Celebrated Physician: Reena A. Garg, MD
If you’re invited to have dinner with the family of Reena A. Garg, MD, be ready to talk medicine. Dr. Garg, an attending physician in Ophthalmology at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, is married to a pain management specialist. Her father is an allergist and her brother is an orthopedic surgeon.
The Ellicott City, Md, native explains that she and her brother were fascinated with their father’s work, “and always asked about interesting cases he was handling.” Her own career path within medicine was set after being paired with an ophthalmologist during a high-school mentoring program.
“I was struck by the difference he made in patients’ lives by restoring their vision, and wanted to have that same kind of impact,” she says.
After graduating from a highly competitive six-year dual degree program at Drexel University School of Medicine, Dr. Garg completed her internship at the University of Maryland Medical Center. She then completed an ophthalmology residency at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, where she served as Chief Resident. A highly intensive subspecialty fellowship in glaucoma at Columbia University brought her to New York City. There, she also served as assistant professor at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai, a role that included educating residents.
After two years of private practice in Atlanta, Dr. Garg and her husband had started a family and were ready to move closer to her hometown. Eager to return to teaching, she found the perfect opportunity in the nation’s capital. Along with specializing in glaucoma and cataract treatments at the Washington Eye Institute, Dr. Garg also serves as program director for the joint Hospital Center/Georgetown University ophthalmology residency program.
“We’re making such a difference for a community that’s historically underserved,” Dr. Garg says, adding that advancements in treatment therapies can often give even the oldest patients the visual acuity of a 20-year-old. She hopes to make her own contribution through research focusing on screening and early detection of glaucoma.
“The sooner we can treat glaucoma, the less risk of a patient losing his or her vision,” she says. “We’re doing things like tele-glaucoma, where we can make a diagnosis remotely, and analyzing treatment outcomes that might allow procedures to be performed sooner.”
Helping Residents Transition to Practice
Having experienced both sides of medical education, Dr. Garg enjoys helping residents navigate the challenging process of developing their clinical and surgical skills while also taking on greater responsibility.
“It’s a unique position to have your medical degree and be ‘the doctor,’ knowing that you still have a lot to learn,” she says. “We’re here to support them and help them flourish in that role.”
Learning works both ways, Dr. Garg adds, as each new class of residents brings new ideas that can help make a good program better, including ways to efficiently triage emergencies and improve systems for surgical scheduling.
Outside of Work
Dr. Garg has also learned a few things about time management, balancing her responsibilities to patients and residents with family life that includes two sons, ages two years and eight weeks. She’s also an avid baker, though that hobby is on hold for a while, she says, “at least until the younger one starts sleeping more regularly!”
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