January 2014




Canadian ophthalmologist sees success in playwriting

by Ellen Stodola EyeWorld Staff Writer


Dr. Lakra in his ophthalmology office. He splits his time between working in ophthalmology and writing. Source: www.lisaenman.ca

Actors Karen Johnson-Diamond, Joel Cochrane, Braden Griffiths, and Alana Hawley pose for a poster for Sequence. Source: Kurt Firla

Joel Cochrane and Karen Johnson-Diamond perform on stage in Sequence.

Source: Tim Nguyen, Citrus Photography

Dr. Lakra recently earned awards and acclaim for his play Sequence

When it comes to balancing ophthalmology with other interests, Arun Lakra, MD, Calgary, Canada, knows a thing or two. The Canadian ophthalmologist has been balancing two careers for almost as long as he has been in the ophthalmology field. In addition to practicing in Calgary, Dr. Lakra is a playwright who has recently received praise and critical acclaim for his play Sequence. When he is not working on his two careers, Dr. Lakra is busy with his family.

Getting into ophthalmology

Dr. Lakra went to medical school at the University of Toronto. He then completed his internship at the University of Hawaii. "My philosophy back then was that your internship is supposed to be the worst year of your life, so spend it in the best possible place," he said. Dr. Lakra went back to Toronto to complete his residency, where he also completed a year of medical retina training. His next step was to return to Calgary and join the refractive surgery world. Dr. Lakra said that for a while he exclusively worked in refractive surgery but decided to switch recently and focus on general ophthalmology, which he has been doing for the past few years. He is currently in private practice in Calgary.

Getting into playwriting

Dr. Lakra said he had always been interested in writing, and during his later years of medical school, he was feeling a bit imbalanced. "I always had an interest in writing, but when you're going through something like med school or residency, it becomes all left-brain all the time," Dr. Lakra said. "I made a conscious effort to try to explore the other side of things, so I took a few steps to do that."

Initially when he started practicing ophthalmology, he would work for a while to make some money and then take time off to go and write somewhere. One of these writing breaks included a journey to Los Angeles where he audited a graduate screenwriting course at UCLA. Dr. Lakra said he found this process of working and taking a break to write "challenging but rewarding."

Over the years, he had to change his routine as he started a family. "But I've still been trying to carve out some writing time," he said. Currently, Dr. Lakra said he tends to split ophthalmology and writing time, usually working in his practice about three days a week and writing two days a week. He said it is a bit of a juggling act, though, with two careers.

His writing interests are all over the map, including screenwriting, songwriting, and playwriting.


The work that Dr. Lakra is getting a lot of attention for recently is Sequence. The play was performed in Canada and recently made its way to the United States. The story came out of his desire to write something meaningful and create a work that was deeper than anything he had written before. Dr. Lakra had the idea for Sequence a few years ago. "I had this idea of trying to write a play where it was structured essentially like a double helix of DNA," he said.

He debated and pondered this for some time, trying to figure out how exactly he would write a play like this. He wanted the structure similar to DNA to pose questions about order and sequence.

"It's structured in a way where there's two threads of the story that are intertwined and by the end, the audience is asked certain questions about what the relationship is between these two stories," Dr. Lakra said. It is a story that keeps both the brain and the heart engaged.

"It's done quite well," he said. "It's won a few awards, it got produced, and it's going to be published." His play premiered in the United States in early October. Though he was not able to attend all rehearsals, Dr. Lakra said he was in constant contact with the director and visited Bloomington, Ind., where the play was performed, to attend the last week of rehearsals and the opening night. Dr. Lakra said that it has been very nice to receive the recognition that he has for Sequence. "I've been working at this writing career of mine for some time now," he said. "But it takes time to learn the craft." It has taken a number of years of hard work to get to where he is today, but he feels that he is at a good point in his career and moving in the right direction.

Balancing playwriting and ophthalmology

Dr. Lakra said that as he has worked in both writing and ophthalmology, he has found the way that the two fit together.

"I used to have this misconception, and I suspect others do too, that writing is strictly a right-brain, creative thing, and medicine and ophthalmology is very scientific and very left-brain oriented," Dr. Lakra said. "But as I've tried to straddle both of these worlds, I've reached this conclusion that there's the science part, the analytical side of writing, which I think is really integral in writing anything [along] the lines of what I want to do." The two professions meet in the middle in a way, and Dr. Lakra thinks that they each play a part in making the other better.

Contact information

Lakra: arunlakra@aol.com

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