Let's delve deeper into Dr. Aditi Sinha's journey through this enlightening conversation with Himani Negi (Copy Editor, MedBound Times), Arpita Meher (a medical student at TSMU and content writer at MedBound Times), and Priya Bairagi from MedBound Times.
Himani Negi: Ma'am, before we begin the interview, could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Dr. Aditi Sinha: My name is Dr. Aditi Sinha. I am an ENT specialist and head and neck cancer surgeon practicing in Mumbai. I have my own private practice, and I am also affiliated with several private hospitals here. I completed my MBBS at TN Medical College, BYL Nair Hospital, a BMC-run hospital in Mumbai (Admission Batch: 2002). Following that, I pursued my post-graduation at Jaslok Hospital and Research Center in ENT (2011), also located in Mumbai. I have gained experience in some of the leading hospitals in Mumbai, including P.D. Hinduja Hospital and K.B. Bhabha Municipal Hospital. Currently, I am associated with several other hospitals in and around Central Mumbai. That's a brief introduction to my background and experience.
Himani Negi: Before we delve into your journey and experiences, I'd like to ask you a common question I often ask: Why did you choose to pursue an MBBS? Was it a personal choice or something that was influenced by external factors? I've interviewed many doctors, and some, like Dr. Vashisht, have shared that if given the choice, they might not have chosen the medical field. He, for instance, is a skilled MD radiologist who enjoys his work but acknowledges that there are other interests he would explore if he had the opportunity. This raises an interesting perspective, especially since certain medical specializations can be demanding in terms of work-life balance.
I recall interviewing a doctor from Tamil Nadu who shared that their decision to pursue MBBS was influenced by parental pressure. The doctor's mother insisted on a medical career to the extent of threatening self-harm if they didn't comply. It was a shocking and, at the same time, surprising revelation, but it's not uncommon for Indian parents to exert such pressure.
With that context, I'd like to know if you've ever experienced similar pressures or if there were specific motivations that led you to choose this field. Could you share your thoughts on this?
Dr. Aditi Sinha: Well, what you're saying is right. Among the older generation of doctors, those with 20 or 30 years of experience, there were indeed limited career choices for top-performing students. It was commonly assumed that the brightest students would either become doctors or engineers, with a few opting for fields like law or chartered accounting. This career path was almost a given.
Speaking about my background, there was no familial pressure to become a doctor because nobody in my family had a medical background. So, I didn't have the typical scenario where a parent is a doctor and there's an expectation for the child to follow suit. If you were to ask me, perhaps my parents would have preferred me to pursue engineering, but I was always clear about my choice. I had studied physics, chemistry, mathematics, and biology up until the 12th grade, so both options were open to me. I even got admission to engineering programs, but ultimately, I chose medicine. It was my own decision.
Now, why did I choose medicine?
Well, it's quite simple when you see people around you who are ill or when you witness illness within your own family. I always had this strong desire to help make someone better. It's an incredible feeling when, as a patient or a child, you visit a doctor, they treat you with kindness, you take their prescribed treatment, and you recover. You remember them for a very long time because they turned your life around from sickness to well-being. In my mind, I always wanted a career where I could make a daily impact. As an engineer, you might be working on code or software, but you're not directly interacting with people, especially not in a healthcare context. So, my path was clear: I wanted to pursue medicine and, specifically, MBBS, more than any other branch. I can say it was my passion, perhaps not from a very young age, but certainly since I was around 13 or 14. It was something I felt strongly about and was determined to pursue at any cost. I was passionate about my choice. Regarding post-graduation, I was eagerly determined to specialize in ENT. It wasn't a matter of not being able to pursue something else; I specifically wanted to become an ENT surgeon, and I pursued that path with enthusiasm.
Himani Negi: Any specific reason for doing ENT?
Dr. Aditi Sinha: Yes, I was passionate about surgery, and it was clear to me that I didn't just want to be a physician. When it came to choosing a specialization, I specifically chose ENT. While ophthalmology is a similar branch, I felt that ENT offered a wide range of opportunities, along with a good work-life balance. Many doctors, such as gynecologists or general surgeons, often mention the lack of time and numerous emergencies.
What many students in India often misunderstand is the vast scope of the ENT field. Some may think it's all about treating coughs, colds, and sinus issues, but that's just the tip of the iceberg.
It's a field that has evolved significantly with the advent of endoscopy, which has become a central part of ENT surgery. ENT surgeons can also perform plastic surgery and even work as cancer surgeons. This versatility is not as prevalent in other branches; for instance, ophthalmology is a more specialized field. So, I believe ENT is an underrated branch that students should consider, given its vast scope and utility.
Himani Negi: You've touched upon an important topic regarding work-life balance.
Himani Negi: My next question is about one quite common practice in India—earwax removal. Many of us resort to using safety pins, earbuds, or other makeshift tools at home. I recall a family relative who had to get his earwax removed as part of the admission process for an army school. Indeed, going to the doctor for such a procedure isn't the first thought for most people in our country.
I'd like you to share some insights on this practice. Specifically, is it safe to remove earwax at home in this manner? And if it's not safe, what alternatives can people consider? This issue affects everyone, from babies to the elderly, and it's a common practice, so shedding light on it would be valuable.
Dr. Aditi Sinha: Indeed, one of the most common reasons for patients to visit an ENT OPD (outpatient department) is earache or ear blockage, and more often than not, the culprit is earwax. As you rightly mentioned, many patients in India tend to overlook the importance of seeking professional help for earwax removal. In the past, the use of earphones and headphones was less common, resulting in lower rates of earwax formation. However, with the rise of post-COVID video calls and increased phone usage, we are witnessing an uptick in wax-related issues.
When people resort to these practices, they often damage their ears, even though the ear may not initially hurt. Earwax can be present in the ear, causing a feeling of blockage, but the pain typically begins when a foreign object is inserted into the ear. Sharp objects can scratch the ear's delicate skin, and in some cases, they've pierced the eardrum, resulting in sudden hearing loss and bleeding. Ear swelling and pus discharge are other consequences, and some patients have had cotton fibers left inside, leading to fungal growth and foul-smelling discharge.
Even with soft objects like Q-tips or cotton buds, there are risks. While they have rounded tips, these objects can inadvertently push wax deeper into the ear canal, leading to blockages or fungal infections. In some instances, the entire cotton bud becomes lodged inside the ear, causing further complications.
Thankfully, there is growing awareness about the dangers of these practices, thanks to articles and information shared online. Patients must understand that the ear is designed to clean itself. Earwax is like a natural skin oil that lubricates the ear and prevents it from drying out. Scratching or cleaning the ear excessively can lead to increased dryness and more wax formation.
Patients need to be informed that regular self-cleaning is unnecessary and that there's no need to visit a doctor every week or month for ear cleaning. However, if someone tends to produce a lot of wax, whether they are a baby or an elderly individual, they can schedule an ENT checkup once every six months. During these visits, if the doctor identifies excessive wax, they can safely remove it using various methods. This may include using a hook for hard wax, water irrigation for dry wax, or suction for stubborn cases. Sometimes, a simple cotton swab can also be used for gentle cleaning.
For those who want to maintain ear hygiene on their own, the key is to avoid inserting anything into the ear canal. Instead, after a bath, use a towel to gently dry the outside of the ear.
In summary, the safest approach is to refrain from inserting objects into the ear canal, use safe and gentle methods for maintaining ear hygiene, and seek professional help when necessary.
So is it advisable to consider regular health check-ups, including a visit to an ENT specialist for an ear check-up, perhaps once every six months?
Yes, even during routine health check-ups at most major hospitals, you'll often find that ENT consultations, along with eye and hearing tests, are included. Typically, the ENT consultation precedes the hearing test. If earwax is detected during the consultation, the doctor can remove it for you before you proceed with your hearing test. This makes it convenient to incorporate into a six-monthly or annual health check-up routine.
Himani Negi: Ma'am, you mentioned the earwax dissolvent that doctors often recommend. Is it safe for us to purchase and use these earwax dissolvent drops on our own, without a prescription, from a pharmacy?
Dr. Aditi Sinha: This raises a crucial issue that many individuals face. Sometimes, when they experience ear blockage or ear pain, they decide to take matters into their own hands and visit the pharmacy to purchase ear drops from any available brand. They assume it's earwax or ear dirt causing the problem and proceed to use over-the-counter drops without consulting a doctor. In cases where it is indeed earwax, they might experience relief as the wax dissolves and comes out, and they feel okay again.
However, there are instances where the blockage and pain are caused by something other than earwax. It could be an infection, a fungal issue, a small boil in the ear, or any number of other potential problems. In these situations, using over-the-counter drops, which are often chemical-based or contain substances like turpentine, can worsen the condition. The drops can trigger allergic reactions and inflammation, exacerbating the problem. It's essential to consider these factors before using any ear drops.
My recommendation is to have the condition checked by a medical professional. You can consult your local family doctor, a general practitioner (MBBS), or any healthcare provider. They can examine your ear with an otoscope or a torch to determine the root cause. If the doctor confirms it's earwax, you can ask them to prescribe appropriate earwax removal drops or purchase them from a local store. The key is not to rush into buying and applying drops without proper diagnosis and guidance.
Stay tuned for Part 2, where we will explore more about ear-related myths and misconceptions, the challenges Dr. Aditi faced during her DNB journey, and competition in the field of medicine.