What They Say
First year residents receive a two week orientation and introduction to basic ophthalmology in the first two weeks in July. Afterwards, they serve six 8-9 week clinical rotations, learning the basic techniques of diagnosis and medical management of various diseases. The residents spend most of their first year in the General Eye Clinic, which includes a consult rotation where they encounter a great variety of ocular pathologies. They also spend one 8-9 week rotation at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center located a few blocks away. In addition, residents perform and assist with surgery at both locations and be heavily involved with oncall duties.
Our residents will also attend morning report and morning lecture from Monday to Friday. The Chicago Curriculum of Ophthalmology (CCO) has Saturday morning lectures from September to April in which our residents will be exposed to the top local ophthalmologists. Our residents will have the unique opportunity to gain valuable knowledge while attending a week-long course called Illinois Eye Review in March and multiple subspecialty CME courses throughout the year. PGY2’s will receive, from our department, the newest version of the BCSC volumes in either the print set or eBook version and will spend plenty of time in our library located on site.
PGY2’s will also have the opportunity go to Sao Paulo, Brazil and participate in a one week rotation as a part of our UNIFESP exchange program. This exciting opportunity will expose them to new and different ways of diagnosing and treating ophthalmic conditions. In addition, they will be involved with hosting the UNIFESP residents during their two week elective in Chicago.
First-year residency in ophthalmology is both challenging and exciting! The gradual transition to clinical duties and responsibilities, the excellent attendings in every subspecialty, diversity of cases, and emphasis on teaching as a first year at UIC makes it fun and exciting. We spend most of our time as a first year in the resident-run General Eye Clinic, where we see a vast diversity of patients, both routine and general to very complex and emergent. As our clinic patients, we take complete ownership, which is really the best way to learn and become comfortable and competent in our clinical skills. Of course, we have the support of senior residents, fellows and attendings, who staff every clinic. We also start call after Labor day so we can enjoy summer in Chicago and learn and build our skill set in clinic and during buddy call with the second year residents. Our call schedule is only every 6 days and is very flexible, because we get to arrange our own schedule among the first years.
The learning experience has truly been excellent. We have lectures every morning as well as the Chicago lecture series on Saturdays and many conferences throughout the year. We even have our own week long Illinois Eye Review course for preparation for OKAPS. Our attendings are excellent and are devoted to teaching. Our VA attending, Dr. Lunde, spends unlimited hours with us one-on-one at the wet lab until each of us feels comfortable with upcoming surgeries. We have the opportunity to do minor procedures, lasers and cataract surgeries as the primary surgeon. We are also involved in many oculoplastics cases with Dr. Setabutr.
We have the opportunity to be involved with research if interested and there are plenty of cutting edge and interesting research projects available. With a $3650 resident fund for equipment and travel, we can attend AAO and ARVO and pay for all our lenses and books! As a first year, we now get to travel to Brazil for 1 week as part of an exchange with UNIFESP. It is also fun to host the Brazilian and Japanese residents when they visit Chicago (we go on a 2 week trip to Japan as second years) and make long lasting friendships. With such a great learning experience, in addition to trips to Brazil and Japan, 5-6 weeks of vacation/conference time, a generous resident fund and the dynamic city of Chicago, UIC is a great place to be for residency!
The first year of ophthalmology residency is nothing if not challenging. Although medical school prepares you well for internship, even some of the most basic exam skills in ophthalmology seemed completely foreign at first. Although this was initially intimidating, I feel very fortunate to have matched at a program like UIC because everyone is cognizant of the steep learning curve, and the attendings and senior residents make every effort to ease you in to the world of ophthalmology. The first two weeks of the year are spent learning the basics of the ophthalmologic exam and getting oriented to how our clinic works. As first years, we don’t start taking call until Labor Day weekend, which gives us over two months to get our bearings and gain comfort with our exam skills and clinical judgment. There is a strong culture of camaraderie and support, and even when I started taking call on my “own,” I always felt comfortable calling my senior residents and fellows for support if I needed help.
As a first year at UIC, you also work closely with your senior residents and attendings in the General Eye Clinic. You divide your time during the General Eye Clinic rotations between going to the OR with your assigned senior, seeing walk-in patients with acute issues, and seeing your own scheduled patients whom you follow for all three years of residency. We truly see a wide variety of pathology in our general clinic and benefit from being the major referral center in the Chicago area. You learn to manage complicated patients in the clinic setting, which is invaluable preparation for seeing patients independently on call. As first years, we are also able to generate surgical cases from our patients in the General Clinic, which include extraocular cases such as pterygia and chalazions during the first six months of residency, and more complicated cases such as extracapsular cataract extractions during the second half of the year.
In addition to a strong clinical and surgical background, we also benefit from very strong didactics which are excellent preparation for the yearly OKAP exams. We have a brief morning report with the chief residents every morning just before lecture. During these sessions, we review challenging cases that were seen on call and go over work-up and management. This is followed by lecture with a member of our faculty. For example, we have fluorescein angiography rounds hosted every Monday morning by a different retina attending and Dr. Lin reviews ophthalmic pathology with us every other Friday. Wednesday evenings are cornea rounds with Dr. Azar, the Dean of the UIC School of Medicine, who is also one of our distinguished cornea attendings. Despite his busy schedule, Dr. Azar sits down with us in this informal, small group setting where we discuss interesting cornea and refractive surgery cases and benefit from his expertise in the field.
One of the highlights of our first year experience is an exchange trip with the Federal University of Sao Paulo (UNIFESP) in Brazil. I was part of the first group of UIC residents to visit Sao Paulo, and it was an amazing experience. During our time in the clinics at UNIFESP, we got to see how ophthalmology is practiced in Brazil and had the chance to learn about eye conditions that are very rare in the United States. Outside of the clinics, we had he wonderful opportunity to get to know the UNIFESP residents, and we’re looking forward to continuing those friendships in the future. In fact, we already have plans for reunions at both the ARVO and AAO conferences later this year. The Brazil exchange program is a truly unique experience for first year residents and one of the many exciting opportunities UIC has to offer. I am thrilled to have matched at a program that provides strong clinical training, the chance to perform research with leaders in the field, and the freedom to expand my knowledge abroad. To top it all off, Chicago is a vibrant city with something to offer for everyone. I still feel lucky to have matched at UIC and am excited for my next two years!
• Cornea/Contact Lens
• Glaucoma/Jesse Brown VA (incl. intraocular surgery skills)
• Pediatric Ophthalmology (including surgery)
• Retina/Hereditary Disease
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.
As 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.
Why 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.
After 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!
In the final year of training, residents take on more clinical responsibility. They help the attending ophthalmologist supervise the junior residents in the General Eye Clinic and the Jesse Brown VA. They also have a 8-9 week surgical rotation at the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago.
Surgical cases will increase once again and they will also be involved with oncall duties.
We encourage our third year residents to present their research projects at ARVO. They will also have the opportunity to present at our annual Alumni Day event held in June and attend the annual Illinois Eye Review.
Every year, we appoint two PGY4’s to become chief residents and act as a leader for all of the residents. They will be responsible for conducting daily morning report. Chief residents will also be a liasion between the faculty/admistration and the residents; and will be heavily involved in general scheduling, hosting, and other functions that are called upon them.
The goal of the third year of ophthalmology residency at UIC is to train you to become an efficient and competent general ophthalmologist, both in the clinic and in the operating room.
With that goal in mind, you spend the majority of your time in the resident-run general eye clinic. Each day, you are challenged to utilize the knowledge and skills you have acquired over the first two years in your own mini-clinic of 25-30 patients. The pathology of the clinic is second to none, ranging from routine intraocular pressure checks on glaucoma suspects to sarcoid uveitis, neovascular glaucoma, acute retinal necrosis and corneal hydrops. As a resident-run clinic, you take chief responsibility for formulating and implementing management decisions, under the supervision of an attending, so you feel prepared to handle almost any clinical scenario at the end of your senior year.
The other big focus during third year is surgery. With the opening of the new surgical simulation wet lab and implementation of the surgical curriculum, you will feel more than prepared for your first day in the OR as a third year. Your operating experience increases exponentially as you learn to perform cataract surgery from several different attendings throughout the year. At UIC, you will be heavily involved not only in routine cataract surgery, but be primary surgeon on complicated cases such as white cataracts, pseudoexfoliation with zonular insufficiency, small pupils and Femtosecond laser surgery. Most of all, you will learn from world-renowned teachers who will help you understand how to manage difficult cases and their complications, thus adequately preparing for your future career. Lastly, you will gain additional surgical aptitude performing various eyelid and glaucoma surgeries as well as many ruptured globe repairs throughout the year.
In addition to the UIC resident clinic, you will rotate through two different VA Hospitals, the Jesse Brown VA and the North Chicago VA, during the 3rd year. While at the Jesse Brown VA, you get accustomed to performing lasers, managing glaucoma, and treating diabetic retinopathy in clinic, while also being a part of a busy surgical schedule. The North Chicago VA provides a great comprehensive ophthalmology experience where you see patients in your own clinic while spending time in the OR 3 days a week. Both these rotations are high volume cataract surgery rotations to help you hone your surgicial skill and efficiency.
Overall, as a senior resident, you utilize all that you have learned during your first two years of residency and build on that knowledge as you become comfortable surgically and medically treating your patients. You also serve as a mentor and role model for the junior residents, which includes teaching them examination skills in the clinic, assisting them in the wetlab, and giving advice on studying for the OKAPs. After completing this memorable and challenging year, you are more than ready to tackle future clinical challenges regardless of whether you pursue a fellowship or a career in general ophthalmology.
Judy Chen, MD, Resident Class of 2016
Busy clinics, ruptured globe repairs, ‘surgeon of the day’, back-up call, cataract surgery galore, teaching, and prepping for the future. These are all exciting aspects of the third and final year of ophthalmology residency at UIC.
Being a third year resident at UIC prepares you for the ‘real world’ of ophthalmology where you must treat patients with varying pathologies in the clinic and the operating room.
From day 1, you begin utilizing your unique 2nd year experiences by seeing several patients in your own clinic where you help make management decisions regarding diseases spanning open angle glaucoma and cataracts to retinal vein occlusions, traumatic hyphemas, and sarcoid uveitis. As a senior mentor, you frequently help the junior residents formulate a treatment plan for complicated patients with emergent conditions spanning acute neovascular glaucoma, corneal hydrops, and ocular trauma.
The pathology in the resident clinic is second to none, and you feel prepared to manage most clinical conditions after completing this year.
The other big focus during third year is on surgery. Your operating experience expands immensely as you perform cataract surgery with several different attendings throughout the year. You obtain key surgical tips from great teachers that help you learn cataract surgery and understand how to manage potential complications, thus adequately preparing for your future career. Furthermore, you gain more surgical aptitude as you perform various eyelid and glaucoma surgeries as well as several ruptured globe repairs throughout the year.
You rotate through two different VA Hospitals (Jesse Brown VA and North Chicago VA) and the General Eye Clinic at the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary during the 3rd year. While at the Jesse Brown VA, you get accustomed to performing lasers, managing glaucoma, and treating diabetic retinopathy in clinic, while also being a part of a busy surgical schedule. The North Chicago VA provides a great comprehensive ophthalmology experience where you see patients in your own clinic while spending time in the OR 3 days a week.
Overall, as a senior resident, you utilize all that you have learned during your first two years of residency and build on that knowledge as you become comfortable surgically and medically treating your patients. Outside the clinical setting, you teach junior residents during wet lab sessions and morning lectures in addition to completing research projects. After completing this memorable and challenging year, you are more than ready to tackle future clinical challenges regardless of whether you pursue a fellowship or a career in general ophthalmology.
Rohan Shah, MD, Resident Class of 2012
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