Day in the life
As a medical student I remember that surveying various residency programs could be a daunting task. Do I want a program that is focused on academics or more deeply rooted in clinical training? I decided that for me personally, a program that has a healthy balance of the two with great surgery numbers was most important to my development as an ophthalmic surgeon. Early in my residency, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to train at UF. The vast pathology that we see and the number of procedures that we perform early in first year are unparalleled. This great volume of pathology and procedures is a definite bonus, but the camaraderie in our program is something that really can’t be over emphasized. If you are looking for a malignant program, then I’m sorry but that is probably the one thing that is not afforded at UF. At my interview I was amazed how happy all of the residents seemed and how well they interacted. As a current resident it is even more impressive how well everyone gets along and the family feel within the program. All of the attendings are easily approached and eager to teach. Research opportunities are also vast and range from case reports on the diverse pathology we see in clinic and on call, to working with our distinguished colleagues in the visual science laboratories. Aside from the opportunities in program, Gainesville is a historic college town with a great downtown atmosphere as well as nearby beaches and fresh water springs.
What is different about being a 1st year?
Being a first year is a lot like starting from scratch again. After medical school and intern year most people feel comfortable managing basic medical conditions, but ophthalmology is an amazingly diverse field that is very poorly taught until entering residency. This can be very overwhelming at first, but this sentiment is shared amongst every first year ophthalmology resident in the nation. What makes the experience smoother at UF is our absolute buddy call for the first 2 months of residency where our upper levels come in for everything. During this phase, upper levels help with learning the system, teaching exam techniques, diagnostic approach, and treatment. Combined with daily lectures and hands on teaching in clinics, this graduated autonomy is a tremendous help with confidence building for the rest of first year. Also, we only take primary call during our first year and with 5 residents in each class this is very manageable. First year we rotate through various sub-specialties at Shands Medical Plaza as well as spend 20 weeks at the VA. We are very fortunate to have a brand new, state-of-the-art VA eye clinic that provides us with a huge amount of pathology, excellent equipment, and countless procedures. First years at the VA perform procedures every day that may include intravitreal injections, laser surgery, and plastics procedures. We also start performing graduated portions of cataract surgery during our very first week at the VA. First year is a humbling, yet very rewarding stage of training that I am thoroughly enjoying.
I grew up in Florida but went to Massachusetts for college and worked afterwards in New York for a couple years. I returned to UF for medical school and decided to stay here for residency because I felt it had a great combination of top-notch training and surgical experience in a collegial environment with very approachable faculty. We’re also lucky to have a larger program size, which means the call burden is very manageable. In fact, after our first year of residency we never take primary call. With 15 total residents there are also plenty of opportunities to socialize, it’s common to find us hanging out over the weekends at the golf course or pool, or even taking at trip to somewhere close-by (it definitely doesn’t hurt to be in a warm-weather city). Despite the large class size, we still have excellent surgical numbers, and our residents all finish residency well prepared for whatever their next career step may be.
What is different about being a 2nd year?
Being a 2nd year is very different than being a 1st year because our medical and surgical experiences really take off. On many of the rotations, you are the senior resident and thus have the opportunity to get tremendous exposure and responsibility in both the clinics and OR. Our second year is divided into 5 ten week rotations. On our VA rotation, we are the primary surgeon on 60-70 cataract cases. On our Glaucoma rotation, we do 20-30 glaucoma lasers, as well as function as primary surgeons on a large number of glaucoma tubes. On our Retina rotation, as with the other rotations, we work one-on-one with our faculty, which is worth mentioning because our Retina fellow is usually in a different clinic or OR and not taking anything away from our Retina experience. We actually have quite a low ratio of fellows (3) to residents (15) given the size of our program, so I’ve found that the fellows are actually a helpful resource. Our Cornea rotation gives us a lot of experience in a variety of anterior segment surgeries, including a large number of pterygia and CIN removals. On our Peds rotation, we are involved in 40-50 muscle surgeries, and are primary surgeon on over half of them. Finally, one of the best parts of being a 2nd year is graduating to backup home call. We are called by our 1st years for complex or surgical patients, and we know that when we head into the hospital, whatever we see is either going to be an interesting case or a chance to go to the OR.
UF was my number one choice during the match and the reasons are plentiful. Beginning with the clinical experience, you will learn to diagnose and treat a wide range of pathology both at the VA and at the University clinics. The experience is unique because the program is a north Florida and south Georgia referral center, receiving a multitude of acute and complex cases. Also, at the VA rotations, you have a great deal of autonomy and continuity with your patients, setting you up well for future practice. Surgically, our program boasts some of the highest cataract numbers in the nation. I am just in the beginning of my third year and I have completed over 150 cataracts and I am on track for another 100-150. Of course, we are also primary surgeons on many anterior segment, plastics, glaucoma, and globe trauma cases. Probably just as important, our program does a phenomenal job of picking residents that are friendly, hardworking, and interact well with each other. They become part of your family and I know I will leave the program with lifelong friends. Positives about working in Gainesville include short commute and low living expenses. It is also located near several major cities and beaches to which you can venture out to with your fellow residents on your many off weekends.
What is different about being a 3rd year?
Third year is really about honing your surgical and clinical skills. Fortunately, you will have a lot of surgical and clinical experience as a second year, and so the transition will be easy. One of the perks of being a third year is a light call schedule. You will take 20 total weekday calls as backup and there are no are no weekend call days. At the beginning of your third year you will begin your fellowship application process or job hunt and so your relatively light schedule makes the process much easier. Unique to third year’s surgical experience is the Jacksonville rotation where you will learn refractive surgery. This was a major plus for me personally as I plan to continue with a Cornea fellowship and also plan to perform refractive surgery in my future practice.