinics and complicated patients. Teaching and training sometimes takes a back seat as service provision dominates. However, Ophthalmology trainees are fortunate to have allocated weekly protected time for carrying out research, audit, personal study and dedicated teaching sessions which have been preserved even after the changes in the junior doctor contract. These sessions are valuable and essential to develop the necessary skills required to be a well rounded consultant of the future.
Can we explore the reasons why you decided to pursue ophthalmology after 2 years in core medical training?
I always knew I wanted to do Ophthalmology long term but after foundation training I didn’t feel confident I had gained sufficient general medical knowledge and experience to stand me through the rest of my career. I also wanted to keep my options open for pursuing Medical Ophthalmology at ST3 entry level which was open to both Ophthalmology and Core Medical trainees. After some time, the thought of not operating seemed dull to me and so I applied for ST1 run through Ophthalmology training and the rest is history.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I enjoy interacting with patients especially taking the time to explain their condition and exploring their concerns. A lot of patients in the eye clinic have long term chronic conditions and so it is important to foster a good trusting relationship with them. I also find it incredibly rewarding to see how patients improve through medical or surgical intervention for their eye condition.
What is the professional achievement you are most proud of and why?
I am proud of my writing pursuits whilst I was a columnist for Eye News – a bimonthly ophthalmology magazine. A consultant I worked with who is an excellent writer and clinician suggested I should give it a ago and I did I feel very much out of my comfort zone in the beginning. Along the way, I have improved my own knowledge on the various topics I have written about as well as my writing skills. It also provided me with the opportunity to connect with readers of varied backgrounds and I have found this interaction very fulfilling.
What would Dr Kaur of 2020 say to Simerdip – your younger self as a first-year
I would tell her to be bold, brave, dream big and to never give up pursuing whatever she wants to achieve.
What do you think Simerdip - your younger self as a first-year in medical school-,
would say to Dr Kaur if she was talking to you today (seeing how your life and career turned out to be)?
I think she would not believe that she managed to get into Ophthalmology
training! Having gotten over that surprise, I think she would remind me to be grateful for the privilege and opportunity not only of being a doctor but also an Ophthalmologist especially as we hold our patients trust in looking after their sight.