Dr. Arun Gulani

16 Aug

I have never believed that 20-20 is perfect vision” – Dr. Arun Gulani

Not only is Dr. Arun Gulani a pioneer in Ophthalmology, but the eye surgeon is ultra-fashionable. Single-handedly, he began The Gulani Vision Institute and enjoys a worldwide clientele as well as a reputable status in the specialized field of Lasik surgery. Patients are treated with only the most modern technology and are served a customized remedy, individually tailored to their eyes. Contributing grandly to his community locally and internationally, he is constantly encouraging young eye surgeons who aspire to become part of the Gulani Family through his advanced fellowship program. Additionally, the passionate doctor has also developed a stylish reputation amongst his colleagues and patients who insist on referring to him as Dr. GQ. Roshni Magazine spoke to Dr. Gulani about contemporary eye-surgery, the myths surrounding Lasik and his flair for fashion.

How did you gain such recognition through Lasik? It’s definitely not a simple procedure but it’s considered pretty routine nowadays. I also know that you are one of the most expensive eye surgeons in the world.
Lasik surgery is one of the most gratifying in terms of visual outcomes, techno savvy and patient satisfactions.

Having learnt from the very pioneers worldwide, I approach Lasik surgery as an ART and emphasize to all surgeons who train under me to recognize this artistic aspect and therefore provide a customized surgery for each individual eye in striving for vision beyond 20/20- “Super Vision”.

The ability to understand Lasik as an ART gave me the insight to improve techniques in Lasik, invent new surgical instruments as well as reverse Lasik complications for other surgeons. This ability may have played a role in making my services world famous.

Unfortunately, Lasik surgery has become a commodity with hyped up advertisements, discounts and deals all over the place providing “Cookie- Cutter”, “One Size Fits All” surgery with resultant mediocre outcomes and side effects.

Contrary to this national trend of advertising, my practice is very unique in that we do not advertise. I have allowed the consistent surgical results and patient satisfaction to turn into word of mouth that has patients flying in globally.

This “High Tech – High Touch”, very personalized approach of mine has consolidated my belief that passionate dedication, honest decision making and consistent surgical outcomes have turned my practice into a prototype of business completely contrary to current medical practice trends especially in this elective surgery market. This is also why patients pay a high price and hope to not discount what I believe is serious business.

Is Lasik generally a very risky or scary procedure?
Every surgery can have complications but Lasik in fact it is one of the most common procedures done in the world of eye surgery for people who wear glasses and contact lenses.

It is performed with numbing drops and completed in minutes. Though this sounds simple on the surface (and this is why the advertising and deals have gone wild), I strive to help surgeons understand the depth and art behind these few minutes of surgery that can change a patient’s life forever – for Good or for Bad!

In fact, Lasik is not just one surgery but one among numerous Laser Vision surgeries which are among a full range of surgeries called Vision Corrective (Refractive Surgeries) Surgeries. Also many of these surgeries can be combined in unique cases thus making for unlimited number of individually tailored surgeries. Therefore, whether you are nearsighted, farsighted or have astigmatism you can have surgery and see without glasses. Also, for example, if someone has thin cornea and does not qualify for traditional Lasik surgery then they can have No-Flap Laser surgery or ICL (Permanent Contact lens inside the eye) and again, ICL surgery can be combined with Lasik surgery. By this same token, a cataract patient today also does not need to wear glasses. They can have special cataract surgery lens implanted and then also have Lasik in addition.

Since most Lasik surgeons know only one or two techniques which results in cookie-cutter surgeries. By that notion, every patient gets the same kind of surgery which is just hyped up by advertising and everyone gets nearly the same version. The problem with this is that a patient is not getting a procedure that is truly customized to their best interest and therefore the risk of complication increases and the chance of 100% success decreases.

In summary, Lasik is a safe, life-changing surgery but proper selection of surgeon is very important and patients need to research to look beyond the advertising gimmicks, deals and claims. This will in most cases result in consistently excellent outcomes.

That’s really interesting.
Absolutely! Think about it. If a person comes in wearing glasses or contact lenses, they should be given these options; whether they are laser based, lens based or even combinations. And so if you select the surgery that’s best for “Roshni” then it decreases the chance of complication and increases the chance of success tremendously. Also you’re customizing the vision to her eye anatomy, physiology and optics as well as her professional requirements, safety and future expectations.

Therefore, not only can nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism be corrected but even patients with previous eye surgeries like radial keratotomy (RK), past Lasik, previous cataract surgeries and lasik complications can all be helped to see without glasses and contact lenses.

This ability to correct nearly every eye using individually tailored techniques to help that individual see the best they are supposed to maybe a single most important reason that differentiates my practice from the rest of the world.

You’re known as the “Man of Vision” and the “Da Vinci” of eye surgery. How such do titles feel and does it add additional responsibility to your work?
To be conferred such titles and that too by your own peers is indeed an honor. I think it increases my responsibility because as it is I am very passionate about what I do but this raises the bar on me. I think the endeavor becomes even more challenging because you want to live up to these accolades that people give you, just because it matches your passion. So it’s an absolute honor.

What made you realize this was going to be your line of work?
As a student intern we go through medical rotations through different specialties in Med School, and when I entered the Eye Surgery Operating Room, I just fell in love. It is the most phenomenal level of art. It involves technology which is something again I love with cutting edge technology; and then the elegance of the surgery, and the minuteness or if you may precision required and the gratification of making someone see, which is one of the most important senses a person can have. So it matches all the things that I love including my desire for fashion and elegance. When it all ties in, you know this is what you want to do.

Right, and that is my next question. You also are known for your fashion statements. Is that conscious on your part or are you just an impeccable dresser?
I would say both; it comes naturally to me. I dress every day in a suit and yes, I love to arrange things or make them look elegant which is why even in eye surgery, I have created a new super specialty called Laser Corneoplastique which basically is taking eye surgery and making it more elegant, aesthetically pleasing and visually promising. As far as fashion is concerned it is a natural passion again, and designing comes naturally to me.

If you weren’t an eye surgeon, what would you have been?
I know that if I had not been an eye surgeon, I would have accepted the offers to become a model or a movie star.

Interestingly, as of now, I am reviewing modeling offers but want to associate with only the best and also simultaneously launch my line of fashion from clothes to sunglasses and shoes.

You’ve also won many awards. From your first one till date, how does each one differ from the other?
I think awards at each stage of your life recognize different aspects of you as time goes on.

I remember very early in my career while I was still in training as a resident doctor in India with limited resources, I authored a book on an advanced diagnostic application for the eye.  Not really expecting a response, I was almost shocked with the tremendous worldwide acknowledgement and even more surprised that a 25 year old resident doctor in training from India (then a third world country) was acknowledged as a world authority. This was followed by the Career Achievement Award in Philadelphia.

Given that I was marching to the beat of my own drums and pursuing a passion that came naturally without following any preceding example, these awards provided the encouragement as well as a sense of direction to what would eventually become a lifetime commitment of innovation and world leadership in my profession.

Awards since then have continued to fuel that very passion and range from various organizations nationally and internationally propelling all levels of achievements, professional, philanthropic as well as community representation.

Each award makes me more thankful as well as more humble and reminds me of being under constant surveillance and accountability. They have also allowed me to encourage people around me to follow their passion.

Right, you’ll be receiving The Pride of Sindhi award soon. How have you contributed to the Sindhi community?
Sindhi’s as you know, are entrepreneurs at every level and are very successful and that too globally. I always encourage the Sindhi community in any way I can. I do have a large Sindhi patient clientele from all over the world and have initiated the Gulani Charity Foundation in the name of my late mother and am in talks with a number of high level philanthropists in consolidating the same.

My father is a very big inspiration and a scholar in Sindhi. I feel that the Sindhi language is dying and the community as such has not been recognized – not to the level that it should be at least. If you look all over the world, some of the most successful people are Sindhis. So even if in my small way, I can bring people together, or be an example and help, I think that is a privilege.

How do you stay close to your roots after working and living in the U.S.?
My wife’s an Indian, Dr. Suparna Gulani and then, I have family in India.

I do have a large number of patients from India mostly comprising of Bollywood stars and celebrities who seek the best and can afford my services. I also do travel to India to teach eye surgeons as well as perform probono eye surgery for the poor.

I am presently in the process of evaluating offers from leading hospitals and business ventures in Mumbai who are seeking for me to come once a year to consult and operate on select patients in India.

I love Indian food and clothes and being born and brought up in Mumbai feel a special connection to the locals. On a community level; I am the president of Indo American Medical Association of Medicine for North East Florida , Sub Chapter leader of the President’s council of the American Association of Physicians of Indian descent (AAPI) and am actively involved on the board of IndoUS chamber of Commerce and Hindu Temples.

A secret- I like watching Bollywood movies— especially when it is raining outside and my wife has made some finger-licking Chaat.

You travel all over the world because of your work. Did you ever think that your work would be so rewarding and recognized?
I believe in the fact that no matter what you do, if you do it with a dedicated passion, the world conspires to make you successful. Interestingly, I get asked this question nearly everyday as to why, given my reputation and credentials am I not in Los Angeles, New York, London or Paris.

I have led my life in following a genuine desire and I believed that if I was good people will fly to me and I will provide myself as an example for any young man/woman who wished to excel and realize that geographic location does not matter so much.

You may find this funny but when I started my practice, I was looking for a place to lease. The realtor kept showing me medical office areas and I kept asking for elegant office spaces. I also, kept mentioning that the place has to be close to the airport since patients and surgeons will fly to me. The Realtor was well aware that I was starting from scratch and after repeated episodes one day he mentioned to my wife that I should be more realistic and like other doctors, do what usually works.

My desire to provide my patients a ‘First Class” service, to continuously hold myself accountable, be personable, always available and treat them like family along with my confidence in my work and it’s futuristic appeal as well as my absolute dedication to make people see beyond 20/20 kept me afloat as I refused to go up to doctors or schmooze off anybody and ask for anyone to send patients to me. Then it happened. My receptionist informed me that a patient had called from New York and was coming in for surgery. My wife gave me her beautiful smile— by now she had come to believe in my day dreaming capacity.

There has been no looking back ever since.

Soon my surgical results went from local to national and international and I was invited to teach all over the world as well as had surgeons vying for training at my institute and patients were now flying regularly into Jacksonville, Florida.

In a world of fierce advertising, competitive pricing, deals and discounts we had challenged the very business model that prevailed by refusing to advertise, never discounting and giving a personal touch that few practices could dare to emulate.

What do you hope to achieve for yourself and of course, The Gulani Institute?
I hope to keep working at this level and continue to raise the bar in eye surgery. It is a pleasure today that I can help most of the people no matter what level of nearsightedness. farsightedness or astigmatism they have including those with reading glasses (after 40 reading glasses), cataract patients as well as those with previous eye surgery like Radial Keratotomy (RK), Keratoconus and Lasik complications.

The recent Science Achiever of the year award given to me in New York signifies my commitment to make glasses and contact lenses a thing of the past and making the “Am I a candidate?” question obsolete.

It is my desire to pursue “Super Vision,” beyond 20-20; that is my professional goal. I have never believed that 20-20 is perfection. In my mind, 20/7, is where human revolution can be pushed. Most of our patients are now seeing 20 by 10.

Personally, I would like to continue to spend quality time with my family both here and in India, initiate my fashion career in parallel and continue to provide opportunities to help others.

What do when you are not working or operating?
(Laughs) I am always doing something related to my passion. Right now I am preparing my lecture and surgical videos to be taught at the national conference for eye surgeons as I speak to you. I love to spend time with my family. Fashion is my parallel passion that consumes me because I really love that. I am on the brink of starting my line of fashion. Other than that, day dreaming, weight training, tennis and poetry—things like that.

In summary, daydreaming does help- Go for it.

*Dr. Gulani was felicitated with the “Pride of Sindhi” Award at the International Sindhi Samellan which was held in Los Angeles in July 2009.

~ Roshni M.
(August 2009)

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