Seeing the World Through Two Lenses: Insights from Dr. Sidharth Baindur
Welcome to Docscopy section, Priya Bairagi, Darshit Patel ,Rukhiya and Meghana of MedBound Times had an opportunity to have an exciting conversation with Dr. Sidharth Baindur.
Dr. Sidharth Baindur completed his MBBS from Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute, Karnataka, India in 2016 and MS Ophthalmology from Maulana Azad Medical College, Delhi, India in 2020. Currently he is working as senior resident in Guru Nanak Eye Centre, Delhi, India.
Could you please share some information about your academic and professional background?
I completed my undergraduate studies at Bangalore Medical College, followed by my postgraduate specialization in ophthalmology at Maulana Azad Medical College. Currently, I am working as a senior resident at the same institution. So, that sums up my academic and professional journey.
What led you to choose medicine and later specialize in ophthalmology?
I didn't plan on becoming a doctor, despite both my parents being in the medical field. I was more interested in engineering due to the lifestyle I saw my parents as doctors. However, during my 12th-grade studies, I opted for biology with mathematics. Although I struggled with physics and mathematics, I decided to try my hand at medicine as well. Surprisingly, I performed better in the medical entrance exam than in the engineering exam, securing the 9th rank in the state-level entrance exam in Karnataka. This made me realize that medicine might be the right path for me, and I began my MBBS journey.
Throughout my medical studies, I developed a liking for the subjects and the academic aspects of medicine. However, I was apprehensive about certain aspects of the medical profession, such as night duties, long working hours, and the emotional toll of dealing with life-and-death situations.
During my search for a specialization that would align better with my preferences, I discovered ophthalmology. It appealed to me for several reasons - it offered a better work-life balance, being a combination of both medicine and surgery, and it required fewer investigations compared to some other specialties.
You are a DNB gold medalist. How was that moment for you?
I didn’t expect it at all. I was in the COVID batch, and my exam was in April 2020, which then shifted to July. My DNB exam was in September. The paper was also difficult, so I was not at all expecting it. It was an amazing, fun moment.
Could you tell us about the most frequent eye-related conditions that patients seek your help for?
Working at a government hospital, the most common issue I encounter is cataracts, which is a natural consequence of aging. It affects a large portion of the population as they grow older. Additionally, I often see younger individuals with complaints of dryness in their eyes, which is often related to increased screen usage. This condition is commonly referred to as "Computer Vision Syndrome," where prolonged screen time can reduce blinking frequency, leading to increased dryness in the eyes.
Although cataracts and computer vision syndrome are prevalent, being part of a renowned institute, I also come across a diverse range of eye conditions. These include various retinal issues, glaucoma, and corneal diseases, among others.
How would you describe the qualities of ophthalmology training in India? Are there any aspects of the training that you believe need improvement?
Ophthalmology training in India is excellent, particularly in selected institutes, both government and private. These institutes offer well-structured and comprehensive programs with experienced faculty members. However, the overall education system is lacking and needs improvement.
It's fascinating to see the numerous campaigns focused on cataracts in India, drawing the attention of a large population. What are your thoughts on these initiatives?
The campaigns conducted by various institutions are truly commendable. They have been making amazing efforts to extend ophthalmology services to remote areas, reaching the periphery of our society. These initiatives have made a significant impact, providing good-quality care, particularly for cataracts.
How do you propose raising awareness about the increasing prevalence of lifestyle diseases, particularly chronic conditions like diabetic retinopathy and its related complications?
Various awareness campaigns are already in place, such as glaucoma awareness week, eye donation week, and diabetic retinopathy awareness initiatives. However, a concerning observation is that people often neglect diabetes until it reaches a severe stage. There seems to be a lack of understanding about the importance of controlling diabetes and the significance of preventive measures. Prevention is crucial for managing diabetes-related complications, not only for eye health but also for other organs like the kidneys and heart. Unfortunately, in cases of advanced diabetic retinopathy, the options for effective treatment become limited, and as ophthalmologists, there is little we can do at that stage.
Sir, with your entertaining Instagram account(@Dr. Extra Chutney), how do you manage to strike a balance between your work and personal life?
Comedy and stand-up have always been a passion of mine, and I used to watch stand-up shows for a long time. Initially, I aspired to pursue stand-up comedy, but circumstances led me in a different direction. During a year off before my postgraduation, I had numerous ideas related to comedy, which I jotted down but didn't act upon.
However, during the lockdown after my postgraduation, I revisited those ideas and realized that stand-up comedy might not be feasible for me. Instead, I ventured into making reels on Instagram. Surprisingly, one of my reels went viral and received a positive response.
As for maintaining a work-life balance, I consider myself fortunate to be working in a government hospital where the hours are regular (9 to 5) and the colleagues are supportive. The field of ophthalmology is well aware of the importance of work-life balance. I utilize my evenings and weekends to create content for my Instagram account, but the process of writing and ideation happens whenever inspiration strikes. I make sure to Note down ideas promptly so that I can work on them when I have the time.
Dr. Sidharth Baindur
Sir, based on your clinical experience, is there any particular case that has had a significant impact on your life?
While I can't recall many specific cases at the moment, one recent case stands out in my mind. Over the past 5 to 6 years of working in ophthalmology and being one of the seniors in my hospital, I have gained confidence in my abilities and developed a good understanding of various eye conditions. I have encountered and successfully diagnosed a wide range of cases.
However, last week, there was a patient whose clinical findings were so unusual that I made an incorrect diagnosis by overlooking a critical detail. It was only when I sought the opinion of my senior consultant that the missed finding was brought to my attention. This experience served as a valuable reminder that even with years of practice and expertise, there will always be cases that challenge our knowledge and assumptions. The beauty of medicine lies in its complexity and the constant opportunity to learn and grow.
With the increasing popularity of contact lenses, what instructions and tips would you like to provide to raise awareness among users?
First of all, hygiene is the most important because it can cause keratitis. You have to wash your hands very well and use your lens as little as possible. Never sleep with contact lenses, and carry a contact lens case wherever you go. Ideally, use contact lenses for a month and discontinue them if you use them regularly. Now lenses have become so popular that everyone uses them. It's okay to use, but if there are any issues, please meet the doctor without hesitation.
Sir, do you think we have to do something extra to make every individual aware of a certain condition because, in our country, many people come to know about a particular issue when they face an advanced version of that condition?
Yes. Most cataract surgery we do here is advanced cataract, but coming to the US, whenever you see their videos, there is not even a single advanced case. This is when I realized that in developed countries, minor details are taken very seriously. Even with a small drop in vision, they make an appointment with an ophthalmologist, but that’s not the case here; even the most educated people only come to an ophthalmologist when the case is severe, or it matters to their daily activities. Especially, women, the response I get from women is usually that no one brought me. Women are not taken seriously, which is what I felt in our country. Which is very sad. Then it was children, but now people are aware of their kid's conditions, but I think that’s not enough. Overall, in India, health is not given much importance.
Do you think questions related to ophthalmic history have to be included in routine questionnaires?
Great question and a great idea. I never thought of it, but it is a great idea. As an ophthalmologist, we were taught to consider patients as a whole rather than just eyes. I think it would be great if it was added to routine screening.
Sir, I worked in a maternity setting, and I also observed women talking about their eye conditions, but nobody pays significant attention to their Eye-health. What’s your take on this?
Yaa, many studies are being conducted on pregnant women. As you said, they may have some preexisting conditions. Just if an ophthalmologist sees them, they might get better treatment, but for the general population at that moment, everybody goes behind in pregnancy and nothing else. Overall, the problem with India is a lack of infrastructure. If you are working in a maternity setting and you find mothers with eye issues, they can be easily referred to an eye doctor if our infrastructure provides this option. When you ask patients to go to another hospital and another doctor for an eye checkup, everyone will hesitate to go.
Sir, you completed your MBBS in Bangalore and then pursued your PG in Delhi. Could you share the diversity and cultural differences you observed between these two places?
Initially, I noticed that people in Delhi tend to be a little more assertive, though I mean no offense by saying this. On the other hand, in the South, there is a general culture of showing more respect towards doctors. Additionally, I observed a significant disparity in peripheral infrastructure between the two regions. In the South, peripheral centers are well-established, leading to mostly severe cases being referred to tertiary centers. In contrast, Delhi lacks robust peripheral infrastructure, resulting in a higher number of patients seeking medical attention directly at tertiary centers.
Delhi is considered a preferred destination for postgraduate studies, as a large number of people from states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar come here seeking medical treatment. This influx contributes to the diversity of patients and cases encountered in the city.
Culturally, there are differences in food, and the weather in Delhi is notably harsh compared to the South. However, over time, I have grown accustomed to the weather and have come to appreciate my experience here.
Sir, I have seen that the medicines prescribed by the doctor might not be in the inbuild pharmacy, but the patient insists on the same. How do you handle those situations?
In the end, what I have seen is keeping yourself calm first, then explaining the situation. I have seen colleagues who don’t take the time to explain the truth. You don’t have to think that people don’t understand anything. If patients come to you, just tell them properly, I thought the medicine was here but it is not. You can take this alternative or either go and purchase the same from another pharmacy. People coming to the community hospital might not pay money, but they give their time. If they worked during the time they spent in the hospital, they could have earned something, so be calm. Nobody fights when you are calm. If they are still agitated, then you can ask them to see the director; that’s it.
Sir, now that everything is becoming digitalized and screen time is increasing, especially for people working online, what would be the advice or tips you can provide to maintain a healthy eye?
There is a computer vision syndrome that has become very common. So there is something called the 20-20-20 rule, which says that after every 20 minutes of near work, you have to look at an object that is 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Whenever you do near work, your eyes adjust accordingly, and if you continuously see nearby things, your eyes get a little tired. So when you look at faraway things for 20 seconds, it gives your eyes some time to relax. Then there are lubricating eye drops, which are tear substitutes that do not have side effects and make eyes moisten since bright light from screens makes us blink less, which then leads to dry eyes. So lubricant can be used.
What is your take on LASIK surgery?
LASIK is now very safe. It has become very advanced nowadays, and a lot of perfection is coming to that field. But remember, anything that is not natural can cause complications. No matter how good the surgery is, it can always have complications. You have to be prepared for that. Don’t do it for minor problems, but if you have a high profile and need to get rid of the problems with specs, you can do it since Lasik surgery gives you spectacle-free independence that can change your life.
Could you please explain the relationship between age and the power of the eyes and provide some insights into potential solutions for vision problems associated with increasing power? And What about the problem of Relapse after LASIK?
Power increases with increasing age. The power of your eyes is like your height; it is genetically determined, and there is nothing you can do to stop it. If power increases, the only option available is to change the spectacle. Research is bringing out some drops to reverse the progression of the vision problem, but it is not yet very significant. Power increases till around 22, then it becomes stable, and then Lasik surgeries are done.
Relapse of power is common after LASIK. But it won't go back to the previous power that the patient had. After a few years post-surgery, a slight power change can occur.
What profession would you choose if you didn’t go for medicine?
Since I am Indian, the other would be engineering, lol. But after I started making content, I think I like theatre. That thought has never come to me before, but now I think the creative field would be something I like.
What are your long-term career aspirations, and do you have any passions beyond medicine?
That's an interesting question, and to be honest, I haven't given it much thought yet. As I'm nearing the end of my senior residency, my immediate focus is on finding my next job opportunity. I don't have specific financial goals or anything like that. My priority is to secure a position in either a corporate hospital or a medical college. I prefer not to go into private practice, as it can be quite demanding, particularly for surgeons. I value work-life balance, and I have diverse interests beyond my medical career.
Basketball is one of my newfound passions. I developed an interest in it suddenly, and ever since then, I've been following the sport with great enthusiasm. Stand-up comedy is another aspect of my life that I deeply enjoy. I love watching stand-up shows and find them immensely entertaining.
In addition to medicine and sports, Creating content is something I am passionate about.