Frequently asked Questions by MS1s and MS2s

Exposure to the field and creating positive relationships with ophthalmologists are extremely important.  Doing an elective in Ophthalmology, shadowing ophthalmologists, reviewing the American Academy of Ophthalmology website, and participating in an Ophthalmology Interest Group during medical school all are valuable to pursue.

As Ophthalmology is a highly competitive specialty, doing research is considered essential.  Both clinical and basic research in Ophthalmology are encouraged.  

Direct contact with Ophthalmologists who have an affiliation with the medical school, as well as private practice ophthalmologists who may be doing research are highly recommended.  The Scholarly Project office may have ideas and a list of Ophthalmologists who would like medical students to be involved with their research.

Volunteering in community Ophthalmology programs is encouraged and can aid the student’s application for residency.  Being a leader in an Ophthalmology Interest Group would be a wise activity to pursue.

Recent NRMP data suggest a Step I score upwards of 250.

Frequently asked Questions by MS3s and MS4s

Asking for letters early is advised, as letter writers typically are busy, and will need time to review your documents.  Also important is to request letters soon after having worked with the letter writer, as your work habits and skills will be fresh in his or her mind.  As Ophthalmology uses the San Francisco Match, applications are submitted around August 15.  Hence, the need to request letters of recommendation early, and earlier than classmates applying for residencies other than Ophthalmology.

For Ophthalmology residency application, both CAS & ERAS applications are necessary.  For CAS, the applicant must have 3 letters of recommendation, and only 3.  These 3 letters will be submitted to all programs.  For the ERAS application, the applicant may have 4 letters of recommendation, and specific letters can be sent to different programs.

Yes, by all means.  Typically, two letters from ophthalmologists are recommended, 1 from a core clinical clerkship, such as Internal Medicine or Surgery, and for ERAS, a fourth supplemental letter can be obtained.

This is typically not required, and neither from an Ophthalmology Program Director, but this may be program specific so please review the individual program websites.  However, if the applicant is known well by either of these, or from a renowned Ophthalmologist, any of these can be very valuable for the application.

Yes, these can be extremely valuable, particularly if the applicant seeks to match into that specific program.  Doing well in the away rotation, and getting letters of recommendation from Ophthalmologists in that program markedly enhance the student’s application.

Specific Information for Ophthalmology

  1. As noted above, Ophthalmology uses the San Francisco Match to match students into “Advanced” or PGY-2 positions.  The San Francisco Match uses the Central Application Service (CAS) which has an earlier registration date around August 15.  The San Francisco Match requires rank list submission approximately the first week of January, and releases match results mid January.
  2. Since Ophthalmology is an “Advanced” position, students must still register and apply through ERAS for their preliminary (PGY-1) year, which opens Sept 15.  This PGY-1 year must consist of a minimum of six months of clinical experience.  While any clinical field is accepted, most Ophthalmology residents choose to pursue an Internal Medicine preliminary year.  It is not a requirement to complete the PGY-1 year at the same institution where the trainee is completing Ophthalmology residency.
  3. Ophthalmology is 36 months of training following PGY-1 year, so four post graduate years in order to complete training.  Following residency, ophthalmologists may choose to subspecialize further with a fellowship program.  Surgical retina and oculoplastics are two year fellowships, while most other programs are one year.

Additional Resources

Ophthalmology Objectives for Medical Students 

Click here to visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) website

Click here to visit the American Board of Ophthalmology website

Click here to visit the UofA Com-P Department of Ophthalmology website


Ophthalmology Specialty Report

Click here to view Ophthalmology specialty report