Backpacking through the pinnacles of ophthalmology – The journey of Bharti Lavingia : Indian Journal of Ophthalmology

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Women in Ophthalmology

Backpacking through the pinnacles of ophthalmology – The journey of Bharti Lavingia

Bansal, Rolika; Bhagat, Purvi1; Spivey, Bruce E2; Honavar, Santosh G

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Indian Journal of Ophthalmology 71(5):p 1684-1685, May 2023. | DOI: 10.4103/IJO.IJO_1002_23
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Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you are climbing it.” – Andy Rooney

The love for nature and knowledge took Dr. Bharti Lavingia to greater heights, not just in terms of knowledge but also in her career and life. This led to the establishment of the Cornea Foundation which turned out to be a leading Cornea Surgery Center with state-of-the-art facilities and modern equipments and technology. Here is a glimpse of the path traversed by Dr. Bharti Lavingia and her destinations.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

– Lao Tzu

Miss Bharti’s childhood was spent in close vicinity of nature in the forest areas of Dang and along the Arabian seashore of Valsad, South Gujarat, India. Her father was her primary source of inspiration. As a doctor, he provided his services to various hospitals. While he was a sportsman, her mother was an artist [Fig. 1], and Miss Bharti imbibed the best of her parents’ traits. In her early days, she actively participated in athletics and several outdoor sports and her love for sports has been embraced by her till today. She even follows a disciplined life with yoga to start off her mornings.

Figure 1:
Parents of Dr. Bharti Lavingia - Mrs Indumati and Dr. C. M. Lavingia

Being a gold medalist from Byramjee Jeejeebhoy Medical College (BJMC), Ahmedabad, India, her father was keen to have his daughter follow the legacy by studying at his alma mater. On completing her undergraduation from BJMC, her internship tenure at the hospital drew her towards ophthalmology. She became intrigued, and following her interest, she pursued her postgraduation in ophthalmology from BJMC in 1974.

The Maneklal and Jagjivan Ujamshi Western Regional Institute of Ophthalmology had six sub-specialty units, i.e., cornea, retina, glaucoma, squint, oculoplasty, and general ophthalmology back then with separate buildings. Dr. Lavingia joined there as a teaching staff and rose up to greater heights from working as an assistant professor in 1976 to associate professor, head of the cornea unit, and then the director of the institute from 1997 to 2004.

As Dr. Dhanda and Dr. Kalevar[1,2] laid down the foundation of the first eye bank along with their meticulous team in Ahmedabad,[3] Dr. Lavingia held on to the baton and played an important role in running miles with it, thus making it one of the busiest cornea centers in India. The department is equipped with updated instruments and technology. The advancement in preservation media, infrastructure, and surgical techniques led to an increase in the number of staff members at the D. E. Anklesaria Eye Bank with a parallel surge in research projects.

I don’t know where I’m going, but I promise it won’t be boring.” – David Bowie

Learning is a process, and it has been an adventurous journey for Dr. Lavingia. Even as the Head of the Department, she took on the process of learning and headed to the most productive phase of life as she visited various pioneering international institutes. She started her back-packing tour of gaining knowledge as she pursued a fellowship in Cornea at the Wilmer Eye Institute, John Hopkins University, Baltimore, United States of America in 1984, followed by Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, Miami [Fig. 2]; Cullen Eye Institute, Houston; West Virginia University, Morgantown; Wills Eye Hospital, Philadelphia; Gainesville University, Florida; University of Rochester, Rochester; Barraquer Institute, Barcelona, Spain; The Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead, West Sussex, United Kingdom (UK); Guy’s Hospital, London, UK; and at Cannes, France. While she made her way through the various destinations, she held on to the marvelous experiences and adopted different techniques and skills, which she brought along with her to India, to give a more advanced platform to her patients and students.

Figure 2:
Dr. Bharti Lavingia during her fellowship at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute

She was rewarded with several laurels, including international awards like Indo-Japan Ophthalmological Society award, Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology (APAO), 1985; International Rotary award of Victoria Island for services in Nigeria, 2005; and the National awards like the Dr B K Narayan Rao Oration of the All-India Ophthalmological Society (AIOS), 1984; East Zone Ophthalmological Society award, 1994; Dr Samir Biswas oration award of West Bengal Ophthalmology Society of India, 2001; Dr T Agarwal oration award of Indian Intra-Ocular Implant and Refractive Society of India (IIRSI), 2001; Dr Daljit Singh Oration award of Punjab Ophthalmological Society, 2001; Dr Madan Mohan cornea society award, 2004; IIRSI medal for best teacher, 2011; Life time achievement award of Cornea Society of India, 2019 and Life time achievement award of Indian Society of Kerato-Refractive and Cornea Surgeons, 2019; and many more. Special awards like Rotary international and Dr Chhatrapati service award (2003) of Blind Men Association were awarded to her for her commendable contribution to community ophthalmology.

She has been a prolific leader who played an integral role as a Member Scientific Committee of the AIOS, Member of Editorial Committee of proceedings and Editor Proceedings. She also worked in close association with the Government of India by being a member of the advisory group of the Vision 2020 program and as an inspector for the Medical Council of India. She wrote several iconic books and participated in impactful research projects.

She was able to put all her experiences together by building her final destination, the Cornea Foundation Eye Hospital at Ahmedabad, Gujarat in 2004. With four decades of experience, Dr. Lavingia has till date performed more than 7000 corneal transplants and trained numerous postdoctoral fellows, trainees, postgraduates, and undergraduates. Her work on radial keratotomy, patch graft, preservative media, corneal topography, and photostress test have been highly appreciated.[48]

Dr. Lavingia [Fig. 3] has taught by example that every individual traverses his/her own path with individualized charm and grace. Her journey has indeed been adventurous and dynamic, perfectly reflecting her personality. According to her, she used to look forward to every other day with equal enthusiasm and zeal, as there was always something to learn each day. The path created by her might have been her own journey, but she has been able to provide this path as the ideal and respected journey for many, thus driving them to a successful tomorrow.

Figure 3:
Dr. Bharti Lavingia

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


1. Dhanda RP, Kalevar V Corneal surgery. Int Ophthalmol Clin 1972;12:3–420.
2. Dhanda RP, Kalevar V Donor cornea--criteria of usability. Slit lamp examination. Indian J Ophthalmol 1986;34:110–4.
3. Bansal R, Sharma M, Spivey BE, Honavar SG A walk down the memory lane with Vasundhara Kalevar. Indian J Ophthalmol 2022;70:4104–6.
4. Lavingia B Radial keratotomy. Indian J Ophthalmol 1983;31 (Suppl) 898.
5. Lavingia B Patch graft for corneal perforations. Indian J Ophthalmol 1983;31:669–70.
6. Lavingia B Honey Dextran medium in preservation of cornea. Indian J Ophthalmol 1983;31:671–3.
7. Lavingia B Topography and clinical correlation of the cornea. Indian J Ophthalmol 1983;31:689–91.
8. Lavingia B Photostress test. Indian J Ophthalmol 1983;31:183.
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