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For the Love of the Retina

For Prof. Dr. Vishali Gupta, the retina is what prompted her to become an ophthalmologist. After graduating from medical school, she attended a research project on diabetic retinopathy – and there, she saw fundus pictures and fluorescein angiograms for the first time and was fascinated by the images.

Early years

Dr. Gupta hails from Jammu, a small city in the northern part of India. Her childhood was simple and she grew up in an atmosphere filled with love and support from her parents, siblings, cousins and friends. After graduating from high school, she completed her medical school training at Jammu Medical College, and subsequently moved to Chandigarh for her residency at the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), a prominent medical and research institution in India.

“I was fortunate to have Prof. Amod Gupta as my guide and mentor who introduced me to the beautiful world of retina and uveitis that I continue to cherish today. After residency, I continued my journey at PGIMER, Chandigarh, as a senior resident and then presently as member of the faculty,” she said.

Dr. Gupta shared that she chose to work in the medical field because it gave her the opportunity to have not only an academic career, but also to serve people in need: “I practice in a tertiary care, government-funded hospital because I genuinely enjoy working in an environment that promotes ethical clinical practice. It also gives me the chance to serve society, carry out 

R&D, help the government in several initiatives, and above all, teach and train the next generations to be not only future leaders in the field, but also show empathy and sympathy towards each and every patient that comes to them.”

Breakthrough in ocular TB

Intraocular infections and inflammations in ocular tuberculosis (TB) have always been Dr. Gupta’s special interest. Back in 1998, and under the guidance of her mentor Prof. Amod Gupta, Dr. Gupta was analyzing patients with serpiginous choroiditis when they realized that nearly all of them were having recurrences on systemic corticosteroids and immunosuppressive therapy. 

“This response to corticosteroids and immunosuppressants made us look for a specific cause – and in 2003, we for the first time, reported an association between serpiginous choroiditis and tuberculosis. To further strengthen our hypothesis, we observed that use of anti-TB treatment helped in reducing these recurrences to less than 10 percent. This work was accepted globally and in the current scenario, all patients with serpiginous-like choroiditis are investigated for underlying TB as a cause,” she shared.

One major achievement in the field has been to bring together a group of nearly 81 experts from 25 centers in the field of uveitis from all across the globe to form the Collaborative Ocular TB Study (COTS) group, where they publish real world data on the diagnosis and management of ocular TB along with standardizing the nomenclature for ocular TB. In addition, the group developed expert consensus guidelines on initiating anti-TB treatment in ocular TB to convince internists across the globe to start anti-TB therapy in cases of ocular manifestations of the disease, which can be pulmonary inactive. 

Research aside, Dr. Gupta also held the post as secretary of the Vitreo-Retinal Society India (VRSI) from 2014 to 2016. VRSI is an exclusive group with over 90 percent of India’s actively practicing vitreo-retina specialists participating as life members. “VRSI is a wonderful society that has been like a family to most of us. I am really thankful to Prof. Mangat Dogra and Dr. Ajit Babu Majji for showing their faith in me and offering me the position of secretary. After 2016, I continued as chair of the scientific committee for the next two years during which we tried to raise the bar for VRSI. I am proud to say that currently VRSI is one of the best and largest retina meetings in the world,” she said.

Family life

Dr. Vishali Gupta is happily married to her classmate from medical school, Dr. Rajesh Gupta, a renowned professor in surgical gastroenterology. They have a daughter named Sarakshi. 

“My husband and I both worked together for our entrance exam to get residency. We got our residency, senior residency and faculty position together in the same institution,” she reminisced. 

“Our daughter kind of grew up in an academic atmosphere. Since childhood, she has traveled with me to conferences. She is currently pursuing her internal medicine residency in the U.S. and wishes to build a career in academics in the field of hematology-oncology and precision medicine. Both my parents and in-laws have always been extremely supportive of my career. I feel blessed to have family, friends and colleagues who have helped me at every stage of my personal and professional life,” she said. 

During her free time, Dr. Gupta loves to go hiking, traveling, watching movies, cooking, shopping and catching up with friends. She also enjoys going to the spa and relaxes by simply doing nothing.

Fearless femininity

Dr. Gupta believes that female ophthalmologists are able to excel in their chosen field as long as they set their heart on it. 

“I was fortunate to have very secure and well-established mentors like Prof. Amod Gupta and Prof. Dogra, who supported and promoted me without any hesitancy. However, I do hear my junior retina faculty members mentioning that they want more men colleagues in the field of retina, which only shows their insecurity as surgeons and researchers. In my department at PGIMER, I have noticed that all women faculty members are much more prominent and established than most men, so I do not let these issues deter me. Personally, I feel that the common goal of all physicians should be to promote better healthcare and research practices irrespective of gender,” she asserted. 

To women practicing in ophthalmology, she has one bit of advice: “Let no one come in your way. You are the best. Just keep moving forward and grab what is rightfully yours.”

“Personally, I feel that the common goal of all physicians should be to promote better healthcare and research practices irrespective of gender.”

Dr Vishali Gupta

Prof. Dr. Vishali Gupta

Prof. Dr. Vishali Gupta is an accomplished vitreo-retina and uvea expert of international repute working at the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, India. She has keen interest in the inflammation and infections of the eye and has a lot of original work on intraocular tuberculosis, fungal infections and diabetic retinopathy. She is a sought-after speaker and has delivered more than 870 invited lectures and conducted several instruction courses at various international and national meetings. She has more than 200 publications in peer-reviewed journals; has edited five books and contributed 72 book chapters in textbooks. She is the secretary of the International Uveitis Study Group, and member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Club Jules Gonin and The Macula Society. She is currently the president of the Uveitis Society of India. She has received several named awards and also holds a US patent for multiplex PCR. Dr. Gupta is a member of PIE Magazine’s Advisory Board. [Email: vishalisara@yahoo.co.in.

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