“Visionary Innovations: A Journey with Dr. Sarika Gopalakrishnan”


Interview summarised by Ms. Sucheta Mitra

Dr. Sarika Gopalakrishnan, a leading researcher in assistive technology for the visually impaired, shares her journey and work in the field of low vision care and augmented reality (AR). She discusses her transition from optometry to research and the motivation behind her focus on assistive technology. Dr. Sarika highlights the challenges faced and strategies employed in her work at Shankar Netralaya, a renowned eye hospital. She emphasises the importance of functional visual assessment and its impact on rehabilitation services. Dr. Sarika also discusses her involvement in selecting the blind cricket team and shaping optometry education policies. She encourages young women to pursue their passion in vision science and emphasises the need for user-friendly and inclusive AR solutions.

The conversation begins with a focus on the collaborative efforts required in Dr. Sarika’s research, where she emphasises the multidisciplinary nature of her work. She underscores the pivotal roles of ophthalmologists, optometrists, engineers, and patients in the research process. Dr. Sarika particularly highlights the patients as essential contributors, viewing their active involvement as crucial for the success of any project.

Moving on to her experiences at Sankara Nethralaya, Dr. Sarika paints a vivid picture of the institution as a research haven, attributing her substantial clinical experience and success to the rich patient pool and supportive research infrastructure. She expresses gratitude for the institution’s role in shaping her career, mentioning her pride in contributing to its status as a research-centric institution.

The interview touches upon the challenges inherent in research, with Dr. Sarika offering practical advice for overcoming obstacles. She stresses the importance of meticulous planning during data collection, advocating for researchers to calculate the power of the study to determine an optimal sample size. Dr. Sarika’s pragmatic perspective encourages researchers to embrace unexpected results, whether positive or negative, viewing them as valuable learning opportunities.

Augmented reality takes centre stage in the conversation, with Dr. Sarika elaborating on its application in low vision rehabilitation. She outlines the collaborative teamwork required and emphasises the transformative impact of technology on the lives of visually impaired individuals. Dr. Sarika urges a shift in perception, advocating for empathy and equity rather than sympathy when working with visually impaired individuals.

The discussion expands to encompass functional visual assessment and its profound impact on the community. Dr. Sarika shares her experiences in selecting and training members of the blind cricket team based on functional vision scores, highlighting her commitment to ensuring fairness and equal opportunities for visually impaired athletes.

Dr. Sarika’s advice for young researchers unfolds as a comprehensive guide, addressing the broad spectrum of challenges in the research journey. She advocates for passion and careful planning, stressing the significance of the data collection phase. Her insights extend to shaping optometry education policies, where she emphasises her role in training professionals and influencing competency standards in India. The interview concludes with Dr. Sarika sharing her experiences as the first Indian woman to earn the Fellowship of the American Academy of Optometry (FAAO). She extends a message of encouragement to young women aspiring to make their mark in vision science, emphasising the transformative potential of education for the greater good.

Thank you for exploring Dr. Sarika Gopalakrishnan’s inspiring journey on InSight Radio where she offers a deep dive into her professional journey, research endeavours, and commitment to leveraging technology for the betterment of visually impaired individuals. Her insights resonate with passion, practicality, and a compassionate approach to innovation in vision science. InSight Radio’s commitment to delivering compelling stories and engaging discussions remains steadfast, and we encourage you to stay connected with us. To ensure you never miss an episode, consider subscribing to InSight Radio on your preferred podcast platform, whether it’s Amazon Music, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or any other podcast app you prefer. Subscribing means you join our community focused on learning, empowerment, and contributing to positive global change. Embark on this incredible podcasting adventure with us, and together, let’s create an impact.