1. Why did you decide to become an ophthalmologist?
Ophthalmology is the only specialty that offers both surgery and medicine to both sexes and patients of all ages, making it, in my opinion, the most interesting of all branches of medicine. I must confess that, as a medical student, I was almost derailed from my chosen path because of a comment made by a male family member (an orthopedic surgeon) who chauvinistically and dismissively referred to ophthalmology as “a good career for women.” Upon hearing his comment, I decided to go into orthopedic surgery. Luckily, I came to my senses after 6 months in that field, and when an opportunity in ophthalmology came along I grabbed it with both hands. Great skill is needed to perform intraocular surgery and, in particular, vitreoretinal surgery.
2. What is your most memorable experience in surgery?
One of my most memorable surgical experiences, even though I needed assistance to complete the procedure, was my first cataract operation on a bilaterally blind patient. The absolute joy on the patient’s face after the surgery is unforgettable. Fortunately, I have had many similar experiences. The challenge is to always keep improving.
3. You are Director of the African Vision Research Institute. What is the mission of this organization?
The African Vision Research Institute (AVRI) is an organization that links intellectuals, institutions, organizations, and other personnel in the pursuit of confronting and dealing with the challenges of Africa’s eye health issues. AVRI’s mission is to develop research capacity and appropriate skills in an effort to eliminate visual impairment and avoidable blindness in Africa. AVRI provides training in research methods; offers technical and logistical support for research projects; helps postgraduate students become skilled researchers and writers; assists authors to communicate effectively; promotes, undertakes, and sources resources; and promotes publication of research findings. AVRI aims to support Vision 2020 Right to Sight’s goal of eliminating avoidable blindness by the year 2020.
4. You have served as a leader of many ophthalmic associations. What do you find most challenging about balancing your leadership and professorial responsibilities?
Being chosen by peers to represent them within professional associations, societies, or academic forums is always an honor and one I am happy to undertake. These leadership responsibilities are often closely related to my academic responsibilities, and, therefore, even though finding the time to attend to everything can be challenging, the satisfaction of arriving at a solution is reward enough.
5. What do you consider to be your greatest personal achievement outside of your profession?
Most women would cite their children as their greatest personal achievement. Not having children makes this question more difficult to answer. Not immediately being able to think of an answer to this question is a bit worrisome. Maybe my work is my life? Maybe I am a jack-of-all-trades and master of none? Maybe my greatest achievement is around the corner? I love music and play a few instruments, but I will never be invited to play with the professionals. I love art and can draw a line, but I will never paint a masterpiece. I love sports and can hit a ball, but I will never be a member of the Ladies Professional Golf Association. Perhaps my greatest personal achievement is cherishing friends and family and being content with my life.