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Choithram Netralaya 2022 - 2023

Dr. Stefano Fichera and Dr. Alessandra Pizzo

My name is Stefano Fichera, my wife, and colleague Alessandra Pizzo, and we are cataract surgery fellows from Italy. Today I will be sharing our experience here in Choithram Netralaya.

It is not uncommon for European physicians (especially ophthalmologists) to come to India after their residency to improve their surgical skills. Many Indian hospitals organize short intensive surgery courses for foreign doctors. They usually last 2 to 3 weeks, you get a fixed number of cases, and they charge you a certain amount of money for each of those. But we were looking for something slightly different. We were looking for a much longer and deeper experience than that, so our online research ended on this 1-year cataract surgery fellowship advertisement we found on the American Academy of Ophthalmology. That is when we first got in contact with Mister Ashwini Varma. For a few months, we have had conversations via phone calls or WhatsApp about the fellowship program. When one day, he texted me that they would be performing 10000 cataract surgeries in a span of 2 months during Mega camp, I thought he accidentally added 1 or 2 extra zeros while typing. We knew India had big numbers, but that just sounded unbelievable to us.

Then last October 2019 we finally started our practical experience here in Choithram Netralaya and, I have to say, we found even more than what we were expecting. The exposure to surgery is of course much greater than what we could have in Italy and our learning curve has probably sped up by 5 times. What we are learning here we’ll definitely take back to Italy, but we are also thinking about joining other humanitarian projects in the developing countries during the next years. So, I guess somehow we expected that our surgical experience would have been really satisfying. Instead, what really caught us off guard is the feeling of being part of something bigger than just a regular fellowship. When you start medical school you do it with the strong feeling of wanting to help people and to be useful to the community, but that feeling can easily be suffocated by your daily professional life during medical career. Being part of this massive humanitarian project called Megacamp truly brought that feeling back in our minds. We have been told we are the first international fellows to be accepted here in Choithram. So, in a way, this is an experiment on both sides. Well, as far as we are concerned, it is working very well. We know now there are plenty of new applications arriving daily from all over Europe and also Africa, which I am happy to hear, and I am sure the more people will come and see with their own eyes what’s happening here, the more will be the number of applicants. I think the international visibility of Choithram is destined to increase dramatically in the near future and I’m sure in a few years it will feel nice to say we were the first to have started this process together with all of you. Finally, we have many people to thank in this audience, but I’ll leave that to Alessandra… thank you.

We feel like thanking everybody in this room, management, colleagues, residents, and all the staff because everyone of you gave us a little something different. Thank you to the consultants, who have shared with us their surgical knowledge and the right attitude towards this difficult job. Thank you for phrases like “don’t worry: it will come”, “good job!”, Nicely done!” Thank you to the anesthesiologists for teaching us those few Hindi words we need every day to communicate with patients (upperdecò, nichedecò, and so on… Thank you to the staff for making the effort of learning some English words in order to make our life easier in the OT. Thank you to the residents for making us feel part of the team, and sharing with us knowledge and feelings.

Thank you to the management department for always looking after us. We couldn’t have survived without Krishna and his team; Last, but not least, thank you to Mr. Ashwini Varma who made all this possible for us.

Thank you for giving us strength and encouragement in every moment of our Indian life, and for treating us like family.Thanks to you we never felt lonely.

Finally, thank you to our families for being here today. Thank you very much.


Hello everyone. I am Dr. Garima Sharma, and I cleared my DNB OPHTHALMOLOGY in the year 2020.
I joined Choithram Netralaya in the year 2017.
Seriously speaking it was a journey full of new experiences be it camps, mega camp,ots, any festival celebration. The mega camp held during December every year used to get hectic but still, it was all fun and a new learning experience.

The amount of exposure both in terms of our cases and opd patients you get here is tremendous. You get to learn not only skills to be a good ophthalmologist but also the basic life skills to be a good human being. It feels so great to be a part of this great humanitarian service and i.am happy that my journey towards ophthalmology has got its base in this institute.
I am thankful to everyone from the community department be it my seniors or juniors for teaching me the most valuable things and guiding me in all possible ways. The memories created in this place have got permanently imbibed in the heart.
I am also thankful to all consultants for their constant support without whom this would have been possible.
I am also to all our staff, and staff for their constant support. I am also thankful to the management department for their support. A big thanks to everyone in Choithram Netralaya for making my three years journey a lifetime experience and for always being a home away from home.