Reflections of a Pupil is a thought-provoking collection of anecdotes, clinical pearls and life lessons written by Ophthalmologist R Rishi Gupta. While ophthalmologists have a seemingly endless collection of textbooks to choose from to build their knowledge, this book offers a unique and refreshing perspective on a career in ophthalmology.
The style of writing is warm and genuine – reading the book feels like receiving advice from a trusted mentor. Gupta recounts his personal journey, from building his skills as a trainee to mentoring others as an experienced ophthalmologist.
The book encompasses four key themes: the operating room and clinic; practice management and career planning; patient interactions; and life lessons. Gupta describes challenging clinical scenarios such as difficult cases and missed diagnoses. By reflecting on his own career in an open and vulnerable way, he encourages the reader to self-reflect and draw parallels to their own experiences.
I found the section on patient interactions engaging, with several practical tips on building a doctor-patient relationship. One chapter recommends four ways to connect with patients:
- Remember one thing about the patient, such as a hobby or interest, and write it down in their notes as a reminder for future consultations.
- Learn how to pronounce patients’ names properly. Taking the time to check the pronunciation and write down the phonetic spelling is a small gesture but is always appreciated by patients.
- Never assume a relationship – always politely check the identity of patients’ relatives or friends to avoid any awkward mistakes.
- Be mindful of the subtleties of language used to communicate with patients. For example, when explaining that a patient’s condition is associated with old age, a light-hearted way to describe this would be: “As we have more birthdays…” or “As the eye matures”.
Gupta recalls a patient telling him: “Never lose your bedside manner. I’m sure lots of people can care for the eye, but not everyone can care for the patient as well.” While these tips may seem trivial, Gupta reminds the reader that making patients feel at ease is crucial. He highlights that caring for patients in their time of need is a privilege.
One of Gupta’s colleagues and mentees writes: “Experiences only become insights if they are understood; Rishi uncovers the message hidden in each encounter – positive or negative, serious, or casual – and has the ability to tap into the deeper lesson. This compilation of anecdotes and experiences cuts to the heart of what it means to be a physician.”
Reflections of a Pupil is a reflection on the challenges and rewards of a career in ophthalmology. Gupta emphasises that qualities such as empathy, kindness, and humility are essential alongside medical knowledge and surgical skills. I would recommend it to anyone, from a medical student considering a career in ophthalmology to an experienced consultant reflecting back on their career.