Oh SH!T I didn't match! -- University of Utah Ophthalmology Pathology and Research Fellowship

Discussion in 'Ophthalmology: Eye Physicians & Surgeons' started by pappyMD, 01.14.14.

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  1. pappyMD

    pappyMD 2+ Year Member

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    Hey y'all,


    This post is for anyone who did not match into Ophthalmology this cycle or to anyone who has matched but has a gap year for research. First of all, not matching sucks. Big time. I lived that nightmare a year ago, and it certainly put a damper on the rest of 4th year. However, I made the decision to forego my internship year and do a year of Ophthalmic Pathology and research. And I have to say, my fellowship in Utah truly has been an incredibly productive experience, as I have produced textbook chapters, review articles, and case reports – all of which have been submitted for publication and most have been accepted. I’ve also written board review questions for the Ophthalmic Pathology component of Ophthoquestions.com and will be presenting some of our intraocular lens studies at ASCRS in Boston this April. Needless to say, doing this fellowship really did strengthen my application and gave me plenty to talk about during all of my interviews. Thus, I believe this fellowship paid off in dividends, and if I were you, I WOULD DO THIS FELLOWSHIP IN A HEARTBEAT.


    I copied the description used in last year’s SDN post and placed it below. But I want to give you a better idea of what we do…


    Our fellowship is split into three main components: 1.) Research; 2.) Ophthalmic Pathology, and 3.) Pre-op examinations


    1.) Research: We primarily do intraocular lens research in the rabbit model to test the biocompatibility of a huge assortment of IOLs. These are generally IOLs that are not on the market, and some of which are undergoing FDA approval. One cool lens that we work with is the light adjustable lens. As a fellow, you won’t do the surgeries, but you will sedate and dilate the rabbits and also prepare them for each slit lamp examination. Some of these long-term (1-6 month long) studies yield publications, and since Drs. Mamalis and Werner (the directors of the fellowship) are so generous, they will allow you to write up the study and get a first-author publication. Drs. Mamalis and Werner also encourage you to branch out and work with other folks at the Moran Eye Center provided it does not interfere with your fellowship duties.

    2.) Ophthalmic Pathology: As fellows, we gross in each specimen submitted to us from the OR. “Grossing in” essentially means that we describe the specimen’s outward appearance and dictate it so that Dr. Mamalis’s secretary can transcribe the report. Afterwards, each Wednesday, we meet with Dr. Mamalis and a couple of the residents from the University of Utah to go over the microscopic descriptions of each specimen. During my 7 months in Utah, we have seen a wide range of pathology – a couple of retinoblastomas, several choroidal melanomas, and many non-accidental trauma cases – and as a result, you will gain an abundance of experience and knowledge that is unparalleled by your peers.

    3.) Pre-op examinations: We divide all of the pre-op patients at the Moran among the three fellows and perform history and physical examinations on each patient. This allows you to maintain your clinical abilities during this year “off.” We also write the order forms for each patient and sometimes, when a resident is not available, we scrub in to assist on cases.



    Needless to say, I was incredibly shell-shocked last January when I heard that I did not match. It ruined my fourth, and presumably “best,” year of medical school. My advice to you, though, is that if your heart is still set on Ophthalmology, ignore the haters and please consider our fellowship.


    PM with any questions. (Also contact Dr. Mamalis’s secretary, Anna Gardiner, with any questions regarding your app: [email protected]).


    All the very best to you.



    --------------

    Thank you for your interest regarding our fellowship position. It covers ophthalmic pathology and anterior segment research as detailed below. If you are interested in this one year fellowship then please proceed as detailed in the letter and send your application in January of 2013 for the fellowship beginning in June of 2013 through June of 2014.

    The fellow will learn the basics of both the gross and microscopic evaluation of ophthalmic histopathology specimens submitted to the laboratory. In addition, the fellowship involves both basic and clinical ophthalmic research. Fellows are involved in multiple projects involving cataract surgery, intraocular lenses, and anterior segment surgery in general. Research projects are performed using cadaver eyes as well as animal eyes. Clinical research opportunities involve various clinical studies in areas as diverse as cataract surgery adjunct treatments, intraocular lenses, dry eyes, and ocular inflammation. In addition, the fellows are involved in ongoing research projects regarding the analysis of postoperative endophthalmitis/inflammation as well as ongoing studies of complications of foldable intraocular lenses.

    The fellows have a chance to spend time in the ophthalmology clinics as well as assisting in ophthalmic surgeries. During this one-year fellowship position, the fellow may attend any departmental lectures, conferences and Grand Rounds. There is ample opportunity for publications during the one-year fellowship.

    Applicants should either have an MD or DO degree. In addition to your resume which you may have already forwarded, please send the following: a personal statement, three letters of reference, US-MLE steps 1, 2, or 3 scores, and any ECFMG certificates if applicable. If it is more convenient, you may simply forward your central application match packet to me. If you have already applied to Utah for this past match cycle, we are able to pull up your application so sending a new one would be unnecessary.

    This fellowship is a wonderful opportunity to gain valuable knowledge in ophthalmology as well as to obtain publications which would help to prepare for an ophthalmology residency program.

    The basic stipend is approximately $30,000 per year. However, the fellows will do preoperative physical examinations on surgical patients and may have an opportunity to work with Utah Lions Eye Bank. If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
     
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  3. linevasel

    linevasel Junior Member 10+ Year Member

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    Just want to give a shout out to Moran and whoever posted this. I was not a ocular path fellow here, but did interview for a position. Next to Bascolm's fellowship, it is one of the most established productive options available. Secondly as someone who lived in Utah for a good portion of my adolescence... please don't let the State or its politics scare you. SLC and the great state of Utah are not one and the same. And there are a lot of ways to stay occupied (not that you will have time to do it...) whatever your flavor of the day.

    Also, the faculty at Moran are some of the nicest people you can meet. Just saying.
     
  4. DrZeke

    DrZeke yzarc gniog ylwolS 10+ Year Member

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    I just want to give a shout out to PappyMD, he's an awesome dude. Congrats in matching!!
     
  5. candidate14

    candidate14

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    Hello pappyMD or anyone else,
    I had a couple of questions. Unfortunately, I did not match and am in the position of making a decision of either pursuing a research year for ophthalmology or just applying to a different and less competitive specialty.

    My first question is what is usually the match rate coming from the Utah Fellowship Program? I do not want to be in a position of not matching again and essentially having to go to another field again next year.
    My second question is did you happen to get more interviews this time around and were any of them at the same places? I am afraid that I have placed by best foot forward this year with 8 interviews and for some reason I dont think I may reach that number again and feel that these programs wont interview me again.
    My third question is about letters. I know that the program starts in June, however, SFmatch starts back up around July. Did you have adequate time to get letters from your mentors at Utah?
    My fourth question may be a bit of a stretch. I know that getting an MD is a requirement. However, I want to know if there were any programs that could waive that. I feel like when applying for ophtho or another field if ophtho does not work out is way much greater if one applies as a US senior with a fellowship under his/her belt rather. Just a thought and many advisors of mine suggested to intentionally not graduate if I take a research year if possible?
    Thanks for your help and it gives hope to us who didnt match but still want to pursue the field!!!!
     
  6. DrZeke

    DrZeke yzarc gniog ylwolS 10+ Year Member

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    Candidate14, if you can get your hands on that fellowship and are productive, it doesn't matter if you are applying as a US grad instead of as a US senior.

    I think most will agree the match rate for the US grads is worse than US seniors because those people have to better their application since their last one. Not everyone is able to have a productive year and some people fail the match initially for reasons that cannot be changed or helped unfortunately.

    It's not enough to do a fellowship or research year, you have to make an impression while doing it..
     
  7. linevasel

    linevasel Junior Member 10+ Year Member

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    You are in a tough spot. Bascolm and Moran path fellowships won't take you if you don't graduate. You would need to be an MD so they can bill for the history and physicals. At this point, you have missed the deadlines for most of the historically recognized research programs - (NIH, Doris Duke, etc, etc). However, if you can swing a research year with some BigWig advisor it is definitely worth a shot, and yes.... technically on SF match you would look like a US senior applying. The only thing I would caution however is that you should strongly consider not applying this July. There isn't much you can do to improve your app between now and July. But a lot can be accomplished with a year of research / year of shadowing / year of growth / year of personal reflection. I think we would all acknowledge how much it sucks. But I will be very frank with you. It doesn't suck worse than failing to match a second time. It is not an easy decision. Take your time, and look up some of the "didn't match" threads. If I were you, I would consider applying for the fellowships and try to set up a gig with someone in your home program, providing you have big wigs or you can work with somone who has a record of advocating for students to be accepted into your home program (since that is likely your best shot). Go to the interviews. Most happen in march/april if i recall correctly. You'll know from interview if they are a good fit for you or not and then you can decide from there. So long as you have a plan in place and your Dean is in support you have some time to strategize..,..
     
  8. pappyMD

    pappyMD 2+ Year Member

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    Thanks to DrZeke and to linevasel for doing a great job of answering the questions posed by candidate14. Here's my take....

    1. "What is usually the match rate coming from the Utah Fellowship Program?" The Utah fellowship has existed for over 20 years. In that time frame, generally around 80-90% of folks coming from our program match. That said, the past few years have been a bit more challenging given the increasing competitiveness of the ophtho match, and as a result, we've had a couple of fellows not match their second go-around for the past three or so years. You have to put this in perspective, however -- just as DrZeke mentioned, very, very few US grads are able to secure a position in the ophtho match. I believe <10% are able to do so. So while our program does increase your chances, matching is never guaranteed. Be prepared to invest your heart and soul into the research year and make an excellent impression on the folks at Utah, BP, or wherever.

    2. "Did you happen to get more interviews this time around and were any of them at the same places?" The first time around, I received 10 interviews but was only able to go on 8. The second time around, 13 interviews, and I made damn sure to go on all of them. Only one program interviewed me both years, and that was the program at which I matched this year (so I am incredibly thankful to them!).

    3. "Did you have adequate time to get letters from your mentors at Utah?" The path fellowship officially starts on June 1st, but since I finished my last med school rotation mid-April, I moved out to Utah at the beginning of May. This gave Drs Mamalis and Werner two months to get to know me, and so I was fine with both of them writing LORs for me. I would also urge anyone who gets an ophtho path fellowship to do a path rotation during their 4th year. That way, you can hit the ground running when you come to Utah. I think it helped me quite a bit.

    4. "However, I want to know if there were any programs that could waive [the MD requirement]." I actually did not know the answer to this question when you posed it, so I asked Dr Mamalis. He will not waive the MD requirement.

    Hope this helps!
     
  9. Hopefulone09

    Hopefulone09 5+ Year Member

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    I don't believe the <10% statistic... If you look at the actual stats from last year assuming EVERYONE who didn't match from the previous year reapplied the match rate would have been 24%. Seeing as not everyone reapplies again it seems very unlikely the match rate would be that low.
     
  10. hopefullyis

    hopefullyis

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  11. pappyMD

    pappyMD 2+ Year Member

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    Dear hopefullyis,

    You've very welcome. Happy to lend any advice I can regarding this process. "I have to try again and am very interested in working in an ophthalmic path lab and learning a lot next year." -- I definitely admire your spirit, and I wish you the very best. I think this outlook is the correct way to approach an ophtho path year or whatever else you end up doing to beef up your application. Regarding your question... for the past three years, the Utah fellowship's success rate has been 2/3 each year, ie. two out of the three fellows matched. The ones who did not match ended up applying a third time, and while I'm not certain of the outcomes for each individual, I do know that one person ended up matching their third go-around and I'm very happy it worked out for them.

    If you will, allow me to go on a rant. Reapplication is an incredibly daunting process. Very few people will say this, but it is a huge red flag on your application and programs are biased against it. Your application will be heavily scrutinized, and programs may think that you didn't match the first time because you were either weird, disinterested, or a jerk during your interviews the prior year (so, many of them will not even consider your application). For the majority of reapplicants, I do not think this is at all the case. Matching into ophthalmology is a NUMBERS game -- the more programs you rank and the more programs that rank you, the higher your chances of matching. That said, it would behoove you to apply to all 113 programs or so (if you are a reapplicant) in order to increase your chances from the get-go even though it is incredibly expensive (on the order of 3k, just to send out your apps). As I said before, I received 10 interviews the first time and 13 the second time... only one program interviewed me twice... what I glean from this is that programs think "oh well, I gave them a chance last year, they blew it, so maybe they'll match somewhere else..." My colleagues in this fellowship have also had trouble getting reinterviewed by many programs. When it comes to reapplying, think like this: No program, no matter where it may be located or the reputation it may have, is beneath you. And if your heart is truly dead set on ophtho, you will come to accept this as fact and will be willing to go anywhere.

    Now, I know that many people have reservations about coming to Utah given some of the stereotypes of the place. I can say that I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here. I've met several excellent people, have made lasting friendships, have learned a ton, and have found outstanding mentors at the Moran Eye Center. In earnest, I do believe this fellowship was the best and most productive thing to have happened to me. My goal when I came here was to match -- and in order to do that, I knew that I would have to write and publish like crazy. Within the first week of arriving at the Moran, I asked most of the professors here if they had any projects, and fortunately a few of them did. I got involved in writing short book chapters (much like the ones in the Wills Eye Manual) for one of the doctors here, writing case reports for another doc, writing board-style questions for ophthoquestions.com, and writing a review article and doing a grand rounds presentation with Drs Mamalis and Werner. Now, I'm naturally a very easygoing guy, but I approached the fellowship with an incredible amount of intensity -- I certainly did not take any "free" or "vacation" time during the summer or fall -- and it paid off for me the second time around. I wholeheartedly believe that sometimes in life, you have to take risks and make sacrifices. Yes, you run the risk of not matching a second time around even if you do a research year, but I think there's something to be said for those who do not bow down to adversity.

    Anyway, that's my take. As I said before, I wish you all the very best in whatever you decide to do!
     
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  12. hopefullyis

    hopefullyis

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    pappyMD,

    Thanks for clarifying the rematch rate for the program at Utah and for your honest feedback about the process of reapplication. I totally agree with "No program, no matter where it may be located or the reputation it may have, is beneath you. And if your heart is truly dead set on ophtho, you will come to accept this as fact and will be willing to go anywhere." Congrats on your success!
     
  13. OphthoUTAH

    OphthoUTAH

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    If you all didn't match, make sure you check out Dr. Ambati's research fellowship at the Moran Eye Center as well. See: forums.studentdoctor.net/threads/university-of-utah-ophthalmology-fellowship-with-dr-ambati.1052831/ (you have to copy and paste this link for it to work)


     
    Last edited: 01.30.14
  14. OphthoUTAH

    OphthoUTAH

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