The University of Arizona College of Medicine offers a three-year ophthalmology residency program combining clinical training, academic activities, and research opportunities. Four first year positions are available at the PGY-2 level, with 12 total residents at the University of Arizona.
The University of Arizona Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Science is a major southwestern referral center. The UA Department of Ophthalmology consists of six full-time and three part-time ophthalmologists. There are two full-time research faculty, two optometrists, a large associate staff of volunteer faculty, and a supporting staff of technical personnel. There are three full-time and five part-time physicians at the Southern Arizona Veterans Administration Health Care System (SAVAHCS). Three affiliated hospitals -- Banner-University Medical Center Tucson (BUMCT), Banner-University Medical Center South (BUMCS) and SAVAHCS -- with active inpatient/outpatient services, as well as research and teaching facilities, are involved in the residency program.
Residents participate in state-of-the-art diagnostic and therapeutic interventions with patients.
Note from the Program Director
The University of Arizona Ophthalmology Residency Program is located in Tucson, Arizona. Tucson is a medium-sized, sun-belt city where the lifestyle is relaxed, the dress casual, and the cost of living affordable. Leisure activities center around the outdoors and the surrounding desert. The University of Arizona is a huge resource and brings many cultural events to the city.
The University of Arizona Ophthalmology Residency Program is a small, but extremely active resident-focused program.
Admission into our program is extremely competitive, as we typically receive over 400 applications for the four positions available each year. Potential residents applying to this program should have strong academic qualifications, interpersonal skills, and research experience. A premium is placed on interpersonal skills and the ability to interact closely with colleagues and peers. We take a great deal of pride in the fact that this program provides an extremely pleasant environment in which to live and work.
The strength of this residency program lies in its strong clinical and surgical volume. Recently, the residents have averaged over 200 cataract surgeries by the time they finish their training. In addition, extensive clinical and surgical experience is available in the subspecialty areas of glaucoma, strabismus, retina, external disease, and oculoplastic surgery.
The basic science curriculum is a required part of the didactic program. The second and third year residents attend an ophthalmological review course; the Department pays for the course, travel, and housing. Additionally, formal weekly lectures and clinical rounds are the core of the didactic program. Residents are rewarded for their research efforts, and travel is provided to national meetings at which their work is accepted.
In conclusion, this program is demanding but very rewarding. Residents are given the tools they need to enter either general ophthalmology practice or pursue further subspecialty training. Our residents are very satisfied with their experience here in Tucson and are prepared to practice ophthalmology and become Board certified after graduation.
-- Todd Altenbernd, MD
The foundation of the residency didactic program is weekly rounds and lectures every Friday morning. Residents present clinical cases weekly at grand rounds on Wednesday mornings. The Department also sponsors evening lecture programs with visiting speakers and associate faculty. Both are excellent venues for interaction with the community physicians. Residents take the OKAP exam annually. Senior and second year residents may attend a national OKAP review course.
The Department has a 40-person conference room with multimedia capability. There is a resident computer lounge and an on-site library with recent ophthalmic publications and reference texts. The Arizona Health Sciences Library website provides free online access to over 90 key ophthalmic textbooks, which includes all subspecialties--atlases, video atlases, general ophthalmology references, differential books, therapy references, etc. Some of these books are the go-to sources for general information on a topic. The Library also provides free online access to numerous ophthalmology journals.
During the three-year residency, residents assume increasing responsibility for patient care. Beginning residents are closely supervised, and then given increasing autonomy as they demonstrate proficiency and understanding. Residents prepare case presentations, organize journal clubs, and assist in teaching medical students rotating through ophthalmology. In addition, senior residents, with faculty supervision, are expected to supervise and teach junior residents. Faculty are assigned and available for consultation with the residents on all rotations.
The first year (PGY-2) resident performs complete ocular examinations in the outpatient facilities, becoming proficient in gonioscopy, indirect ophthalmoscopy, tonometry, biomicroscopy, refraction, and physiologic testing. The resident rotates through the Alvernon clinics; SAVAHCS for a continuity care clinic, retina and oculoplastics; the private practice of Dr. Duerksen for oculoplastics; and the private practice of Drs. Bakewell, Fishkind, Maltzman, and Hunter for refractive surgery. The resident gains extensive experience in evaluating walk-in and emergency patients on a daily basis. The earliest encounters with ocular trauma are during the first year; and there is exposure to the subspecialty services, including contact lenses, cornea and external disease, glaucoma, neuro-ophthalmology, oculoplastics, pediatrics, and retina. The resident begins assisting at surgery during this year, and performs minor surgical procedures.
The second year (PGY-3) resident rotates through cornea and external disease, general, glaucoma, pediatrics, and retina. The resident participates in rotations at the private practices of Cornea Associates and Retina Associates Southwest. The resident also rotates at the SAVAHCS for continuity clinic, retina, and oculoplastics.
During their third year (PGY-4), the resident serves as Chief Resident for three months of the year and manages clinics at SAVAHCS for nine months. The resident at this stage of training performs surgery under faculty supervision. Based on the problem, the resident's experience, and attending preference, there will be successive levels of autonomy. The resident will be involved with the pre-operative and post-operative care of each surgery performed. As Chief Resident, the resident will have responsibility for scheduling their clinical and surgical duties. They will be given a block of time each week for administrative responsibilities. They will also assist in supervising the junior residents. At the conclusion of the third year, the residents are expected to be able to enter practice without direct supervision.
The faculty of the University of Arizona Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Science firmly believe that research experience is essential for developing an appreciation of medical literature and scientific methods. The Department subsidizes residents to present their research at national meetings.
University of Arizona clinical faculty have varied research interests in the areas of cornea, cataract surgery, refractive surgery, myopia, glaucoma, infectious diseases, optics, amblyopia, dry eyes, and neuro-ophthalmology. Our research faculty have special interests in the area of optics, cell biology, glaucoma, and visual development. The Department has a very active clinical studies program with special emphasis in Hispanic and Native American eye conditions. The Department has ongoing collaborations with the University of Arizona College of Optical Sciences, Biomedical Engineering, Pharmacology, and Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering.
During the first and second year, call is approximately one night per eight days and one weekend per two months taken from home, covering the three affiliated hospitals. During the third year, weekday and weekend call is approximately one day/week in four for surgical backup, again taken from home.
The University of Arizona College of Medicine Program is a fully accredited residency program. The program was reviewed in 2012 and re-accredited through the year 2020.
Residents are employees of Banner Health and receive 20 days of vacation a year, all scheduled through the Chief Resident and Residency Program Director. There are six holidays and five sick days per year. Other benefits include medical and dental insurance, professional liability insurance, maternity/paternity leave, and lab coats. Stipends for the academic year 2020-2021 are as follows: PGY-2 $60,721; PGY-3 $63,888; PGY-4 $66,461. After one year of employment, residents are eligible for up to a 4% employer match to their 401(k) contributions.
At the University, residents hold designated campus colleague appointments, providing access to the University of Arizona Library and the campus recreation center, as well as other privileges. Educational leave to make presentations at national meetings is available, and, upon Department approval, a travel allotment is provided.
For further information about the residency program, contact: