thinking about ophthalmology after reading a book on different
medical specialties. Can't remember the name of the book, but it
was pretty frank and categorized all the pros and cons of all the
fields. I liked ophthalmology because it not only had a good lifestyle
( decent residency length, possible regular hours, good for a person
who wants to have a family, comfortable salary), but also was prestigious,
respected, and well rounded in that one could have long term contact
with patients clinically, perform delicate, skillful surgery, and
do research. I kept the idea of ophthalmology in the back of my
mind, and was led to it directly through a clinical research project
for my senior college thesis on glaucoma. I was greatly influenced
by my mentor, who got me excited about clinical research. By watching
him with patients who adored him, in the O.R. with skillful hands
where residents were in awe of him, and then watching him guide
the many ongoing research projects where fellows wanted to be him,
I began to want to be able to juggle it all too.
medical school, I compared any field I was interested in to ophthalmology.
I was a firm believer of keeping my mind open, but in the end I
chose the eyes. I thought of pediatrics, which I haven't totally
given up on since pediatric ophthalmology is still an option, psychiatry,
ENT, and dermatology. In the end it wasn't a hard decision at all.
What clenched it in my mid 3rd year was actually working on my
medical school research thesis on another glaucoma project that
got me really motivated and feeling like I could make a contribution
to the field of ophthalmology.
did you prepare yourself for application to your chosen specialty?
written application itself, essay, C.V., those to ask for letters
of recommendation, really were not that difficult. I had applied
for several fellowships during my 2nd/3rd year so I had most of
those things written so I could cut, paste, and edit. I believe
my recommenders did the same thing. I planned early to fit in two
sub Is. I would recommend doing at least one one at your own institution
for the mere fact of getting to know the department better, especially
the chairman. There is not much to do on a clinical ophthalmology
rotation, unless you get someone who really likes you or trusts
you with his or her patients. I would recommend doing a rotation
at a place you might like to go, just to get a feel to see if you
really like that place. If you want to get a recommendation letter
from your clinical preceptor after just a short rotation, I would
recommend attempting to work you butt off and do a small research
project. If you are close by, then you have the opportunity to
still finish after you leave. This way your preceptor has something
concrete to talk about in your letter, other that you were present
and attentive. Also I would recommend working with someone who
has a fairly recognizable or respected name. Ophthalmology is such
a small community. Everyone knows someone, and it helps SOOO much
for your interviewer to know and respect the recommendation letter
that says you're awesome over some stranger saying the same thing.
I happen to think research is key, especially if its good research. It
puts you in a different class, one that is already showing a commitment
to the field and trying to make contributions. It shows the potential for
future contributions, which will be necessary for the progression of the
field. If you do research, try to milk it for all it's worth. Publish!
Present! Win Awards! You've done the research, so present it to the world.
Even if you didn't do research with the biggest name, this shows effort
and ambition, qualities that won't be overlooked.
wrote your letters of recommendation for your application?
the mentor I did research with in ophthalmology, who happened to
be a very well respected name in the field of glaucoma, the chairman
of the ophthalmology dept. of my school, who also happened to have
a big and well respected name in ophthalmology, and an attending
of internal medicine who had offered to write me a recommendation
at the end of my rotation. It is best to have a rapport with the
people you ask. They are the ones who tend to write the best letters.
Some may ask for your C.V. to add some info into the letter, so
have it ready. Like I mentioned earlier, it does help to have well
know people writing you fabulous letter. If they're not well know,
make sure it's a strong letter. If they are well know but they
don't know you well, give them ways to make you stand out on paper
before you ask, either research, presentation, team spirit, eagerness,
something. Make sure to give them ample time to write it. Then
make sure they send it back to you with ample time to send it in
programs did you apply to and why?
to 35 programs because I was involved in a couple's match. If I
wasn't I'd probably apply to 20 25 programs, to be on the safe
side. With ophthalmology getting so competitive, even with well
rounded applicants , the stakes are high. I used US News and World
Report and Ophthalmology Times to get the ranking of the top 10
15 programs. Then I went to my mentors to ask what they thought
of the other programs I was thinking of. They gave me a ranking
in first, second, and third tiers. I applied to programs in all
kinds of questions did programs tend to ask you?
do you see yourself in 10 15 years? How did you chose ophthalmology?
Tell me about yourself? Tell me about this particular extracurricular
activity? (anything on the application is open for questioning)
Tell me about your research? (be ready for details) What are you
looking for in a program? When I present you to the board, what
would you want me to say on your behalf? What do you do for fun?
Who is your hero? What are your strengths and weaknesses? How was
it working with ______(ophthalmology person)? How did you like
your medical school experience? What were it's strengths and weaknesses?
What gets you excited?
would you have done differently in applying?
I was well prepared. I would have liked higher board scores, but
you have to work with what you got. I would make sure to double
check the OMP List of programs that the name of the program matches
the number. I got burned on that more than once, so my applications
were sent out later than I wanted. The earlier is definitely the
was the most difficult part of the application process?
while still trying to take care of things at school. Traveling
and meeting people can be fun, but other stressors can weigh you
down. Also it really was difficult coordinating interviews. I would
recommend calling the places you applied to and find out their
interview dates even if you haven't heard from them yet. This allows
you to juggle dates better and coordinate geographically. Another
hard aspect of applying was cost. I did not realize how much this
would cost and it's worse if you are also applying to many places
for your preliminary year.
should I look for on my interview and tour day?
you will spend most of your time: clinic, OR, call room, library,
resident lounge, cafeteria. Try to get a feel for the atmosphere
between house staff and nursing staff. Look for someone post call
for real answers about call night. Grill the residents as much
as you can. Really. Be the one who asks all the good questions.
Some of those residents are on the admissions committee and they
questions should I ask of residents, faculty, and program directors?
the residents: What is call like? How often? Do you sleep? Is there
back up? Can you take call from home? How well do you get along
with the nursing staff? What is a typical day like? What annoys
you about this place? What do you like about it? What are the benefits?
Do you have time to read? Is the curriculum structured? How often
do you have to present? Is there funding to go to conferences?
Is there funding for instruments? Books? How much vacation time?
How well do you get along with attending? Do you interact outside
the office? Is there time to do research? Are there any research
requirements? How is the orientation period? How many patients
are you expected to see? When do you get to start doing surgery?
Are there tests? How often? How is your social life? Do you see
your significant other? How is it living in this city? What do
you do for fun? Has anyone been kicked out? How is the support
system here? What is it? Are there committees that include representation
from the residents? Do they ever make changes based on resident
demands? What was the last one? Are you happy? What programs were
you choosing between? Why is this one best for you? What would
you have asked knowing what you know now? Where do your grads go
Ask the director:What qualities are you looking for a resident that would
make a good fit in your program? How well do you and the house staff get
along? Are there opportunities to do electives in underdeveloped countries?
How financially stable is the institution? What directions are you taking
in advancing the program?
did you form your rank list?
difficult. Being in a couple's match made it more difficult. I
took into consideration location geographically, prestige of the
program, if it was academic, and feel. I was interested in being
close to my significant other and family. I wanted to go to a program
that had a respectable name so that I knew I would be well trained
and would have no problems getting a good fellowship if I worked
hard. I am interested in academic medicine, so I wanted a program
that not only had good clinical and surgical experience, but also
strong academic research facilities and reputation. I took the
feel of the day and all the questions answered by residents into
account. The ones that had all or almost all of these requirements
were ranked high. Then I prayed.
other advice can you give seniors applying in your specialty?
early. Early exposure. Early involvement. Early applications. Get
involved in a good research project. Get to know your chairman.
He or she will definitely be writing on of your letters. Study
hard for your boards. Be a strong, well-rounded applicant. Have
good letters. On the interview day, mingle with the students, residents,
and faculty. Know you are being watched just to see how you can
get along with others. Smile as much as you can on interview day.
Helps you relax, shows you're a happy person. Practice interviewing
skills before your interviews. Mock interviews are great. Give
firm hand shakes. Be well organized with papers, dates, and materials.