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RxPG Interview with Darshan Nayak, Final MBBS, Student Researcher

Author: drani, Posted on Thursday, April 27 @ 22:47:24 IST by RxPG  

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Darshan Nayak, a final year MBBS student of Grant Medical College, Mumbai recently featured in a news article on page 4 of Times of India, in connection with a research project on artificial retina. This evoked my curiosity and I managed to track him down and convince him for a short interview. (I know him through a common friend since a couple of months).

Over a cup of coffee in Indian library canteen, in those few hours, Darshan came across to me as an extremely modest, sincere and focused human being. His friends describe him as a chirpy, outgoing and very optimistic guy. But, he chooses to call himself “passionate”. Yes that’s the right word to describe him, I agree.

Where most of us struggle to fight the miniscule challenges of our mediocre lives, and so often give up midway, this 23 year old, not even a graduate yet, has already made a name for himself in the field of research and still has a long way to go.

He is an example for all those who desire to step aside from a mundane life and do something different. He is an inspiration for like minded people to rekindle their burnt out, repressed desires and passions. The desire to be a known face in a crowd, the passion to live life to the fullest and not to get caught up in the web of conventions, and most importantly the will to fight, and never to give up. So read on to know more about his work, his dreams, his inspiration, and him as a person.

Darshan Nayak
Darshan: Hi, before you can ask me anything, I would like to say a few words….

Anita: Sure

Darshan: Firstly thank you for those kind words in the introduction. I am not only passionate, but a little crazy too! Also I am a big dreamer, so that’s me. I would like to stress that it’s a huge multidisciplinary team effort and am just a part of it. Akhil Goel, who has been my friend and partner in crime since first year, has contributed equally to this project. So you should actually be interviewing both of us. This project has just began and more exciting things are yet to come

Anita: Ok Darshan, tell us when did this desire to do something different take birth in your heart?

Darshan: In first year, we had attended a pediatric surgery seminar in our college by Dr. (Mrs.) Kirtane madam. She encouraged us freshers to involve ourselves in clinical presentations and seminars. That showed me a more interesting aspect of the medical field. Contrary to what is the prevalent belief, our filed is not as boring and mundane as it seems.

Anita: What did u do next?

Darshan: Akhil and I approached Kirtane madam and told her we were interested. We did our first clinical presentation in college. It was a case of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It was the first power point presentation in my college. We got a fairly good response for it. Madam taught us to convey our message in a clear and interesting manner, to handle an audience, the technique of interacting with your audience. I owe most of this to her...

Anita: What were the hurdles you faced in that period? Was it difficult to manage studies?

Darshan: One faces hurdles everywhere. That’s life, and that’s what makes you better. I feel its all about quality time, scheduling and prioritizing. I am still learning all this. I have tried not to compromise on studies. I encountered some failures too. My intercollegiate presentation at KEM was not as per my expectations. Besides, we didn’t have a single computer in our college at that time. I believe its failures that take you on to the path of progress. It takes a setback, to bring out the best in you.

Anita: How did get into research work?

Darshan: It started off with a project for Bombay Medical Congress. We were a team of 11, working on bionics - advanced prosthesis systems. Initially we did not get selected to represent our college. But instead of being demoralized, we took it as a challenge. It instigated us to work harder. And the next time, we ended up winning the first prize for our college. Grant medical college had won the first prize for Bombay Medical Congress after a gap of 21 years, and that too by a record score. I had just stepped in final year then.

Anita: You are currently working on a project under Dr. S Natarajan, Aditya Jyoti Eye Hospital in Mumbai. How did this happen?

Darshan: While we were preparing for our project for BMC, we started attending various conferences in order to update ourselves. We met people, established contacts, and basically became more aware of things going on in the research filed. We happened to be a part of the audience at the annual conference of Bombay Ophthalmic Association, where Dr. S. Natarajan was one of the speakers. He spoke about artificial retinas towards the end of his speech, which interested us. We approached him backstage and told him about our project. He was keen to recruit young minds for his pet project on artificial retina. And I and Akhil were more than thrilled to jump at the opportunity. That was my entry into learning research.

Besides learning how a research project takes shape, one gets to learn a lot form the people around, especially if you have the best brains working on it. I have personally benefited a lot from my interaction with Natarajan sir. I am still learning!

Anita: Our readers would like to know about your project…

Darshan: This project is one of its kinds, multidisciplinary project initiated by my boss Dr. S. Natarajan of Aditya Jyoti Eye Hospital. I and Akhil are the youngest members in the medical team! The aim of this project is to provide useful vision to patients of RP (Retinopathy) and ARMD (Age Related Macular Degeneration). Initially we are focusing on RP only. Presently there is no cure for RP but with this artificial retina we hope to provide meaningful and useful vision.

Artificial Retina
I will show you a schematic diagram of various components of artificial retina (refer: attached picture). The camera mounted on the pair of glasses captures and digitalizes the image and sends it to the processor {which is usually a external device in model 1) the information 4m the processor that consists of a appropriate firing code for the stimulating electrodes is send to the stimulating chip implanted epiretinally (basically the processor does the same work of image processing as the 7-8 layers of cells between the photoreceptors and the ganglion cells). The epi-retinal chip would then directly lie in contact with the ganglion cells and stimulate them in a specific pattern, as governed by the processor, such that it makes sense to the human brain. This is just a brief outline of the working of artificial retina. There are many technicalities involved in this project which is beyond the scope of this interview. Some scientists are also working on a sub-retinal model. Both the models are being developed by different teams around the world. Our team has a vision to develop an indigenous model by collaborating with the best from various fields including electrical and electronic engineers, chip designers, vision physiologists, material scientists, the vets for animal experimentation etc. Although we as a medical team has initiated this project, our main job lies in patient selection and actual surgical implantation of the devices and analyzing vision output i.e. the results.

At this point of time we have just made the mission objectives and our goal clear. We already have begun presenting this idea for collaboration with various institutes of different disciplines such as the C-DAC, Veterinary hospital in Parel etc. and the job is still on. Various institutes have shown interest. Also we are at different stages of talks with different institutes of various disciplines.

As this is an interdisciplinary project it’s also a long term one. It may take even more than 10 years for our efforts to bear fruits but what’s important is that we already have taken the first steps and moving ahead in the right direction. What we need at this point in time is support of all kinds, monetary, intellectual and even moral support. We need all your blessings.

I hope this interview and our site RxPG will create awareness among our web community one thing is for sure we have set our goal to achieve useful vision and we r moving towards light.

Anita: Have you thought of pursuing this as a career?

Darshan: No, I don’t want it to replace my clinical career, rather it should supplement it.

Anita: What is your dream?

Darshan: I want to contribute, I want to add value to whatever I do, whichever field I take up. Our healthcare system needs to add value to it. I am fascinated by this concept of medical entrepreneurship. I have met and read about some of these entrepreneurs and I am learning a lot from them.

Anita: Please enlighten us.

Darshan: According to me, a medical entrepreneur is a doctor who improvises on the traditional methods and adopts newer and better concepts to serve people; he adds more value to the existing healthcare system. Like for example what Dr. Devi Shetty of Narayana Hrudalaya and my mentor, Dr. S Natarajan are doing. Doctors are leaders in their own right and their responsibilities as social entrepreneurs are on the rise, in fact Harvard business school is conducted courses on these lines, recognizing the importance of physician leaders in our community.

Anita: So how do you plan to achieve your dream?

Darshan: Presently, I am taking one step at a time although I wish to do my post graduation in a surgical field, preferably ophthalmology, and then do an MBA. This would help me to learn the concepts of adding value to an enterprise like a hospital. Also I want my research work to go on side by side, as I mentioned earlier.

Anita: May I ask you, what is your driving force?

Darshan: My passion, my craziness I guess it’s addictive and sometimes it can blind you, but am learning how to control it. We must learn to take a CHANCE in life.

Anita: How important is internet these days? Has it helped you in your work?

Darshan: Internet is changing the way we work and influencing all fields of work, including ours. It is no longer optional, but mandatory if one wants to be updated. Some of my research work e.g. data collection and proof reading is on the internet. Email helps me to communicate across the globe. I mean the list is endless. In a nutshell, I believe Internet gives you knowledge and knowledge is power.

Times of India

Anita: Do you think RxPG has a role to play in shaping medical careers?

Darshan: Something like RxPG is revolutionary. I am fascinated by this idea of building up an e-community for medical students. This is what I call investing in intellectual capital and trust me, this is the future. RxPG helps me to interact with like minded people, and get advice and opinion from them. It’s a great place to network. I also see it turning into an e-mentoring site eventually! Overall a great place to learn.

Anita: What was your reaction on being featured in the India’s biggest newspaper, The Times of India?

Darshan: Of course, I was happy…ok I am not modest now…ha-ha…I had to sit down and explain it to my parents what I was doing cause they had very little idea, before it was out in the papers.

Anita: Whom would you attribute your success to?

Darshan: First and foremost my god, my parents; Akhil Goel who has been my staunch supporter throughout in all my endeavors; all my other friends and well wishers, also my critics, all my mentors and guides, particularly Dr. (Mrs.) Kirtane, Dr. S Natarajan and Dr.(Mrs) Hastak. I am thankful to the forces beyond my control… (Ok don’t ask me explain all that) and my failures. It is these failures that teach you more.

Anita: What is your advice to RxPG members?

Darshan: You are at the right place guys. Just start doing the right things!!!

Anita: Could you please tell us about your present and future endeavors.

Darshan: Lots of things happening actually, Akhil and me have submitted a proposal to our dean sir to setup a center for integrated studies and research (CISR) in our college. Its a major student-faculty initiative to upgrade our college and be in-sync with the changing world. Hopefully that would be done soon. We are also going to start working with rpindia.com and access India (both are support groups for the blind). A separate online venture focusing on intellectual capital is also on the cards. But let’s see, as founder members, how our dream venture CISR takes shape, maybe then we will go for other things. Like I said, there are too many tempting ideas, but we have decided to take one step at a time and we will continue to chase our dreams and take many steps forward.

Note: RxPG Interviewer: Dr Anita Dhanrajani, RxPG News Editor.

If you know of someone whose achievements can be inspiring for medical community, please go ahead and interview that person for RxPG or let us know!

Comments on the above interview can be left here in research forum http://www.rxpgonline.com/postt48726.html

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