The eye is one of the smallest organs in the body to have an entire speciality centred around it, but what few know is that a number of sub-specialities have stemmed from it.
A career in ophthalmology requires a lot of skills owing to the many sub-fields of the subject. This field needs surgical, medical and patient care skills ranging from paediatric to geriatric population.
Students opt for ophthalmology for their master’s degrees after completion of their MBBS and there are many reasons to select this branch. Ophthalmology is a good balance between surgical and medical practice and many can decide which aspect they want to focus on. Those who are interested in surgery take time to adapt to this microsurgical field. However with the right training, all can master it with basic hand-eye coordination. These days however, it has progressed from an “end-speciality” to a gateway to varied super-specialities.
The basic super-specialisation that most take is cataract, in which they are now taught the skill of phacoemulsification. One of the surgically demanding fields is vitreoretina, in which surgeons deal with the nervous tissue of the eye, and the varied ailments that affect it, like diabetes and hypertension. Retina is becoming a highly competitive field. Nowadays we see an abundance of these specialists in metro cities. Lesser-known branches like glaucoma, which is concerned with high eye pressure, are now gaining popularity, with machines that can aid the quick diagnosis and treatment of this disease.
Courses and eligibility
Aspirants who wish to make a career in ophthalmology have to first check the eligibility and necessary entrance exams to appear for. To become an ophthalmologist, you have to first complete an MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) course and then go for a postgraduate degree in ophthalmology like MS (Master of Surgery), DNB (Diplomate of National Board), etc. Post this, you can complete a fellowship at some leading eye hospitals for subspecialty training for around 12 to 18 months. You can also go for research studies in this course at various institutions and research centres.
A specialty which is of utmost importance in this day and age is pediatric ophthalmology which deals with childhood eye diseases as well as management of squint. Oculoplasty and oncology are niche fields but essential as they manage various disorders of the eyelid and skull surrounding the eyeball, and most importantly, cancers which affect the eye.
Ophthalmologists are in high demand in both public and private sectors. This course also provides a base for setting up own eye clinic. Departmental hospitals run by Railways and Defence and hospitals run by PSUs are also good options available to ophthalmologists. Some work with NGOs, missionary hospitals and charitable hospitals. Highly qualified and experienced ophthalmologists can work as faculty in government and private medical colleges. They can also involve themselves in research activities of organisations like Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). There is huge demand for Indian ophthalmologists abroad particularly in USA, U.K., Australia and Gulf countries.
Ophthalmic technology is a highly remunerative career option. Entry-level ophthalmologists working in government hospitals can earn ₹75,000 - ₹1,00,000 per month. Private sector hospitals offer very high pay packages to ophthalmologists, which may be within the range of ₹1,00,000 - ₹2,00,000 per month. While working one can also earn from part-time private practising in some eye-clinics. Senior eye-surgeons can earn two to three lakhs per month.
The author is Chairman and Managing Director, Narayana Nethralaya, Bengaluru.