The journey is the reward
Dr Soosan Jacob on why she became an ophthalmologist and the influences that shaped her career
Soosan Jacob, MS, FRCS, DNB
In India when I was a child there were two options that were always there for anyone who liked science. One was to be a doctor and the other was to be an engineer. I definitely didn’t want to be an engineer so I chose to become a doctor.
Once I started medical school, I found that I liked the surgical field better and when it was time to choose the surgical field, I chose ophthalmology simply because I thought it was a much more elegant form of surgery – the microscopic nature and views, the small and delicate structures that you’re dealing with, the finesse that is there in these surgeries that you don’t see in other surgeries – bloodless, clean and beautiful! This together with the fact that here is a field where you can almost always directly see the operative field before and after surgery giving great clarity to decision-making processes and the ability to study postoperatively, the exact outcomes of what our surgical manoeuvres have brought about. Best of all, ophthalmology is capable of bringing life-changing improvements for our patients. You end up making a lot of difference to people’s lives. India has a burden of blindness of about 10 million which is close to the population of London and Paris combined, so I’m very happy about the choice I made.
I started working with Professor Amar Agarwal in Dr Agarwal’s Eye Hospital, Chennai, India. This was a place always full of innovation and inviting new ideas and new thinking. I think that really made a lot of difference to me and changed my outlook to ophthalmology. It made me start thinking about new things and new ways to do things.
There have been many other big influences in my life, including my parents, right from my childhood. They moulded me to become an inquisitive person and to try and find answers. My husband is huge source of support for me. Being a cardiologist, he understands the medical field, of course, and I am fortunate to get a lot of encouragement and advice from him. My children are terrific and luckily have taken to the challenge of a working mother well.
My principle is to delegate what you don’t absolutely need to do yourself and do what you know that only you can do. You only have a limited amount of time and you need to use that wisely. You have to have a well-rounded life and the only way to do that is not to waste time.
If I was asked for advice from a young surgeon who is just starting out, I would tell them to start steady, aim high and keep thinking and keep going.
You have to understand that the journey is the reward.
Dr Soosan Jacob, MS, FRCS, DNB is Director and Chief at Dr Agarwal’s Refractive and Cornea Foundation, Chennai, India. This interview is based on an interview with Dr Jacob in the EuroTimes Eye Contact series https://player.escrs.org/eurotimes-eye-contact/five-questions-withsoosan-jacob-paris-2019