Visual impairment did not stop Dr Sunil Gokhale from achieving his vision of becoming a medical college professor

"Lost my vision in both eyes but never lost my vision of what my life should be," Dr Sunil Gokhale reflects on his remarkable journey with a profound sense of resilience and purpose
Dr Sunil Gokhale
Dr Sunil Gokhale(Pic: Humans of Medicare)

Born in a privileged family, Dr Sunil Gokhale’s father was a radio engineer and his mother came from a royal lineage. His grandfather was a freedom fighter, further embedding a sense of responsibility and determination in him.

In their community, career options were starkly limited to becoming either a doctor, an engineer, or a shepherd. Despite his fondness for playing with cows, Dr Gokhale was resolute about pursuing medicine. Academically gifted, he consistently excelled in his studies and performed brilliantly in competitive medical entrance exams.

After completing his MBBS, he started as a junior resident in paediatrics in July 1988 but soon returned to Hubli to prepare for his postgraduate entrance exams.

Fate intervened in a cruel twist when an accidental exposure to washing powder caused what seemed to be minor irritation but turned out to be Mooren's ulcer.

By December 1988, Dr Gokhale lost vision in one eye. Undeterred, he sat for his exams in January and secured a spot in the MS Orthopedics programme. Despite knowing that he would eventually lose sight in both eyes, he kept this devastating prognosis from his family. True to his fears, his vision completely deteriorated within the next six months.

Transitioning to take care of his family business, Dr Gokhale married Rekha, the love of his life. Despite multiple rejections for professorial posts, a turning point came in 2001 when he was appointed as a faculty member in the PSM Department at KIMS, thanks to the support of the Director and Head of the Department. After five years of probation, his position was regularised.

During his younger days
During his younger days (Pic: Humans of Medicare)

Learning Braille and mastering computer technology, Dr Gokhale began creating his own presentations and teaching classes. The gratitude and admiration of his students, who often approached him during his travels, reaffirmed his life's purpose and sense of accomplishment.

During his medical practice, Dr Gokhale encountered a visually impaired music teacher with critically low haemoglobin levels who required an urgent blood transfusion. This experience led Dr Gokhale to become a regular blood donor for the past 30 years. He also witnessed the life-threatening consequences of inadequate healthcare access when a woman with MRSA (a group of bacteria responsible for treating various difficult-to-treat conditions) nearly died after an abortion. These experiences fuelled his commitment to making healthcare services more accessible and patient-friendly. He established a help desk to aid patients in navigating different hospital departments.

Dr Gokhale’s dedication extends beyond his professional duties. He is actively involved with NGOs such as Aasha Kiran and Saksham, which support individuals with various disabilities. Saksham, particularly close to his heart, organises events where students are blindfolded and guided by visually impaired individuals to raise awareness about cornea donation.

With students
With students (Pic: Humans of Medicare)

As a guest lecturer, Dr Gokhale educates people about the importance of this cause.

"Low aim and not failure is a crime," he believes. Dr Gokhale’s life illustrates how unexpected challenges can become opportunities for growth and betterment. His journey teaches us that resilience and determination can transform even the most formidable obstacles into stepping stones towards achieving a greater purpose.

(This article was curated by the content and digital team at Humans of Medicare: Varuni Vats, Shreya Gade, and Siddhant Kashyap)

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