‘Make a Difference. Everyday’

Dr Neha DHIWARE responds to ThinkWellness360 questionnaire. 

Why and how did you think of becoming a doctor? 

Probably, because of genetics, to use a platitudinous cliché. My parents are not just doctors, but a team that works in tandem. It’s, therefore, impossible to have dinner table discussions that did not involve medicine — thanks to my orthopaedic dad and anaesthetist mom. I was lured to medicine, right from my childhood, and the more time I spent after school at the clinics and hospitals, what with the constant rush of treating patients, and seeing them get better, or, for that matter, catching a glimpse of the sheer joy of people feeling reassured after speaking to their doctor — my parents — was what made me feel that being a doctor was special and unique. This, I thought, was also something distinct that no other profession could match. I thought of it all too for a higher purpose, or meaning, in life. This had a magical effect, no less, on me and I was fully drawn to it — maybe, with a realistic, on-the-ground ‘hypnotic’ effect.

What made you think of, study and specialise in the system of medicine you now practice?

I always wanted to be a surgeon; not a gynaecologist though. So, the best options were: general surgery, orthopaedics, ENT, and ophthalmology. When I was doing my internship, one of my seniors was kind enough to allow me to look through a slit lamp, the instrument that provides a magnified view of various layers of every part of the eye. Till such time, my knowledge of ophthalmology was theoretical. But, that splendid view, also opportunity, changed my life and I decided that this was the one field that could help fulfil my inner calling. The moment I started studying ophthalmology, I realised that it was a sheer delight, thanks to its near-perfection. Add to it my obsession with 6/6, or 20/20, vision and microsurgical finesse, I specialised in cataract — and, also developed a fervent interest in refractive — surgery.

What has been your personal and professional experience as a doctor? 

Personally, I think I perceive my childhood dream of ‘making a difference’ being fulfilled every single day, when I see the patient smile as they leave my clinic, or when a happy patient tells their friend at the mall, “She’s the doctor who did my LASIK.” Professionally, every challenge, every difficult case, every challenging conversation with a patient, or colleague, makes me strive harder to better myself, or taking my skills to the next level.

What unique and special skills you think you have that has made the big difference for your patients?

Every decision I make is based on scientific and rational thinking; also, understanding. This comes naturally to me in my everyday life. I believe this is an asset to my profession, where evidence-based practice is definitely the ‘best prescription’ for a doctor. I am also a patient and empathetic listener and I believe that my patients deserve the same respect that I would expect when I walked into a doctor’s office. This means that I will always give them as much time as needed and be honest, also transparent, about treatment options.

What is your best definition of optimal wellness and why?

Optimal wellness is when one is physically, mentally and emotionally stable, with the means to taking care of oneself at any age. Mental health is possibly the most important — it includes a strong support system in the form of friends and family. This is increasingly proving to be imperative as more and more people are choosing a ‘top to bottom,’ independent way of life, and not just lifestyle.

Your ‘best’ case?

A frail 90-year-old woman with severe kyphosis [hunch back] and kidney failure was brought to me by her son. She also had cataract that had made her almost blind. He had carried her into my clinic in his arms and was convinced that nothing could be done to help her. It was apparent that his ‘mission’ was simple — his mom ought to hear the truth, or reality, from the doctor herself. The nonagenarian was refused surgery in her hometown because of her systemic condition. All she wanted was to be able to read the scriptures that she had been reciting since she was a child. I operated on her with an able team of anaesthetists and physicians, who managed her condition. Lo and behold, she regained her vision, she had lost for many years in both eyes, within a week’s time. While her smile was priceless, the ecstatic tears that brimmed in her son’s eyes, when she walked back holding his hand, moved me and every individual on our team.

Your not-so-good’ case?

A young man, aged 25, was returning home, after his first day at work, when he met with an accident. A large piece of glass lodged itself in his eye, tearing and infecting it. In spite of the best efforts from a team of ophthalmologists, including myself, his vision could not be salvaged — although the eye was cosmetically repaired. That’s the limitation, or ‘downside,’ of medicine and science. It should be accepted, notwithstanding one’s best efforts.

What appeals to you the most?

Rational, sensible and scientific conversation.

What annoys you the most?

A discussion with someone who refuses to see reason.

Your favourite book?

I am a voracious reader; so, picking just one favourite book is awfully difficult. In recent times, I was floored by Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapien. I love Gone with the Wind, the timeless classic. For pure fun-fiction, I enjoy Frederick Forsyth’s novels, especially The Fourth Protocol. For a series, Harry Potter remains my all-time favourite. I am also intrigued by Haruki Murakami’s works. I am currently in the process of reading them all, one by one.

Your favourite joke? 

I love witty, academic puns, and jokes.

Your favourite song? 

Imagine by John Lennon, for its lyrics.

Your favourite movie?  

The Godfather. Also, all the good, old light-hearted Hindi comedies featuring Amol Palekar, Naseeruddin Shah, Farooq Shaikh, among others.

Your favourite TV, Netflix show?

Modern Family, for its clean humour, short episodes, fabulous script and acting.

Your other interests, or hobbies?

Reading. Art in the form of painting, découpage, or crafts. Music of every genre, albeit I am partial towards Hindustani classical. I love theatre too.

Your goal in life? 

To remain true to my conscience, be ethical in everything I do, and strive assiduously, also diligently, to better myself along the journey — professionally and personally.

Dr NEHA DHIWARE, MBBS, MS, DNB, is a super-specialist in comprehensive ophthalmology and cataract/refractive surgery . She lives in Navi Mumbai, India.

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