Igniting wood

The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves, says Soosan Jacob, MS, FRCS, DNB

Soosan Jacob

Posted: Tuesday, June 1, 2021

The mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting.” — Plutarch

Achieving professional and academic success requires many ingredients – hard work, focus, domain knowledge, skills, empathy, nurturing and supportive environments at work and home and, most importantly, good fortune to have the right mentor.

Mentors play a key role – they lift you up, give vision and direction, support you when you are disheartened and may carry you if you feel you cannot go on. I feel blessed to always have had good mentors. Dr. S Viswanathan, along with many other wonderful teachers, encouraged me and taught me the science of Medicine and of Ophthalmology.

However, it is a whole new world when you start practice and from the early stages, I had the good fortune to be associated with a wonderful husband-and-wife duo, a celebrity Ophthalmology couple – Dr Athiya and Dr Amar Agarwal.

When I joined Dr Agarwal’s Eye Hospital, I was inspired by these two strong personalities who were not afraid to do things differently, never said no to a challenge and who were insanely hardworking! I saw them not afraid of swimming against the tide or of pushing boundaries.

With innovations such as no-anaesthesia cataract surgery, phakonit, aberropia and glued IOL – Dr Amar made me understand the need to look beyond textbooks and to constantly think of how to improve further on existing solutions. With her passion, dedication and her love and concern, Dr Athiya made me feel at home and wanting to work equally hard.

As mentors, they constantly encouraged me, never held me back and taught me to live the principles of learn, unlearn and relearn. They also taught me to look beyond silos which has enabled me to be able to contribute in my own small ways back to Ophthalmology.

Making me attend conferences, learn from other leaders, interact with greats and push my bar by cheering me on with my first international publications, paper and video film presentations, surgeries, surgical teaching, innovations and to this day for my successes, be it from the many awards to being selected to the Top-100 Power Women Ophthalmologists, they have been my family at work.

As Steven Spielberg put it: “The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves” – and for this I will always be thankful to them.

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