What to Expect During Ophthalmology Residency

PGY3 ophthalmology resident Alexa Thibodeau, MD, details the unique aspects and advantages of the residency program at the Kellogg Eye Center.


Clinical rotations for residents in the ophthalmology residency program are about two months long and include general ophthalmology and all the subspecialties, inpatient consultation, and ophthalmic pathology. All take place at the Kellogg Eye Center, the UM Hospitals, and the Ann Arbor VA Medical Center, which is a half mile from the Eye Center. A typical day begins at 7:30 a.m. in the O.R. or in the clinic and ends with didactic lectures or Journal Club in the evening.

For a look inside the Kellogg Eye Center, visit the Why Train at the Kellogg Eye Center page.

1st-year experience

The first year emphasizes refractions, history-taking, detailed observations and descriptions of normal and abnormal states, use of specialized equipment, interpreting visual fields, scans, and films, and developing a reasoned approach to a treatment plan. First-year residents can expect to participate in pathologic examination of globes, cataract surgery, minor surgical procedures, laser surgery, strabismus surgery, oculoplastics, and enucleations under direct faculty supervision, and to give local anesthesia injections. First-year residents assist on eye plastics, cornea, retina, and intraocular cases and become familiar with pre- and postoperative patient care. All residents participate in the Low Vision clinics their first year and will have assisted in the management of approximately 100 low vision patients over the course of their residency. Primary call coverage is scheduled based on a nightfloat at-home call system involving both first and second year residents. Each PGY2 and PGY3 resident will complete one 3.5 week nightfloat period per year where they function as the primary call resident on Sunday through Thursday night. PGY2 residents on nightfloat have both a PGY3 resident and a PGY4 resident available on call at all times to discuss patients by phone or for whatever type of in-person backup assistance is needed.

2nd-year experience

Second-year residents build their skill levels and perform cataract surgery, repair lacerations and globe ruptures, as well as more complicated strabismus procedures and eye plastic procedures under direct faculty supervision. They perform biopsies, lesion excisions, and laser surgery. It is typical for second-year residents to perform 15-20 cataract extractions. By the end of the residency, each resident will have been first surgeon on approximately 170 - 200 cataract procedures. Second-year residents should be capable of evaluating any patient and creating a valid treatment plan. PGY3 residents complete one 3.5 week nightfloat period per year where they function as the primary call resident on Sunday through Thursday night. They have a PGY4 surgical resident available for assistance at all times.

3rd-year experience

By the end of the third year each resident will be able to deliver high quality ophthalmic care independently. Each will be able to interpret all tests and studies, make a diagnosis, initiate therapy, and perform a broad range of ophthalmic surgical procedures on both routine and complicated cases. Third-year residents perform all types of surgical procedures under direct faculty supervision. After they have gained extensive experience with common procedures, training time is devoted to complex clinical and surgical cases with faculty supervision. They are the primary surgeons for all ocular trauma. Third-year residents also participate in pathologic examination of globes.

Grand Rounds

Every Thursday morning residents present and discuss complex cases with the faculty, with case selection rotating among the subspecialties. One session per month is devoted to ethics discussion and one session to a complications conference.

Visiting Professors

Ophthalmologists with expertise in all subspecialties are invited annually with a program structured to introduce residents to diagnostic and therapeutic approaches used at other institutions. Six visiting professor sessions are scheduled annually on Fridays.

Sample Conference Schedule

Sample Clinical Conference Schedule (pdf)

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House Officers Association

Residents at the University of Michigan Health System are organized under the House Officers Association (HOA). The HOA has a contractual agreement with the University. Members of the association receive many benefits, including a strong salary program and paid time off.