Know Your Heroes: Dr. David Mathew

Photo by Tim Fraser.

Know Your Heroes showcases the many different people and roles that make up #TeamUHN. We celebrate these people, who strive to make the world a healthier place every day.

Name: Dr. David Mathew    
Title: Ophthalmologist – Glaucoma subspecialist
Years working in health care: 7 years 
I was born and raised in: Trivandrum, India

I decided to get into health care because as a high school student, I was keenly interested in biology. I did not fully understand all the ramifications of my decision to get into medical school until I was in the thick of it. There was no turning back from that point and I soon realized the ability of a dedicated doctor to make a meaningful difference in patients’ lives.

My role here at UHN is treating and caring for patients with glaucoma. I am also pursuing a PhD under Dr. Jeremy Sivak, who holds the Glaucoma Research Chair at the Donald K. Johnson Eye Institute. This advanced training in basic science research techniques will be an added asset in investigating new treatment strategies and uncovering mechanisms of disease in glaucoma.

COVID-19 has affected me by changing my work schedule. As school shifted to virtual sessions, I had to coordinate with my wife’s work schedule to stay home with my children and pursue research work during evenings and nights. Even though this adjustment is not something I prefer, I am thankful that I am able to spend more time with my children during the day.

The thing I love the most about my job is the ability to move seamlessly from the research lab to the clinic and back again. Often, there exists a perceived divide between scientists and clinicians and I have had the privilege of bridging this divide on many occasions. I love interacting with patients and it is tremendously meaningful to be involved in research that has a direct bearing on the quality of life of my patients.

The most incredible thing I’ve seen at work is the teamwork and collaboration that takes place in the research lab and clinic to create progress that would otherwise have been impossible.

I’m inspired by the undaunted spirit of patients with advanced glaucoma to push forward and make the most of life, despite the significant loss of vision they experience. This motivates me to be a persistent researcher, given the fact that there is no cure for glaucoma and there is currently no proven and consistent treatment to reverse the visual field loss caused by glaucoma.

One of my personal heroes is Dr. Graham Trope because he truly cares for his patients and goes the extra mile to help them understand their diagnosis and the nuances of treatment. He is a clinician scientist who conducts research that has an impact on patients’ lives. To me, he has been a mentor and a source of great encouragement.

I sometimes worry about my children and whether I am being all that my parents were during my childhood. Such worries are put at ease by my wonderful wife, who complements me in every way. She is a loving, sacrificial and efficient parent to our children and makes our family a constant source of joy.

I’ve found joy recently from spending time with my children at home during the COVID-19-related lockdown. It was really a blessing in disguise.

My favourite movie is The Shawshank Redemption because it is a beautiful story of friendship during difficult times.

My ideal day off is spending time with my family, having a meal together and then heading off for fishing with some friends.

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