A Clear View: Life of an Ophthalmologist

Dr Sandeep Bhuttan, April 2020

It might seem to be an alluring career, but studying to be an ophthalmologist needs focus, a lot of reading and constant learning

Poor eyesight, blurred vision, and frequent eye infections are common problems we all have to face at some point or the other. While in some cases, a routine eye examination can identify the issue, in others, advanced clinical tests and surgical interventions are required. That’s why we need an ophthalmologist to investigate that. Apart from clinical observation, doing specific eye tests such as vision assessment, refraction, slit-lamp examination, advanced microsurgery, and intra- ocular pressure measurement, an ophthalmologist also needs to educate patients and their family members, along with maintaining the patient’s records and keeping an eye on their recovery and rehabilitation. A career in ophthalmology is a demanding profession and requires aspirants to stay up to date with new researches, upgrade their knowledge and skills, and read a lot of journals and papers.


Ophthalmology can be pursued as one of the speciality streams after completing MBBS followed by one year of compulsory rotational internship. After getting through the entrance examination, one can choose a two-year diploma course or three-year master’s degree or pursue a DNB (Diplomats of National Board) in ophthalmology. This can be done at the institutes that offer a course either as primary DNB, immediately after MBBS or secondary DNB, after the completion of DOMS (Diploma in ophthalmic medicine and surgery).


Most ophthalmologists even after completing their basic qualifications don’t have sufficient surgical skills with limited exposure to sub-specialties such as cornea, retinal and paediatric ophthalmology. Postgraduates can apply for fellowships that range from two to three months going up to three years depending on the institute offering the programme.

One can also apply for senior residency at government hospitals or medical colleges to get hands-on experience of comprehensive ophthalmology.


With a growing elderly population and advancing technological advancements in ophthalmic diagnostics and pharmacology, there is an increasing demand for ophthalmologists in the country. There is a lot of scope for young ophthalmologists in tier 2 cities with corporate chains and hospitals looking at innovative business and public health approaches for delivering good quality eye care to the underprivileged. Improvement in information technology and imaging devices is expanding the reach of services beyond physical boundaries of practice and increasing the scope of teaching and skill acquisition for ophthalmologists.


To excel as a professional, apart from excellent clinical and surgical skills, an ophthalmologist also needs to be a good manager and team player. Irrespective of the practice options taken, they will need to work hard in developing systems around them. So, one needs to be in touch with the latest advances in the field for both clinical and service delivery models.

The above article first appeared in India Today Aspire, January 2020.



Dr Sandeep Bhuttan
Global Technical Lead Eye Health Asia at Sightsavers


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