Mrinali Gupta, MD, on Molecular Medicine, Motherhood, and Manhattan.
as Interviewed by Audina Berrocal, MD
Who are you?
I am a clinician-scientist and assistant professor of ophthalmology in the vitreoretinal surgery service at Weill Cornell Medical College, New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
What defines you?
Trying to be a good mother and a good doctor.
Why should we be watching you?
I believe the next revolution in retina involves harvesting the power of molecular biology to generate new ways to diagnose and treat retinal disease, as well as to shift retina into the era of personalized molecular medicine. John T.G. Pena, MD, PhD; Donald J. D’Amico, MD; and I are working hard in our laboratory to make advances in these arenas that will hopefully one day change the way we manage retinal disease.
What is the most exciting thing you are doing both at and outside of work?
At work: developing with my research partners a novel platform for drug delivery to intraocular tissues. Outside of work: raising my son, Aarav.
How do you think your career will influence retina?
Providing excellent, compassionate care to my patients is my main priority; I also hope to make meaningful, clinically applicable contributions to the field through our basic science work.
How is being a new mother redefining your life and career?
The two central pillars of life these days are my work and Aarav. I think that being a mother makes me a better doctor and being a doctor makes me a better mother. I hope that, through my example of hard work and commitment, my son will learn the joy of a job well done and that growing up seeing a strong, successful mother will instill in him an unswerving belief that women are capable equals.
Does being a mother change how you interact with your patients?
Being a mother has broadened my understanding of the human experience. For my pediatric patients, addressing the concerns of the parents is as important as treating the patient. To the parents, the patient is the most precious thing in the world. As a mother, I get that, and I think the ability to empathize colors my approach.
How do you balance home and work as a young, full-time working mom?
My husband and I strive to create a system that allows me to focus on our son when I am home and on patient care when I am at work. The key ingredients have been a supportive partner, a loving, reliable nanny willing to stay late if I am tied up with an emergency, outsourcing household chores, and family support. We believe strongly in the it-takes-a-village philosophy, and our village is our family, many of whom live nearby. All of these factors help us be our best selves at work and at home.
What was the most important thing you learned during your fellowship?
Some of the most integral parts of surgery are things that happen before we ever get to the OR—the decision whether or not to operate; the time spent with patients and their families discussing surgical risks, benefits, and alternatives; preparations done the days or night before surgery to carefully develop a surgical plan; and our routines on the night before or morning of surgery that ensure we are well rested and at our best in the OR.
What are your hobbies?
I love running, travelling, and exploring the Manhattan restaurant scene.
What’s the best decision you have ever taken in your life?
Marrying my best friend and partner, Arun.
What word best describes you?
Where or how do you do your best thinking?
At a local café, sipping a cappuccino, surrounded by chaos and people coming and going but with music blasting through my headphones to drown it all out. I was never a library or quiet-place kind of worker.
Section Editor Audina Berrocal, MD
• professor of clinical ophthalmology, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, University of Miami
Mrinali Gupta, MD
• assistant professor of ophthalmology, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York City