I clearly remember my first day of ophthalmology residency. I was nervous, excited, and unsure of what to expect. It seemed as if I was starting over again. Little of what I had learned in medical school prepared me for that day. There was a very steep learning curve in the first few weeks, and somehow I survived, with a lot of help from my fellow residents. I became comfortable seeing patients, triaging problems, and treating complex ophthalmic diagnoses.
Every July, I think back to my first few weeks of residency. What do I wish I had known? What advice would have helped me thrive? I took this opportunity to query current residents and fellows. Here’s what they said.
What is the best advice you can give incoming first-year residents?
Siri Shetty, MD: Be ready to learn ophthalmology at an extremely fast pace. Focus on learning exam techniques as you start the year. In addition to the Basic and Clinical Science Course (BCSC), read up on diagnoses/treatments when you see patients with conditions that are new to you. Look up pictures in ophthalmology atlases of things you see (or are supposed to see) on exam. Seek help from your senior residents when you need it. Try to go to wet labs throughout the year so that you are ready when you get the chance to go to the operating room.
Ruik Chee, MD: Residency is not going to be as easy as you think. Prepare to work hard and avoid complaining.
Sarah Van Tassel, MD: Try to read a little every day. In the beginning, this seems impossible because you’re so tired at the end of the day; however, it’s important to work to create the habit early so that within a few months, you’ve carved out time to read daily.
Matt Nguyen, MD: Try to enjoy and take it all in. It’s a rebirth, after intern year. It’s like starting over again.
Thomas Dohlman, MD: Just take it all in and enjoy. Try to make the most of every day because the year will fly by.
Now that the year has wrapped up, what is the most important thing you learned this year?
Dr. Shetty: I learned that no matter how much you know, there is so much more that you need to learn.
Dr. Chee: Ophthalmology residency goes by very quickly. Make full use of the time in residency to learn, as there isn’t much of it. Don’t waste your time away.
Dr. Van Tassel: Cataract surgery!
Dr. Nguyen: Ophthalmology contains multitudes. There’s something for everyone even within the field.
Dr. Dohlman: I learned how to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Everything will be new (exam, language, surgical skills, hospital, environment), and you’ll have a packed schedule. You will have multiple things going on at once with all of your clinical responsibilities, call responsibilities, and self-learning responsibilities.