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Ophthalmology Sub - Program Overview

Program Overview

The VCU Health Department of Ophthalmology offers a 36-month resident training program that includes 100 percent faculty supervision in all clinics, laser suites and operating rooms. In addition, there is a joint intern year with the Department of Internal Medicine that provides 3 months in ophthalmology. Four residents are accepted each year though the San Francisco Match application process.

The program offers a diverse patient population and extensive surgical experience. Additionally, every year residents produce an independent research project that can be presented at a national meeting. These projects are also presented at a year-end research day conference.

Our goal is to produce well-trained, ethical and compassionate physicians and surgeons. Recent graduates have obtained prestigious fellowship positions, full-time university academic appointments and successful private practice opportunities. We invite you to learn more about How to Apply, our Clinical Rotations, Our Faculty and our Training Facilities.

The department’s residency program is fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, which sets general requirements for residency training programs and specific requirements for each specialty.

Resident curriculum

Residents participate in a comprehensive multi-modal curriculum, which prepares them for their careers. The curriculum is broken down into the following components:

Core lectures

  • • Comprise a series of lectures, based on the AAO Basic and Clinical Science Course, covering all sub-specialties. These occur regularly during the week from 7-8 a.m. at the Nelson Clinic or the VA Medical Center. Lectures are also given during Friday afternoon academic sessions (see below).

Departmental conferences

  • Grand Rounds - Occur on the first Tuesday of the month from 6:15-8 p.m. The residents present interesting cases and the faculty mediates discussion.
  • Journal Club - Occur on the third Tuesday of the month from 6:15-7:15 p.m. Our Journal Club has alternating conferences with sub-specialty based articles selected by our faculty and residents addressing clinical and surgical research.
  • Surgical Case Conference - Follows journal club on alternating months from 7:15-8 p.m. and focuses on discussion and management of surgical challenges and complications. The residents present a detailed surgical log consisting of complication rate, 90-day outcomes, and variables targeted to improving surgical performance, efficiency and safety.
  • Additionally regularly scheduled discussions of surgical complications also are conducted at the VA Medical Center.
  • Clinical Case Conference - Follows journal club on alternating months from 7:15-8 p.m. and focus on the management of patients in clinic, on-call or on hospital consults. Cases presented focus on longitudinal care and ways to improve the patient care and patient safety.

Resident academic sessions

Academic sessions are held on the first, third and fifth Friday of the month from 1-5 p.m. at the Nelson Clinic. All residents are free of clinical responsibility except the on-call resident and the senior resident at the VA Medical Center.

The following conferences and lectures occur during this time period:

  • Neuro-Ophthalmology Core Lectures and Case Presentation Conference - Material from the basic science series is presented by our faculty in traditional lecture format and case-based learning. Additionally, electrophysiology cases are also presented.
  • Cornea Case Conference - Cased based conference on cornea and anterior segment diseases, presented in a format mirroring ABO oral boards, mediated by our faculty. Augmented with examining patients with representative pathology.
  • Vitreoretinal Imaging Conference - Covers the fundamentals and principles of retinal imaging: Fluorescein (IVFA) and indocyanine green angiography (ICG), optical coherence tomography, fundus auto-fluorescence and ultrasonography. Additionally the use of these modalities in the diagnoses and management of various vitreo-retinal diseases is discussed in a case-based format.
  • Clinicopathological Conference (CPC) - Residents present interesting cases encountered in the clinical setting. Discussion covers a case presentation, diagnostic data, differential diagnosis and treatment. Emphasis is placed on information relative to the OKAP exam. Our faculty mediates discussion.
  • Quality Improvement Conference (QI) | Patient Safety - Residents present cases that they have followed over time in clinic, focusing on improvement in patient care/safety. Questions generated during the discussion are developed into QI projects where a problem is: (a) identified, (b) quantified, (c) addressed, and (d) monitored for change post intervention. Residents are encouraged to complete the project during this time. Our faculty mediates discussion.
  • Research Time - Residents are required to perform a research project each year. Protected time for research is provided during resident academic sessions. Emphasis is placed on IRB submission, data collection, analysis and presentation.
  • Clinical Skills Lab - At various times during the year, hands-on workshops are arranged for the residents in areas such as: phacoemulsification wet-labs, suturing, intra-ocular lens loading and biometry.

Resident research

Residents are required to complete a research project annually. They are encouraged to devise their own project or select a project with one of our faculty members. Projects are presented annually at Resident’s Research Day and at regional/international meetings. Numerous projects have also been accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals.

Additionally, a guest speaker is invited to Resident’s Research Day who presents their work and helps critique the resident presentations. An award is given to the best project each year.

Resident teaching

Residents participate in the education of each other and rotating off-service residents and medical students.

  • Morning report - Senior residents mediate morning report from 8-8:30 a.m., covering cases seen by on-call residents. Discussion focuses on clinical presentation, differential diagnosis and management.
  • Off-service residents - Residents participate in the education of rotating residents from the department of internal medicine, emergency medicine and pediatrics.
  • Medical students - Residents participate in the education of medical students including didactic sessions and clinical workshops in the following settings:
    • Practice of Clinical Medicine Course
    • Surgical Clerkship Sub-Specialty Rotation
    • Advanced Acting Internship in Ophthalmology


  • Monthly BCSC examinations – Residents are provided a subscription to the AAO Basic and Clinical Science Course Self-Assessment Program. Each month residents select a BCSC core topic of study and are assessed on that topic via the corresponding online tests available through the AAO Residency Hub. Scores are collected and evaluated longitudinally.
  • PGY-2 Fundamental of Ophthalmology and Clinical Skills Assessment Examination - A specific curriculum exists for first-year residents aimed at the basics of the eye and ophthalmic examination. A written and practical test, devised by our faculty, is administered within the first six months of residency.
  • PGY-2 Theory of Ophthalmic Procedures Examination - Near the conclusion of the first-year, residents take a written test assessing their knowledge of ophthalmic procedures as they transition into their second year of training.
  • OKAP - All residents participate in the annual Ophthalmic Knowledge Assessment Program examination.

Educational Resources and Events

  • Subscription to Basic and Clinical Science Course Self-Assessment Program
  • Digital access to the Basic and Clinical Science Series
  • Yearly wet-labs hosted by Alcon and B&L
  • 1st Years:Wills Eye Course 
  • 3rd years: San Antonio Ophthalmology Course


“‘The residency training at VCU helps aspiring ophthalmologists to become confident, well-rounded clinicians and surgeons. The surgical training is second to none. The combination of wonderful faculty and the breadth of pathology makes VCU an excellent training program." - Adam Pflugrath, residency Class of 2019