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SUCCESS STORY

Success Story of Dr. Suresh K. pandey

MBBS, MS (Ophthalmology, PGIMER, Chandigarh), Ant. Seg. Fellowship (USA & Australia)

Director, SuVi Eye Institute and Lasik Laser Center, Kota, Rajasthan

Hard work is the price we must pay for success.
You can accomplish anything if you are willing to pay the price.
- Vince Lombardi

There are two ways to accomplish your goals and succeed in life. The easy way is to keep waiting for someone to help you out, for the tide to turn in your favor, for chances to happen, for opportunities to come your way. The difficult and the sure fire way is to chase your goals and leave no stone unturned to realize your dreams. Dr Suresh K. Pandey has chosen to follow the latter. He has set his goals and then gone after them full-blooded. His inner drive to excel has provided the mental fuel that has propelled him in the direction of his dreams. Dr Pandey’s journey has been difficult but patience, hard work and perseverance has helped him battle the hardships, overcome adversity and achieve massive success.

Dr Suresh K. Pandey was born into a family of modest means in a small village Mohna in Chittorgarh district of Rajasthan. His father (Sh. Kameshwar Prasad Pandey) was a school teacher and mother (Smt. Maya Pandey) was a house wife. He was the second child in a family of four brothers and one sister.

Dr Pandey had a normal childhood. He went to the local school in the morning and spent rest of the time doing mundane things.

His family originally belonged to Uttar Pradesh from where his grandfather had migrated to Rajasthan. He was a remarkable man who came to work with a British Ophthalmologist. From him, Dr Pandey’s grandfather learnt not only the technique of treating common eye ailments like trachoma and pterygium but also how to perform cataract surgery for mature cataract by ICCE with Von Graefe knife (and later on prescribed aphakic glasses.) This was much before independence when there were hardly any trained doctors in the rural areas.

“The local village pradhan was moved by my grandfather’s dedication and hard work. He extended all possible assistance to him and even gave him a piece of land,” shares Dr Pandey. “Based on his knowledge and experience, my grandfather continued to treat the local villagers as well as people from the adjoining villages,” he tells.

His grandfather earned a good reputation in the area.

Dr Pandey grew up watching his grandfather treating and helping the villagers. He was impressed by the respect he gained and the gratitude that was expressed. This sparked in him an interest of becoming a doctor. Dr Pandey now began dreaming of following his grandfather’s footsteps and becoming an Ophthalmologist.

Dreaming a dream, they say, is way easier than materializing it.

“Achieving my dream was no easy task in that dusty and remote village,” admits Dr Pandey. “Due to family problems we went through tough times. The first several years of my life were spent in great misery. Every day was a struggle. There were family disputes and problems caused by limited financial resources. A large family lived in a small house which did not even have a proper electricity connection,” describes Dr Pandey recounting his childhood in the village and how the atmosphere in the house was far from being conducive for realizing his goal of becoming a doctor.

But he was tough minded and was not ready to give up on his goal. Dr Pandey made up his mind to forge ahead on his chosen path. Against all odds, he concentrated on his studies and beat the distractions.

“It was difficult to stay focussed amid family problems and there was no role model to look up to,” confesses Dr Pandey. At times he would get depressed. “It felt like everyone in my village was destined for a mundane existence, as there were no resources or means to do otherwise, and it was pointless fighting against the collective destiny, a destiny shared by the millions of people living in this country’s numerous villages,” he says .

“I was a sincere and dedicated student and spent most of my time studying. This temporarily took my focus away from my unhappy surroundings,” shares Dr Pandey.

However, despite the disturbing environment that he was in, Dr Pandey did well in the primary school. “Due to my outstanding academic performance, I was granted the government scholarship,” he exclaims. “It was a big thing in the village. The scholarship amount was 5100 Rupees which was a princely sum in those days. Also everyone in the village acknowledged my feat and a lot of encouragement poured in,” tells Dr Pandey.

This lifted up his damp spirits and boosted his confidence. Now he became even more resolute and began regarding his dream of becoming a doctor as a realistic, achievable goal which he could accomplish with some amount of hard work.

“Since there was no senior secondary school in my village, I had to join a school in the adjoining town Rawatbhata,” he explains. Dr Pandey continued to study hard with utmost sincerity and dedication. “I prepared for the medical entrance exams by borrowing books and notes from my school friends. I would study till dusk (since there was no electricity in the village), would sleep early to wake up early and then begin to study at the break of dawn,” he divulges. Throughout, he kept himself in a positive frame of mind by reading motivational stories from newspapers and magazines.

His hard work and perseverance finally paid off as Dr Pandey managed to secure admission in the MBBS course in Netaji Subhash Chandra Medical College, Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh in his very first attempt. He had done it all by himself without any outside help or guidance.

Dr Pandey was excited to join MBBS. The initial years in the Medical College were, however, quite tough. The studies were hard, the syllabus vast. To add to his academic stress was the fact that he had studied in Hindi medium schools throughout and here the Professors taught in English. Dr Pandey had great difficulty comprehending the lectures and understanding the subjects.

Besides, his financial difficulties continued to plague him through the MBBS also. The Medical studies turned out to be much more expensive than he had estimated. There was money needed to pay for the college fees, for buying books and towards paying the hostel rent.

“I survived on a shoestring budget,” says Dr Pandey remembering his MBBS days. “I would do everything myself including cooking,” he shares. “On many days, to save money, I would eat only one meal a day. Slowly my body adjusted itself to less food intake and I no longer felt the hunger pangs if I skipped a meal,” he discloses.

Dr Pandey did not let the difficulties and financial problems bother him. He was now very close to realizing his dream of becoming a qualified doctor. So he focused all his energies towards that single goal.

“I immersed myself in studies and strictly avoided all distractions. I especially stayed away from the fun-loving, merry making and partying group of students,” he declares. “There was no other option. I had to do well if I was to materialize my dream of becoming an Ophthalmologist,” says Dr Pandey.

“I stayed in the hostel and kept mostly to myself. I would only participate in group discussions with class mates and seniors when I had to discuss difficult topics and clarify my doubts. I was lucky to find a few helpful seniors, who helped me not only with studies, but also lent me their books,” describes Dr Pandey. “I struggled through the whole of first professional grappling with multiple challenges. The process of adjusting to the new environment took a long time and I barely managed to pass the exams,” he tells.

“But after the first Professional, things improved and I managed to be among the top 20 students of the class during second MBBS professional examination,” shares Dr Pandey. “I became popular both with the students and the teachers because I began doing well in studies. Also, I tried to help everyone around me and was always willing to teach and guide my juniors,” he states.

By the final professional MBBS Dr Pandey had overcome the language barrier and was now quite comfortable with English. “I read the entire syllabus during the summer vacation (in advance) and even offered help to my exam going seniors so that I could learn from them. This helped me to get way ahead of my class mates,” declares Dr Pandey. “Since I was interested in Ophthalmology, I spent the summer vacation observing ocular surgery. In the end all these extra efforts helped me improve my rank to second in the class in final year MBBS,” he shares.

“Besides studies, I did manage to participate in few extracurricular activities too. I joined NCC and also took part in various cultural and sports activities. I also took active part in the Junior Doctors’ Association (JDA),” he tells.

“MBBS thus proved to be the turning point in my life,” expresses Dr Pandey. “From then on, there was no looking back. I became more ambitious, competitive and goal-oriented. My biggest and most immediate goal now was to do well in life and get rid of all my limitations and financial constraints,” he asserts. “To be honest, there was another reason why I wanted to succeed. It was to prove myself to both my childhood friends in the village who doubted my ambitions and also the relatives who had ill-treated us and made our life difficult,” says Dr Pandey without mincing his words.

“I passed my MBBS and completed internship from Netaji Subhash Chandra Medical College. During internship, I spent all my time preparing for the State pre PG exam. I would even teach Ophthalmology and other subjects to junior medical students and discuss finer points. This helped me tremendously in getting good command on the subjects. Also, I compiled a book on multiple choice questions and also contributed few chapters in the MCQ books that were popular during that time,” he tells.

“My hard work was once again rewarded and I secured 7th rank in the State pre-PG entrance exam. Needless to say, I opted for Ophthalmology in the same college. But after a few months, I felt dissatisfied. I wanted to pursue PG from some prestigious Institute,” declares Dr Pandey.

I was confident of my preparation so I decided to take the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education & Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh exam,” he shares. Dr Pandey’s innate ability to persevere and his sincere efforts helped him secure a seat in PGIMER and that too in the subject of his choice - Ophthalmology.

“I was more than happy to leave PG at NSCB Medical College, Jabalpur even though I had spent almost a year and a half and was half way through,” expresses Dr Pandey. He had the big picture in mind and could understand the importance of pursuing post-graduation from a State-of-the-art institute where he would get more exposure, better teaching, and latest equipment to work with.

“This was my second turning point in life,” admits Dr Pandey. “At PGIMER, I was, for the first time in life, exposed to the working of a big and advanced Institute. I learnt a lot about work culture, ethics and came in touch with some of the most brilliant teachers who took great pains to teach the students unlike in many other medical colleges at that time,” reveals Dr Pandey.

“The wide variety of clinical cases that we saw on daily basis, the intense academic activities and the overall committed work culture impressed me beyond measure. I was convinced that this was the place to be in if I wanted to excel in Ophthalmology,” confesses Dr Pandey.

“During my PG, I stayed in the hostel. Initially I faced language problem as I was unable to understand the kind of Punjabi spoken by patients coming from the rural parts of Punjab, but in few months I learnt the language and could even help my South Indian colleagues when they faced language problem,” laughs Dr Pandey.

“PGIMER observed strict discipline and the academic schedule was rigorous consisting of grand rounds, journal clubs and staff clinical meets. The faculty members were very punctual, dedicated, committed and inspired the students to do their best in academics as well as in learning clinical and surgical skills,” states Dr Pandey.

“There were many people who shaped my life and career from then on,” he tells acknowledging the contribution of his teachers and mentors. “The first was Prof. Jagat Ram (my thesis guide) at PGIMER who taught me a lot and also helped me to get a fellowship with Professor David J. Apple in the USA,” says Dr Pandey.

“Working abroad was an eye opening experience. The freedom, the encouragement and the exposure to International Ophthalmology was amazing,” divulges Dr Pandey. “Professor David J. Apple and his team helped me tremendously in my academic pursuits. They also encouraged me and boosted my confidence. Under their able guidance, I participated and presented scientific papers at various International conferences and also won many awards,” he tells.

After finishing the fellowship in USA, Dr Pandey was in two minds whether to stay in the USA and pursue post-graduation all over again as was mandatory if he planned to settle down in the USA or return back to India.

During this time, he met his future wife, Dr Vidushi, also an Ophthalmologist. She was doing her senior residency at AIIMS, New Delhi at that time. They got married and she soon joined him in the USA.

“Together we began to explore the career options available to us. While we were brainstorming what to do next, an opportunity to work in Sydney, Australia and do a clinical fellowship cum research job came our way,” tells Dr Pandey.

“By then, we were already in the process of finalizing our Green Cards, but we decided to choose the professional opportunity in Australia over the Green Card. So we left everything and moved to Australia,” shares Dr Pandey.

Moving from USA to Australia was a lifetime opportunity for Dr Pandey and his wife to work with some of the most brilliant Ophthalmologists. “Both of us were happy to be in Sydney and began pursuing our respective fellowships,” tells Dr Pandey.

“Dr. John Milverton and Dr. Tony Maloof were two of the nicest mentors I came in contact with in Sydney. I owe my Ophthalmic surgical skills (especially phacoemulsification and anterior segment surgery) to their training,” admits Dr Pandey with a sense of deep gratitude. “They polished me and encouraged me throughout the fellowship. I became so confident that I even performed a live phaco surgery at an International conference in Milan (Italy),” he says.

After Dr Pandey finished his fellowship in Australia, his mentor, Prof Frank A. Billson was keen that he stayed in Sydney. He even offered Dr Pandey a position of Associate Professor in the University of Sydney. However Dr Pandey found himself standing at the crossroads again uncertain of which path to take- whether to stay at Sydney or to move back to India. In came his wife Dr Vidushi and showed him the way. “She was very sure that she wanted to return to India,” tells Dr Pandey.

“We decided to return to India and join an academic institution. But somehow, an informal meeting in Hobart Australia with the then Director of one of the prestigious eye institutes made us change our mind at the last minute and we decided to take the plunge into private practice,” discloses Dr Pandey.

“This was a tough decision as we had never thought along those lines and had barely 15 days to our day of flight back to India,” he informs. “We landed in India in December 2005 and decided to start our own ophthalmic practice in Kota,” he states. “Most of our colleagues were surprised as it is not common for Indian doctors to return to India, if they have a good opportunity to settle down abroad and they certainly do not return to a non-metro city,” tells Dr Pandey.

“This was a tough decision as we had never thought along those lines and had barely 15 days to our day of flight back to India,” he informs. “We landed in India in December 2005 and decided to start our own ophthalmic practice in Kota,” he states. “Most of our colleagues were surprised as it is not common for Indian doctors to return to India, if they have a good opportunity to settle down abroad and they certainly do not return to a non-metro city,” tells Dr Pandey.

“Many people felt that we would slowly become frustrated with the work in this part of the country, call it quits and move back to Australia within 2-3 months. Some well-meaning seniors even told us in as many words that we were plain stupid to return to the dust and dirt of a small town,” discloses Dr Pandey. “During this tough period, I continued reading motivational books and inspirational stories to keep myself motivated,” he shares.

Starting private practice is an onerous task. You require a strong financial plan and business acumen in addition to being well versed with a variety of other things.

Dr Pandey took stock of the ground realities and mentally prepared himself for the challenges ahead. “The odds were overwhelming. We had practically no funds for investment and no plan to work on,” he admits. “We were ignorant at that juncture about the business side of the medical practice,” adds Dr Pandey.

It is rather ironic that it takes years for a doctor to acquire the knowledge and expertise of treating the patients but nothing prepares them for how to start private practice.

Dr Pandey realized that it was a daunting task and an uphill struggle ahead. But he was determined to press forward until he accomplished his goal.

As they got started, things began to fall in place.

“With the help of some friends and relatives, we rented a place and started our own Eye Hospital in February 2006. It was called SuVi (Suresh and Vidushi) with mission statement of “competent care with compassion,” explains Dr Pandey. “We succeeded in getting an orthopaedics hospital on rent and were lucky to find a trained OT technician who was very sincere and dedicated,” he adds.

Many people felt that they had made a wrong choice of the hospital location as it was not on the main road. Also, the building was considered as jinxed since the previous owner (an orthopaedic surgeon) had to shut down his practice there as he did not get many patients.

“We were anything but superstitious,” admits Dr Pandey. “We were happy that we had got a proper hospital and didn’t have to bother much about setting up the OT. To make up for the remote location, we rented another OPD set-up at the main market place. My wife worked in the main hospital, and I did OPD at the other location. However after 7-8 months, our volumes picked up enough and we closed down the alternate OPD as it was difficult to handle both set-ups,” explains Dr Pandey.

He slowly began to learn the ropes of running a hospital. “It is important to surround yourself with the people you can trust and who share your vision,” opines Dr Pandey. “However building your dream team can be exceedingly challenging,” he feels.

“After spending all the money on the initial set-up of the building, the inauguration and buying the operating microscope, auto-refractometer, chair unit with slitlamp, we were nearly broke,” admits Dr Pandey. “Yet, keeping with the latest trend of performing cataract surgery by Phacoemulsification technique, we went ahead and bought a phaco machine on instalment basis,” he tells.

“In the initial few months, people around us gave all sorts of advice (mostly unsolicited) as to how we should run our hospital. Many would tell us that no one can succeed without doing ‘this’ or ‘that.’ They said everything with such confidence and conviction that it was difficult to ignore their opinion. Though we did not pay heed to what they said and continued with our plans, it did cause some confusion in the initial months,” confesses Dr Pandey.

“We focused primarily on patient care and did everything to ensure that our patients got the best possible treatment and services as per mission statement (competent care with compassion) of our hospital,” he tells. “The word spread and within a few months we had our hands full with work,” adds Dr Pandey. At the same time, we were blessed with a daughter Ishita, and she proved to be very lucky for us. It was a good beginning, both professionally and personally.

“Over the years, SuVi Eye Institute has grown from strength to strength. Now we have our own set-up with all the latest equipments. On a day to day basis, things run smoothly. Occasionally problems arise and things go wrong. But challenges and problems are inevitable. So we always keep ourselves mentally prepared to confront them,” he asserts.

Dr. Suresh K. Pandey has to his credit a long list of achievements despite being heavily involved and staying focused on building up his private practice.

He has presented more than 100 scientific papers in various International Ophthalmological meetings, has written around 100 scientific papers/communications, contributed 40 textbook chapters and authored 8 Ophthalmic textbooks. Dr. Pandey’s book (co-authored with others) on Pediatric Cataract Surgery remains the bestseller on this topic. He along with his wife has also compiled a video atlas of Ophthalmic surgery. And that’s not all. Dr. Pandey has also been awarded the Achievement Award by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. He has received several other prestigious awards for his research and surgical innovations.

Dr Pandey is one happy man. Despite facing so many challenges, he has no regrets in life. “When the patients walk out of our hospital satisfied and feel they have got value for money- that spells real success for us,” he admits.

“Looking back, I feel that we have succeeded because our sole focus was on patient welfare. We worked from the heart and pursued excellence rather than run after money,” tells Dr Pandey. “Money is not the thing to be chased. It is of secondary importance. When you provide quality service to your patients, they will come back to you,” he affirms.

“I do not believe there is any formula for success; different things work for different people,” declares Dr Pandey. “But, if I have to list the key features for a doctor to be successful, especially in a new private practice -I would list the ABC- Availability, Behaviour and Competence, in that order,” spells out Dr Pandey.

“In today’s age, most patients are too rushed and are not willing to wait for hours to see the doctor, so, Availability is important. And it is only after you have made yourself easily available to your patients and won over them with your Behaviour that they will think of checking and trusting your surgical Competence,” he explains.

“I owe a lot of my success to the help of my capable spouse- Dr Vidushi. She has not only been a partner but has been an equal and sometimes more than equal contributor to every clinical and academic project that I have undertaken. She is clear-headed, does not get swayed easily and her determination has helped me to stay focused on the right priorities,” acknowledges Dr Pandey.

There are many doctors but Dr Suresh K. Pandey is different. He clearly stands out. His desire to succeed and the determination to be the best have fostered in him the inner drive that has pushed him towards excellence. Within a short span of time and at a young age, he has achieved quite a lot. The need to excel is hard-wired in him.

Dr Pandey spends most of his time and energy working at his Institute, treating and looking after his patients. Work rejuvenates him; he is always raring to go. He is committed to using his expertise to serve the people and improve the quality of patient care.

Dr Pandey’s success story is an example of what it takes to not only survive but thrive in this competitive medical world. His ability to persevere and his never-say-die attitude have taken him places. He is not afraid to face challenges, constantly strives towards new goals, working his way around the obstacles that come in his way. The success of his hospital has reinforced his belief that if you are dedicated and committed to persevere, dreams do come to fruition.

What success really takes is much more than is evident on the surface. At an early age, Dr Pandey developed clarity of what he wanted to be. All along he has carried the big picture in his mind and followed his vision. A man of great conviction and straightforwardness, he has gone after his dreams with heart and soul. He thrives on his inner drive, has more energy, enthusiasm, ambition and determination than anyone around and this is what has pushed him towards excellence. In the pursuit of his goals, Dr Pandey has not let the hardships stop him or the adversities hold him back. He has persevered his way through them all and has got to where he is today by sheer hard work.

No matter what difficulties you face or challenges you experience in life, if you have the zest, the ‘can-do-it’ spirit and an unswerving desire to excel, nothing can deter you from your path. The challenges only get the best out of you and give you the boost that is needed to chase your goals.

ADVICE TO THE YOUNG AND ASPIRING DOCTORS

Do not compromise on your training. Get the best possible training that you can get and empower yourself. This will give you a firm foundation to build a sound career on.

Complete your studies at the right age, before you plunge into family responsibilities and get the requisite qualifications, training and exposure. Don’t worry if it takes more time, involves spending a lot of money or going overseas. You will later on realize its worth in terms of providing you a competitive edge over others.

It depends on you how much knowledge you can gather from your teachers. If you are receptive, obedient, hard working and eager to learn there is no end to how much you can learn from them.

Be totally focused during your training period and learn as much as possible. Concentrate on your clinical and surgical expertise so that at the end of your training, you are confident of your skills. There will be many other things in life that will threaten to shake your confidence. Don’t let surgical competence be one of them.

Be humble. Do not let success go to your head.

Work with sincerity and dedication.

Always keep patient welfare topmost in mind even if you are in private practice. Follow ethical practice.

Learn patient dealing and cultivate good communication skills.

Be approachable and accessible to your patients.

Document everything properly. This is very important especially if you are in private practice.

Aspire to better yourself. To secure an edge over others, improve your knowledge, skills and expertise.

Be social media savvy. Besides other advantages, it will help you be in touch with others in your field and keep abreast with the latest.

Be determined and thick-skinned. Setbacks are bound to come in life. In the end the one who succeeds is the one who doesn’t allow setbacks to affect him. As Churchill famously said- ‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal.’

The medical profession is looking up in the non-metro cities now, with greater mobility of funds, more disposable incomes and easier financing options for doctors. The word of mouth publicity also works faster in smaller cities, if you can provide good services to your patients. So, it is a good idea for the youngsters to explore the opportunities in Grade B cities in India. (and in this case I can say that I practice what I preach!)

TAKE AWAY-WORDS OF WISDOM

Grab all good opportunities that come your way. Don’t be afraid to move out of your comfort zone.

Don’t hesitate to take calculated risks. You will not gain much in life if you keep playing safe all the time.

You can achieve any goal if you set your mind to it.

Nothing happens until you have the burning desire to make it happen. Only then hard work translates into success.

Never stop learning. Keep pushing yourself beyond your limits and keep working towards your goals.

Work hard and bring out the best in you.

Strive for excellence and do work that adds value to people.

Have an open mind; be receptive to new ideas and information.

Long term success depends on your ability to adapt to the changing circumstances.

Medical profession is demanding and only those who are driven, willing to move out of their comfort zone and persevere can succeed.