Curriculum

Residents undergo training in the surgical lab

The Harvard Ophthalmology curriculum combines a strong didactic curriculum with diverse clinical and surgical training. You’ll graduate fully equipped to begin a career in general ophthalmology or to pursue fellowship training.

Regular Didactic Sessions

Harvard Ophthalmology Grand Rounds

During Grand Rounds on Thursday mornings, residents and fellows present case studies, which are moderated by diverse faculty, including Joseph F. Rizzo III, MD; Dr. Reza Dana, MD, MSc, MPH; Matthew Gardiner, MD; and Dean Eliott, MD. The interactive nature of the rounds allows attendings, trainees, nursing staff, and social workers to discuss clinical cases from multiple perspectives.

Chief Resident's Rounds

Led by the chief resident for one hour, three days per week, these rounds are an opportunity for PGY-2 residents to review the fundamental scientific and clinical principles in the field of ophthalmology, as well as case presentations. 

Ophthalmology Lecture Series

On Friday mornings, faculty present two, one-hour lectures for residents as part of a two-year over-arching didactic curriculum that covers all subspecialties.

Surgical Morbidity and Mortality Rounds

Every quarter, the residents present complications of surgical cases to colleagues, the chief resident, and the faculty of the Comprehensive Ophthalmology Service. 

Subspecialty Rounds

The cornea, glaucoma, and pediatrics services sponsor regular journal clubs that are open to all interested residents. There are also many subspecialty visiting lecturers throughout the year.

Macula Conference

This weekly conference is led by Evangelos Gragoudas, MD. Junior residents present retina cases to retina fellows and discuss the evaluation and management of retinal diseases.

Regular Surgical Teaching Sessions

Innovation and Interaction Sessions: Each month, residents come together for a three-hour protected wet lab session, designed by the chief resident with faculty volunteers. Instructional sessions are divided by skill level and geared toward hands-on teaching of surgical techniques across all subspecialties. Past sessions have included a refraction bootcamp, a scleral buckle lab, and a minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS) workshop, to name a few. Read our Program Brochure [PDF]

One-on-one-Training: In addition, residents have one-on-one wet lab sessions with faculty that are built into the weekly rotation schedules.

Surgical Retina Conference

This twice monthly conference is led by Dean Eliott, MD. Second-year retina fellows present cases, with a focus on the surgical management of retinal diseases. Faculty, fellows, residents, and community surgeons are welcome to attend. 

Annual, Resident-Centered Conferences

Chandler Course: The annual Chandler Professorship is a one-day course, in which residents present invite a visiting professor to whom they present unknown clinical cases. This course is resident-led and allows residents to engage a visitor of their choice in interesting clinical conversations.

Residents’ Course: This biennial course is moderated by a visiting professor. Each resident chooses a clinically relevant question within that year’s theme, explores the literature, and prepares a review paper to present. These papers are published in a special edition of International Ophthalmology Clinics

Boston Ophthalmic Pathology Lecture Series: A joint venture between Harvard Ophthalmology and Boston University’s Department of Ophthalmology, this series features pathology lectures related to different ophthalmology subspecialties. The lectures are delivered by national leaders in ophthalmic pathology and occur about twice each academic year. Anna Stagner, MD, organizes the series.

Pediatric Ophthalmology Visiting Professor Lecture Series: This lecture series—arranged by Anne Fulton, MD—features faculty leaders in the field of pediatric eye disease and strabismus. Visiting professors give lectures and interact with faculty, residents, and students. 

Annual, Resident-Centered Surgical Training Courses

Harvard Intensive Cataract Course: PGY-3 ophthalmology residents and teaching faculty from around the country gather at Mass. Eye and Ear for the annual Harvard Medical School (HMS) Cataract Course. During this two-day, weekend event, residents participate in a seminar covering all aspects of cataract surgery, with didactic and wet lab components.

Introduction to Strabismus Surgery Course for Intermediate Year Residents: This one-day intensive seminar covers all aspects of strabismus surgery with didactic and wet lab components. It is attended by PGY-3 ophthalmology residents from HMS and Boston University, and teaching faculty from Mass. Eye and Ear, Boston University, and Boston Children’s Hospital.

PGY-2

Junior residents learn through lectures, a series of core ophthalmology clinical rotations, and experience in the Mass. Eye and Ear Emergency Department. Residents are introduced to ophthalmic surgery by observing in the operating room and performing a handful of operative cases as primary surgeon. PGY-2 rotations include:

Emergency Department

Teaching Attendings: Matthew Gardiner, MD, and rotating clinical faculty 

Under the supervision of Mass. Eye and Ear faculty and fellows, PGY-2 residents staff the Mass. Eye and Ear Emergency Department and are responsible for triaging all eye-related emergencies. These cases cover the entire spectrum of ophthalmology (e.g., vision loss related to trauma, infection, oncology, vascular disease, and others). 

Residents learn to function independently and manage a wide variety of ocular pathology and ocular trauma. Junior residents work the day shifts in the Mass. Eye and Ear Emergency Department. They do not take overnight call. Instead, they rotate through a night float system, covering nighttime shifts in the Emergency Department. 

Ophthalmic Pathology

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The Eye Pathology Service at Mass. Eye and Ear is among the best in the country. Each junior resident spends a clinical rotation in the Eye Pathology Laboratory, examining and reporting on the large volume of specimens daily. The residents learn to make clinical-pathologic correlations and work closely with the Eye Pathology fellow to prepare cases for daily review with the attending. This provides extensive one-on-one training and discussion of cases. Residents are given increasing independence as their skills expand.

Ophthalmic Plastic, Orbit, and Cosmetic Surgery

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In the Ophthalmic Plastic Surgery Service, junior residents learn to manage a variety of oculoplastic problems, including lid disease, facial fracture, lid and orbital tumors, lacrimal drainage problems, and cosmesis. Each resident also spends about 1.5 days per week in the operating room, participating in blepharoplasties, ptosis repairs, excisional biopsies, orbitotomies, facial fracture repairs, and enucleations. Residents take a portion of home call, with back-up supplied by the Eye Plastics fellow and attending.

Retina

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PGY-2 residents will become familiar with fundus pathology and learn to manage retinal problems, including diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, ocular infections, uveitis, and retinal tears and detachment. Residents interpret fluorescein angiograms with supervised review of retinal imaging studies on a weekly basis. Residents are also responsible for preparing cases for the macula conference each week. About one-half to one full day per week is spent in the operating room.

Comprehensive Ophthalmology

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PGY-2 learn the basics of ophthalmology by evaluating adult patients in the comprehensive clinics. About one full day per week is spent in the operating room.

Glaucoma

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PGY-2 residents learn basic skills in managing patients with glaucoma, including examination and evaluation of the optic nerve, interpretation of visual fields, and gonioscopy. Teaching rounds with the faculty provide valuable guidance. One full day per week is spent in the operating room.

Cornea and Refractive Surgery

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Residents help manage a high volume of patients with corneal, anterior segment, and external disease problems, as well as those interested in refractive surgery. Residents learn to manage a wide variety of corneal diseases, including corneal dystrophies, ocular surface disease, infections, burns, and ocular surface tumors. They also gain valuable experience in standard corneal transplants. One-half to one full day a week is spent in the operating room.

Neuro-Ophthalmology

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Starting in AY20-21, PGY-2 residents will be introduced to Neuro-Ophthalmology on a combined Neuro-Ophthalmology and Adult strabismus rotation. On this rotation, they will learn to manage neuro-ophthalmic presentations, while gaining exposure to strabismus surgery in the operating room. 

Trauma

Attending: Marisa Tieger, MD (AY20-21)

Each year, one Harvard Ophthlamology resident is selected to remain as a junior faculty member after graduation. This person plays a large administrative and teaching role in the program and also serves as Director of the Mass. Eye and Ear Ocular Trauma Service. PGY-2 residents work with the chief resident to care for patients with open-globe injuries, hyphema, lacerations, traumatic cataracts, and traumatic glaucoma. They perform pterygium surgeries under the supervision of the Chief Resident.

Boston VA Hospital

For each year of training, there is one rotation at the Boston VA Hospital. Residents see both general and subspecialty patients and participate in surgery and lasers appropriate for their training levels. 

PGY-3

PGY-3 residents refine their exam, diagnostic, and surgical skills by rotating through subspecialty clinics and functioning as independent consultants (with appropriate attending supervision) for hospitals affiliated with Harvard Ophthalmology.

During each rotation, a significant amount of time is spent performing oculoplastics, strabismus, vitreoretinal, and cataract surgeries. Residents also perform intravitreal injections, and retina and glaucoma laser procedures.

Residents work closely with leading figures in each subspecialty and see patients from around the world. They also see patients with rare hereditary retinal degenerations at both the Berman-Gund Laboratory for Retinal Degenerations and at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Most attending ophthalmologists perform chart rounds at the end of subspecialty clinics to discuss interesting clinical cases and review salient teaching points. This helps residents understand clinical management decisions.

Neuro-ophthalmology at Mass. Eye and Ear

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Residents evaluate and manage patients with complex neuro-ophthalmic diseases. Weekly teaching conferences promote discussion and review of the diverse patient population cared for in this clinic. 

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center 

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Residents participate in comprehensive ophthalmology and subspecialty clinics, including cornea, retina, glaucoma, and neuro-ophthalmology. 

Residents spend a significant amount of time participating in, and serving as, primary surgeon for cataract, retina, and glaucoma surgeries. They also perform anterior and posterior segment laser procedures. 

Boston Children's Hospital

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Residents work closely with the ophthalmology faculty at Boston Children’s Hospital—one of the country’s top pediatric hospitals—to gain experience performing exams and work-ups and managing routine and complicated pediatric ophthalmology patients. 

Residents spend one to two days per week in the operating room, performing primary strabismus surgeries and assisting in oculoplastic and anterior segment surgeries. 

Ophthalmic Plastic, Orbit, and Cosmetic Surgery at Mass. Eye and Ear

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During PGY-3, residents play a more active role in the operating room and participate in more complex surgeries. At least two full days a week are spent operating. 

Boston VA Medical Center

Teaching Attendings: Nicholas Butler, MD; Courtney Ondeck, MD; Allison Soneru, MD; Mary K. Daly, MD
Vasiliki Poulaki, MD, PhD; John Gittinger, MD; Daniel Lefebvre, MD

PGY-3 residents participate more heavily in subspecialty clinics, including retina, glaucoma, cornea, and eye plastics. 

Residents perform most of the intravitreal injections and glaucoma and retinal laser procedures. They are in the oculoplastics operating room one-half day every other week. 

Comprehensive Ophthalmology/Brigham and Women's Hospital 

Residents are taken through cataract surgery in a stepwise fashion with a new step performed and perfected each week. By the end of the rotation, residents should be performing complete phaco surgeries under the supervision of the attendings. This step-wise introduction allows residents to gain confidence and prepares them for a busy surgical experience during PGY-4. Residents also provide inpatient consultations. 

PGY-4

The PGY-4 year ear is divided into eight different rotation blocks, each lasting six to seven weeks. During this intensive training, residents build on the surgical skills they acquired in their first two years of training by performing cataract, glaucoma, anterior segment, open-globe, and retina surgeries. Each operative case is staffed by an attending surgeon.

Residents examine patients in clinic, participate in the preoperative evaluation, perform the patient's surgery, and see the patient in the immediate postoperative period. Through these experiences, the residents become excellent surgeons and clinicians.

Comprehensive Ophthalmology Service

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Senior residents perform cataract surgeries with each of the attendings. They should already be experienced cataract surgeons because of the step-wise introduction during their PGY-3 year. Residents become comfortable with superior and temporal approaches and clear corneal and scleral tunnel incisions. They gain expertise in complex cataract surgery techniques, including using trypan blue, capsular tension rings, iris hooks, and Malyugin rings.

Glaucoma Service

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Senior residents perform trabeculectomies, insert tube shunts, and use lasers under faculty supervision. They also refine their medical management skills.

Boston VA Medical Center

Teaching Attendings: Nicholas Butler, MD; Courtney Ondeck, MD; Allison Soneru, MD; Mary K. Daly, MD
Vasiliki Poulaki, MD, PhD; John Gittinger, MD; Daniel Lefebvre, MD

This is a cataract-intensive rotation, where senior residents play an active role in the pre-, intra-, and postoperative management of patients and assist in the general ophthalmology and subspecialty clinics at the Boston VA. Residents also gain experience with premium lenses such as toric IOLs. For eligible patients, senior residents perform the preoperative workup, lens calculations, and surgery. 

Residents are in the operating room every other day, serving as primary surgeons for cataract and glaucoma surgeries. 

Togus VA Medical Center

Teaching Attendings: Jeffrey Dempski, OD; Michael Garvey, MD

The Togus VA is a regional referral center for ophthalmology in Maine. Residents are exposed to a broad range of ocular diseases. 

Two days each week, residents serve as the primary surgeon for cataract surgeries. One day each week, they perform minor procedures, including eye plastics procedures and glaucoma and retina laser procedures. 

Each resident is provided a three-bedroom house with kitchen and laundry facilities, allowing for family or spouses to join them, if desired.

Retina Service

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Senior residents gain experience in the surgical management of retinal disease and spend 1-2 days in retina operating rooms. Residents also spend two half-days per week in Dr. Gragoudas’ tumor clinic and one half-day per week in his operating room learning about the medical and surgical management of ocular tumors. 

Cornea Service

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Senior residents refine their medical and surgical management of corneal disease. They spend 1-2 days in the operating room and laser suite. 

Aravind Eye Hospital, India A (Elective)

Attending: N. Venkatesh Prajna, DNB

PGY-4 residents can complete an international elective here in India to broaden their clinical and surgical experience.

At the Aravind Eye Hospital, residents witness an impressive international healthcare system that delivers affordable, high-quality eye care to a large volume of patients. Residents participate in the cornea, glaucoma, and uveitis clinics with exposure to end-stage inflammatory and infectious diseases uncommon in the United States. The residents spend one-half of each day in the operating room and serve as primary surgeons for cataract surgeries (extra-capsular, small-incision cataract surgery and phaco-emulsification).

Trauma

Teaching Attending: Marisa Tieger, MD (AY20-21)

The senior residents perform all open-globe repairs under the supervision of the chief resident and supervise the PGY-2 residents in minor procedures, such as simple eyelid laceration repairs. On average, each senior resident performs 15 open-globe repairs.