The First Year Experience
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!