About the Specialty
Ophthalmology is the branch of medicine that provides the complete medical and surgical care of the eye and related structures of the visual system (extraocular muscles, eyelids, orbit, nerves, visual pathways, and more). Yes, they can (and often do) prescribe glasses and contact lenses. But their spectrum of care extends much further. It requires mastery of the anatomy, physiology, microbiology, and pathophysiology of the eye, as well as an understanding of optical physics. To treat ocular and visual disorders, ophthalmologists are really both internists and surgeons. – Freeman, B. (2013). The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Medical Specialty. 3rd Ed. Lange Medical Books/McGraw-Hill: New York. p.295.
Answers to Common Questions
- Attributes of a Competitive Student
What factors typically make a student competitive for this specialty?
Class rank, STEP 1 scores, reputation of their medical school, good interviews, research experience.
How important is research experience in your specialty? If important, does it need to be in the specialty itself?
Meaningful research is helpful. Publications are helpful. It does not need to be in ophthalmology, however this does demonstrate an interest in this field. Research experience is not essential to matching, but it can help.
How can students identify opportunities for shadowing?
Contact the Student Interest Group student leaders for information on shadowing.
Each January, we present an overview of the specialty, elective, residency application process, and research opportunities in the Faculty Club beginning at 5 p.m. The specific date will be sent to students prior to the event.
What electives would you recommend to a student who is interested in pursuing your specialty?
These are not essential, but may be helpful: ENT, plastics, dermatology, infectious disease and rheumatology.
Based on your experience, what tips do you have for students to shine on your electives?
Be on time, attend all assigned lectures, clinics and surgeries, ask good questions, present an interesting case at grand rounds during the rotation.
- Away Rotations
Does your specialty recommend doing away rotations?
The Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology does not recommend audition electives. In some cases, an away rotation may be considered (for example: need to match in a geographic location).
If your specialty recommends doing away rotations, how many “aways” do you recommend?
We do not recommend doing more than one away rotation.
If away rotations are necessary, when should they apply and when should they be completed?
If an away rotation is chosen, the best time to do it is after the MS4 elective at UT Southwestern is done. Interviews are generally in October to December. It is best to try and do an elective before then.
- Interview Timing
Which month do you recommend taking off to interview?
Interviews for Ophthalmology occur in October to December, as it is an early match. It is best to have a flexible schedule during these times. They aso will be interviewing for internships, which usually occurs later. This needs to be considered as well.
- Letters of Recommendation
How many letters of recommendation are needed to apply to your specialty?
Typically, three letters.
Does your specialty recommend that all letters of recommendation be written by members of your specialty?
No, we would prefer to have at least one letter from a “core” rotation, surgery as medicine or surgery.
If letters can come from other disciplines, do you have a recommendation as to which disciplines are more highly valued?
Surgery, surgical subspecialties, medicine, medical subspecialties.
Does the academic rank of the letter writer matter?
It helps, but the most important thing is the quality and contents of the letter. I recommend a letter writer who knows the applicant well and can speak specifically about that individual.
Does your specialty require a letter from the chairman?
No, but the chairman will meet individually with each UT Southwestern student applying for residency and offer to write them a letter.
- UT Southwestern Department of Ophthalmology
- American Academy of Ophthalmology Resources for Medical Students