The Second Year Experience

Second year iconIn the second year of training, residents receive in-depth exposure to the subspecialty clinics, spending 8-9 weeks in each of the following:

• Cornea/Contact Lens
• Neuro-Ophthalmology/Uveitis/Pathology
• Glaucoma/Jesse Brown VA (incl. intraocular surgery skills)
• Pediatric Ophthalmology (including surgery)
• Retina/Hereditary Disease
• Oculoplastics

In addition to attending morning report and lecture, CCO lectures, and other events including the annual Illinois Eye Review, PGY3’s will take call at the Jesse Brown VA on an every other week basis.  Surgical cases will increase from the first year.  Residents will spend more time in our wet lab, learning from our top faculty.

Japan Exchange Program WEBAs a part of our exchange program, our PGY 3’s also get the opportunity to travel to Keio University in Tokyo Japan for two weeks to expand their ophthalmic knowledge and get exposed to cases different from those here in North America.  This experience has been very popular and will help expand our resident’s knowledge base.  They will also extend the favor and host the KEIO residents during their time here in Chicago.

Donny Hoang, MDWhy he chose UIC

Having spent a good part of my training at UIC, I knew what I was getting into. I wanted a program where I would be happy, as well as one that would meet my training needs. I wanted a program that would not only teach me, but one at which I would feel comfortable “asking the dumb questions,” because I feel within the answers to the basic questions are the fundamentals that allow you to be a thorough future clinician, therefore approachability of attendings was key in my decision. In terms of happiness, all programs say that attendings are approachable and nice, I felt UIC was exceptionally so. Specifically, for me, I also looked for a place that both had strong clinical and research components. Additionally, the program already had a wealth of established basic and clinical researchers, with multiple new hires that have enhanced our training experiences.

What is different from first to second year?

By the second year we have completed all the rotations and have the basics down. We know the Department and the faculty, and the attending physicians count on us for our assessments of patients. During this year we spend two months on each service.

For the two months of the year, we take call for the first years as they are getting down the basics in the general eye clinic and shadowing us on-call. We teach them the ropes, demonstrate certain procedures, and call them in on interesting cases or emergencies. Then by Labor Day we no longer take first call for the University Hospital. We do still take primary call for the veteran’s hospital which is much lighter, and which is shared with Northwestern’s ophtho program. Call is now taken a week at a time, with every other week covered by Northwestern.

We also perform more surgeries and a greater variety of them during the second year. We’ll perform strabismus surgery on peds, intravitreal injections and retina lasers on Retina, Subtenon injections, tap and injects on Uveitis, and more glaucoma lasers and some cataract surgery, core vitrectomies and scleral buckles for example.

In the second year we are required to complete the bulk of our a research project either in basic science or clinical research with the intent of presenting it at the Department’s annual Alumni day in June at the end of 2nd or 3rd year. Personally, I am working in a basic science laboratory, and employing electrophysiological and molecular techniques to study gap junctional and hemichannel communication between retinal pigment epithelial cells in a heterologous system.

Finally, this is the year we decide on future plans whether to practice general ophthalmology or to apply for a fellowship.

The main reason why second year is amazing is that it fulfills what you imagine residency should be when you’re applying. As a first year, you’re learning all the basics, with your time predominately in the general eye clinic, but as a second year, you finally get to see all the rare and crazy stuff that made you love ophthalmology in the first place. Additionally, you get to work one-on-one and get to know attendings on a personal level. As a second year, reading “rare disease” in the BCSC seems almost comical, seeing that I would commonly see 3 of the same “rarely encountered disease” on the same day in the Uveitis clinic. Also, you see the complicated diseases…For example, I saw a patient who was an ophthalmologist himself from Saudi Arabia, who was working in Canada, and came to see Dr. Fishman in our Inherited Retinal Disease Service. I also saw a family who stopped by en route from Argentina to Shanghai for their little girl to see Dr. Miller in Pediatrics, and a family that flew in from Greece to have their son’s surgery by Drs. Azar, Lim and Vajaranant.

But this isn’t uncommon across all residency programs, as there are plenty of programs with amazing attendings that draw patients from all across the world. What I enjoy is that all of these “famous” attendings at UIC are so approachable and down-to-earth.

Erica Oltra, MDAfter getting the basics down during first year, the second year of residency is a really great opportunity to learn more about the different subspecialties.  We spend two months on each service including Cornea, Retina, Neuro-ophthalmology/Uveitis, Glaucoma, Pediatric Ophthalmology and Oculoplastics.  This is the time when we learn new surgical skills while operating one-on-one with the attendings.  We have the opportunity to serve as primary surgeon on a variety of cases including strabismus surgery, oculoplastic procedures, cataract surgery, glaucoma shunts and trabs, retina lasers and intravitreal injections – just to name a few.


During the first two months of the year, we continue to take primary call while the first years are learning necessary exam skills.  The first years will take buddy call with us, which helps them get acquainted with the ER as well as the management of common eye emergencies seen on call.  After Labor Day, we are finished with primary call at UIC.  We will help cover call at the VA which is much lighter and is shared with the Northwestern ophthalmology residents.


If you are interested in research, there is a lot of time during the second year to work on projects.  It is only required that we complete one research project before graduating, but there is generally time and support for more if this interests you.  There is also funding for residents to go to various conferences if you are presenting a project.


Finally, one of the most amazing things about second year is the exchange program with KEIO University in Tokyo!  We spend two weeks in Tokyo learning surgical and clinical ophthalmology at KEIO.  It is really amazing to observe the differences between our programs and we really learn a lot during these two weeks – not to mention it is a lot of fun too!