Manuj Kapur

As Interviewed by Saachi Agrawal, March 15, 2019

Manuj Kapur: In His Own Words

Hi, my name is Saachi Agrawal, and I interviewed my neighbor, Dr. Manuj Kapur about his job working as an opthamologist for veterans.
Most commonly there are, the number one (problems) are like anyone else in the general population is diabetes probably, hypertension, or high blood pressure and the third is mental health. Many of them face lots of mental health issues, and we don’t realize it until we come to interact with them and they begin to tell us their stories. Many of them take medications for mental health challenges and are in group therapy as well. The, probably the number one thing I have come to realize is the prevalence of mental health disease and how it impacts them in many of the conditions we take care of. From something as prevalent as diabetes, many of them have so many mental health issues, and just being able to cope with their conditions becomes a challenge to them, and that impacts their diabetes tremendously, and that’s just one example of how mental health impacts their other physical conditions.
Initially I thought it was just another ophthalmology job, but overtime, I actually applied to see if I could join the service, because I felt so strongly about what they have contributed to us, what challenges they have gone through in life, and how it has impacted them. It made me feel that I have an obligation to also contribute and give back, and I feel really good about being here. I’m very, initially it was just another job, not another job, I felt I was at another ophthalmology practice. Within a few months I began to realize there was much more than that. Many of them have a lot of mental health conditions, that I had to treat the whole patient, and not just coming with tunnel vision to an eye surgeon to say I’m just here to take out your cataract, and to not think that if you have mental health issues and if you’re in surgery, some of you are claustrophobic, and some of you have other challenges and how the medications can affect you in surgery, which then can affect my surgery. I have to be aware of all that. Diabetes patients, not being able to cope with some of the stressors in life and having an oranged mental disease can raise their blood sugars, and advance their diabetes. With tunnel vision you would say, just go ahead and fix their retinal issues, but you can’t just fix the retinal issues, cause that will never go away until you help the whole mental and physical. Mental and physical are related, and I think that’s the number one thing this job helps in broadening my mind, the connection between physical and mental.
Many of them talk about their cameraderie with their friends, the relationships they built over a lifetime. Many of them focus on that. In fact, few of them want to indulge in discussing war stories, and I can see why that would be, because it’s so traumatic. Since many of them suffer from PTSD, many of them don’t want to go back and discuss those aspects of their life, but they focus on, they tend to be, they tend to have this unity, and if you come in here Friday morning and you see the patients that have surgery, you’ll see many of them there talking about their experiences, and stories, and those stories usually revolve around the comradery and friendships they have built and positive experiences. I feel ophthalmology is one of the few fields where we do things and make a difference. Behind me you will see all these cards, and I’ve gotten two books from authors that are veterans here, and I think it has helped me realize what an impact we can make as human beings in the lives of people, and when you operate on someone, and they walk out the door of the room, being able to now see the things they couldn’t see, it really impacts their life.