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Ophthalmology: Research required for residency?

Discussion in 'Ophthalmology: Eye Physicians & Surgeons' started by hurdlepup, Jul 28, 2011.

  1. hurdlepup

    hurdlepup Surviving Intern Year
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    Since the last thread regarding this is over 5 years old, I thought I would ask what the current situation is regarding needing research for getting into Ophthalmology.

    Here's what I have, its all from undergrad, I am now an MS-3:


    Published in a (now) online ecology journal. First author. Subject is earthworms, not eyeballs.

    Got a research grant for a summer doing nematode research which I presented at my university's spring research symposium. Again, nothing to do with eyeballs.


    I am not really at a great research-focused med school, its definitely clinical. I think I could probably find some project to do, however, maybe more along the lines of public health and eyeballs. Any thoughts on whether I should invest my time in research now? Or just buckle down and do well on my rotations/Step 2?
     
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  3. txhorn

    txhorn ASA Member
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    This is something i'd like to know as well. I was told by an attending today that if i was really interested in ophtho, i should do some research since a lot of applicants have similar numbers these days... well, my step 1 is around the national average, and my preclinical grades were subpar.. so i'm thinking maybe i should focus honoring rotations and doing well on step 2? Any thoughts?
     
  4. junkemail86

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    I think that the answer to the question "should I do research or do well clinically" depends on what programs you are targeting. IMHO, if you are simply trying to get into ANY ophtho program, I would focus on 3rd year grades. I personally think that Step 2 is worthless, even rocking it probably doesn't do much to make up for a low Step 1, especially since the majority of people won't even have a Step 2 score by the time they are applying. And doing well on Step 2 after a strong Step 1 gives you no extra points. I've seen people with low Step 1's (<220) match comfortably from a middle tier med school with decent grades and weak research. But, I've never seen somebody get a top tier interview from strong grades alone. The factors that can get you an interview at a top program are: big wig letter, amazing Step 1 score, strong research, well-known family member in the field, and top medical school or home ophtho department. If a great research project comes along that you can manage along with third year rotations, I'd say go for it. I have seen people get top tier interviews (especially at research heavy institutions) in surgical subspecialties with mediocre grades/Step 1 but a standout publication (Nature, Science, main journal in the field like Ophthalmology, etc.).
     
  5. RestoreSight

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    It’s fair to say programs can recognize potential residents with true commitments to a career of research vs. those only padding their application. Research is important to match in ophthalmology, especially at top-programs, but definitely understand the difference between first-author published research in a peer-reviewed journal and research projects with no published outcome. The purpose of research is to publish, and anything less than that will fall short of the definition of research in most academic physicians' minds.

    The last page of the ophthalmology application is for "Research activities, papers and/or additional information:" I have known applicants who have been able to fill this area entirely with references to published research and I have known people just put one or two items in that probably have no place in this section. Their outcomes in terms of matching at all have not been substantially different. If a program has a strong research focus, it’s likely the person deciding whether to interview you will want to see published manuscripts and first-author abstracts more than research "in progress." These days, since everyone seems to have at least some research, it’s a decent idea to think ahead and have contributed to at least a clinical project or case report.

    With that said, I know many people who have matched well with only minimal research and average clinical grades. The key components to match at all are: (1) solid step 1 score; (2) Excellent LORs (3) Reputation of medical school; (4) Decent clinical grades; (5) excels at interview.

    To match in a top program (Wills, Wilmer, Mass Eye, Jules Stein, etc) requires more. You need some or all of the above: (1) Excellent board scores; (2) Top reputation of medical school; (3) Strong big wig letters; (4) Suberb research; (5) Family member or other personal contact; (6) excels at interview.

    STEP 2 is often an afterthought, but do well if STEP 1 is not so hot. I know of at least a few people who have mentioned it was brought up at the interview. Some students obsess over clinical grades, but they are honestly not a huge component. The only clinical grades anyone cares about are (1) medicine; (2) surgery and (3) ophthalmology.
     
  6. echinoderm

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    research can only help and not hurt... it's a good way to distinguish yourself from everyone else who looks the same on paper... i would suggest making time for it.
     
  7. speyeder

    speyeder Attending
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    Do you absolutely need research to match in ophtho? No. You can find applicants every year who match without it.

    Do most applicants list some form of research on their CAS? Yes.

    So if you have great research it can help, especially with top academic programs.

    For most applicants without a zillions pubs, having research just helps them keep up with the Jones'.

    Not having research can draw negative attention to your application. Interviewers may wonder if you are lacking in motivation or worse, question your commitment in the field.

    In other words, I think everyone should strive to have some sort of ophtho research under their belts, if for no other reason than the fact that almost everyone else applying to ophtho does. Think of it almost as an unwritten requirement.

    And the more 'below average' you are as an applicant the more you need research.
     
  8. MstaKing10

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    These two entities are not mutually exclusive. You should try for both. Of course, one can offset the other if one is spectacular, but all told, a balanced application demonstrates more of a well rounded applicant.
     
  9. hurdlepup

    hurdlepup Surviving Intern Year
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    Thanks for the feedback everyone!

    I've had an interest in Ophtho due to personal reasons for several years, but once I hit med school I started opening everything up for consideration. (Also, wanted to see what I could do on Step1--wished I hadn't doubted myself.) Ophtho just remains at the top for me, and I'm gonna give my research idea a go and see what I can get done in the space from now til applications. :)
     
  10. FunnyCurrent

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    I'm a fairly average MS1 at a top ranked university and I have some questions about what makes a competitive Ophtho applicant. I have read and heard a number of conflicting things from superiors, PI's, upperclassmen, and books (the successful match, etc).

    Is research more or less important than preclinical grades? The book "The Successful Match" would suggest that the latter is more important. Also, most upperclassmen would suggest that matching Ophtho is very numbers oriented. I have thrown caution to the wind (regarding my grades) and have opted instead to focus on studying out of review books (for step1) and doing projects in Ophtho. This means I just pass my courses (sometimes barely). Is this strategy unwise?

    I have 2 first author pubs from undergrad (1 tangentially related to Ophtho, one that is not), 2 Abstracts in ARVO, a couple of poster sessions, and one presentation. Now that I am at a major research institution I have the opportunity to work with world class/renowned ophthalmologists. Should I continue to not give a crap about my preclinical grades? Doing so give me more time for research. My goal is to match very well and hopefully do a fellowship in cornea, retina or path. The first is a major research interest of mine.

    - someone looking to alleviate guilt/anxiety over grades and justification for doing more interesting things with his time.
     
    #9 FunnyCurrent, Mar 3, 2012
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2012
  11. The Doctor

    The Doctor EMH Mark I
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    I think what you've planned regarding focusing your first two years on studying for step 1 and doing ophtho research makes a lot of sense if you know 100% ophtho is what you want to go into. The preclinical grades do not matter anywhere near as much as the step 1 score, and I wish I had understood this as an MS1. That said, it would probably start to matter if you barely passed everything or failed a few preclinical courses. The same does not apply to clinical grades - those do matter. You want to get honors in Medicine, Surgery, and Ophtho. If you wanted to continue this trend of planning ahead for the actual important milestones of med school (with respect to an ophthalmology application), you could consider reading Blueprints Medicine and NMS Surgery Casebook and browsing surgical recall over the summers now before your clinical year begins so that you can ace those rotations. If you have those honors grades and a high step 1 coming from a top university with good research, then I imagine you're set. AOA you might not get due to the preclinical grades, but I think that is a lesser consideration. If, however, after clinical year you suddenly decide you like orthopedic surgery, all the time up front spend doing ophtho research might be wasted.

    I like how you've narrowed in on the most important things, and I wish I could get a good sense now of how to do this for ophthalmology residency. I've started reading ophthalmolgy textbooks trying to prep while I have free time during the rest of my fourth year, but I don't have the benefit of hindsight as I now do with medical school, so it's of course much harder to know what's important for residency.
     
  12. FunnyCurrent

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    "you could consider reading Blueprints Medicine and NMS Surgery Casebook and browsing surgical recall over the summers now before your clinical year begins so that you can ace those rotations"

    Do you think that I this would be useful even without the pathology knowledge? I am honestly very tempted to do so.

    "I've started reading ophthalmolgy textbooks trying to prep while I have free time during the rest of my fourth year, but I don't have the benefit of hindsight as I now do with medical school, so it's of course much harder to know what's important for residency."


    Sounds like you've matched to Ophtho. If this is the case congratulations!

    Given your hindsight I am really interested in hearing about anything you wished you did differently. Perhaps a quick bullet list of things you wished you did differently at any point from starting medical school to applying to interviewing etc.

    I really appreciate the advice. Thanks!
     
  13. The Doctor

    The Doctor EMH Mark I
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    I think a lot of people would disagree with me in what I told you. After all, there are a lot of comprehensive features to med school you don't want to miss along the way (e.g. your other rotations, etc). But I like your attitude of focusing on the critical components to make sure they are covered. I remember identifying these goals as a first year student and knowing I needed to ace step 1 and honor medicine and surgery and do research. The only thing was, I knew what I needed to do with respect to step 1 and didn't take my own advice and focused too much on research rather than step 1. I think studying along with Step 1 First aid for these first two years, and maybe even buying a subscription to USMLEWorld online q-bank to start doing the questions over and over again is not a bad idea as you go along. You will really understand each page of the book by the time it comes for you to sit down and study over the summer, and I believe there is something valuable about starting studying early and long for repetition after repetition. I guarantee you that focusing on step 1 early will pay off.

    Regarding the books for your medicine and surgery rotation, those will be important for your shelf exam which will likely play a part in your rotation grades. I do think you could gain knowledge from them even without the first two years under your belt. For example, a lot of the surgical bread and butter you are tested on -> carotid endarterectomy, appendectomies, cholecystectomies, colon cancer, etc - you can just learn these diseases and their associated features, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment as a separate discrete topic from these books. Learning about them early on isn't a bad thing unless it detracts from what you need to be studying right now. Just skimming the books and gaining an overall awareness of the vocabulary and disease overviews might be helpful. The book Pocket Medicine goes in your white coat pocket, and I have learned so much from this book. It's not a great primary source textbook to read until you understand more, but it might be good to read this alongside Blueprints Medicine or First Aid for the Medicine Clerkship.

    Wish I had done differently: (I matched at my #1 near my family and am happy about it, so these are general thoughts)
    1. Focused less on pre-clinical courses and studied review books and q-banks for step 1 concurrently. Do not take step 1 under any circumstances until your practice tests are consistently 240 or above. You cannot undo the exam, improve it, or escape the consequences of a lower score.
    2. Studied harder for shelf/end of course exams. I focused a lot on working hard on my rotation teams and this helped me to get good grades, but frequently I found myself wishing I'd started studying nightly at the start of the rotations.
    3. Focused on PUBLISHABLE research projects early on. I had a long research experience through which I learned a lot, but ultimately presentations and publications are very important.
    4. Worked harder to maintain physical fitness, hobbies, and relationships during med school
    5. Identify specific mentors early on for the purpose of your letters of recommendation. E.g. a well known research ophthalmologist, a junior faculty ophthalmologist that you work heavily with clinically, and a core medicine clerkship director that you can impress.
    6. Have your application ready a month early, apply broadly, and send in any secondary applications post-haste

    Good luck!
     
    #12 The Doctor, Mar 4, 2012
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2012
  14. RestoreSight

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    I would say that clinical grades are actually far less important and free time should be used principally for (1) research projects and (2) making contacts with members in the field. Browsing text books months ahead of your rotations will not improve your shelf scores. To honor a clinical rotation requires intense study during that period and your free time prior to that can be used more productively.

    If you are interested in ophtho I would introduce yourself to the chairman of your ophtho department and ask him about opportunities for medical students to get involved in research. He or she can probably recommend which docs take on students on a regular basis. This will allow you to learn about a topic related to ophtho, make an important connection and publish. Eventually, you can ask for a letter and the likelihood of it being stellar will be much greater if you have worked with that person for a long time.

    I went on 15 interviews, many at top 10 programs, and matched #1. No one ever asked about my clinical grades (high pass med, high pass surg), but they definitely pimped me on my research publication history for which I had multiple first author pubs and they definitely mentioned my letters which were strong because I had worked with the individuals since my MS-1 year.

    STEP 1 is key too, but again, its hard to prepare for this months to years in advance. You sort of ramp up to it as a MS-2, then REALLY ramp up a few weeks prior to the exam. Time before that is better served building up your CV as an MS-1, getting research activities under your belt, and introducing yourself to members of your respective ophtho department. Someone you have worked with closely may one day make a phone call for you to a collegue at another program, and who you know in such a small, prestigious field is really most important of all and trumps everything else.
     
  15. neuronerd12

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    Here is the perspective from FMG point of view. For AMGs, it is entirely different ball game. For FMGs, from what I have seen so far basic research is CRAP and a waste of time. I am a resident in Ophthalmology now (in Sri Lanka) and two of my college seniors (both from Jaffna) ventured into research quite a few years ago and never managed to match or even to get a PhD. They are caught in the vicious cycle of dissecting inbred animals day after day and applying for match year after year! Bottomline, do not waste time on basic research. Nobody cares about that. It will never help you to match. Just my opinion from what I've seen. There may be exceptions, but those are exceptions not general rule.
     
  16. RestoreSight

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    I can't comment from the FMG point of view, but in the US research is critical to match at top programs. I am sure there are exceptions, but I have not met a single candidate who entered the US match without SOME research, whether clinical or basic science with or without a publication. Looking at the publications in the top 5 or so ophthalmology journals by impact factor, its pretty clear basic science research publications are highly prized. Yes it takes longer, yes the application to clinical practice is less distinct, but its far from CRAP. I would say its bad advice to applicants in the US to avoid basic science research.
     
  17. MstaKing10

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    Totally agree with you, but this is the main problem with basic science research. Unless you can find a project that is nearly done or short and sweet (does that even exist in basic science?!?), it is very hard to get your name, especially as first author, on a publication in the limited time one has during medical school. That said, if you are able to pull it off, it certainly stands out from the pack.
     
  18. neuronerd12

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    I said it was for FMGs, and it was not meant to be advice. Just my personal opinion based on what I have seen and heard which may be right or wrong. For FMGs research is waste of time and CRAP. Otherwise how can you explain the simple fact that almost anybody and everybody who applies gets into research posts in no time and then spends years there without ever getting residency? Don't tell me, they love research. They do it for residency and they never get it. So how is it helping? Everything is on USMLE scores. For AMGs, everything is different on which I can not comment.
     
  19. The Doctor

    The Doctor EMH Mark I
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    I think it's difficult to make definitive statements about what one should or should not do to get into residency. The types of activities you engage in should support your career interests and the type of programs to which you intend to apply personally. Two FMGs matched at my home institution this year, a top 10 program, most likely due to their extensive research experience. I think it's difficult to state that research could not benefit FMGs if that research is coupled with good scores and publications in top journals. Low level research that doesn't result in first author publications may not be helpful if you intend to apply to top 10 programs, etc.
     
  20. ArtfulDodger

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    Duke?
     
  21. neuronerd12

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    Am I missing something here? Americans even if they graduate from another country, don't exactly count as FMGs. Last year only 3 FMGs matched: one Indian boy and another Jordanian both in south and an Indian girl in east coast. I know the programs, far from bing top tier and this is real statistics. I don't undrstand how 2 FMGs could match at a single program and that too a top one???
     
  22. BPEIpathology

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    An FMG I know who matched this year had tremendous credentials--that's your answer in a nutshell, really.

    Where you getting that only 3 FMGs matched last year? You may want to check that again.
     

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