Ophthalmology Residency

The Importance of Ophthalmology Residency

Before becoming an ophthalmologist, a medical student must select a field of specialty, and after medical school and the first year clinical training or PGY-1, complete an ophthalmology residency program that is usually 3 to 4 years in length. Ophthalmology residencies are important because these programs provide additional graduate medical education through teaching, hands on training, and real world experiences. Residents also receive a stipend or salary for their time, usually increasing per year to show their progress.

Ophthalmology residencies further training in vision care and many aspects of the field. The majority have a wide focus area that covers general clinical exams, corneal diseases, pediatric ophthalmology, low vision, refractive surgery, and many others. Residents will go through rotations at participating facilities and experience a variety of cases and patients. This allows the residents to improve their skills in diagnosis, judgment, treatment options, and surgical techniques. Without serious hands on experience offered through ophthalmology residencies, medical doctors would be merely rookies in the field, responsible for the vision of hundreds of people.

For example, the University of South Florida College of Medicine ophthalmology residency has been around since the 1973 and accepts 4 positions every year. Residents have rotations through 4 facilities; the USF Eye Institute, the James A Haley Veterans Hospital, Tampa General Hospital and All Children's Hospital. Residents at the VA see about 12,000 patients per year and experience a number of surgical procedures during the last two years there. At Tampa General Hospital, residents see about 8,000 patients per year, operate a one-half day per week, and are on-call for the emergency room, where they will be exposed to ocular trauma. At All Children's Hospital and the USF Eye Institute pediatric clinic, residents are exposed to pediatric ophthalmology and surgery. As the resident gains experience, they are allowed to move from extra ocular to intraocular surgical procedures, including 15 to 30 cataract surgeries in their second year. The program estimates that residents will perform between 150 to 200 surgical procedures regarding many cases. Residents are also required to complete a research project as well.

It is easy to see how much real world experience is offered through ophthalmology residencies, and how medical doctors can develop their knowledge and ability in ophthalmology.

Applying for Ophthalmology Residency

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) accredits medical residency programs, including those in ophthalmology. Ophthalmology is a competitive medical specialty to match, and applicants usually apply in June of their fourth year in medical school because of the early January match. Ophthalmology residency is matched through the San Francisco Matching Service that manages the Ophthalmology Residency Matching Program (OMP) sponsored by the Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology (AUPO). This service aides both programs and applicants in matching for residency through a ranking system that takes away many of the problems of submitting to each program individually, which includes the Central Application Service (CAS); a universal application including required supporting documentation that is sent to all residency training programs on an applicant’s list.

Supporting documents that are required include college transcripts, medical school transcripts, United States Medical Licensing Examination Step I score or equivalent test, 3 letters of reference, and a Dean’s letter in the case of graduates. There are also other documents that are required or additional, such as the CAS distribution list, which is the list of ophthalmology residency programs desired by the applicant. Applicants also submit a rank list of the ophthalmology residency programs they desire and the residency programs also submit their rank list. The OMP processes the lists and matches applicants to residency opportunities to meet the best results for everyone. The last step is to join the residency program matched, which usually starts in July of the year following the PGY-1. After completing a residency program, an ophthalmologist may choose to enter into an ophthalmology fellowship.


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