I am an applicant this year and plan to pursue retina. This is what I have gathered... Retina is has become an increasingly competitive fellowship. The bottom line is that if you go to a top ten academic residency you will have an easier time getting into a good fellowship. With that said... I believe that one can land a great retina fellowship out of any residency by being resourceful and self motivated. Retina fellowship seems to depend highly on knowing the right person to make phone calls for you, doing good research, being a hard working and a nice person to work with. The first two above mentioned are easier if you are surrounded by big wig retina people pumping out ground breaking research every month. Most small programs however, have one or two well connected people that you can befriend and good research projects that can be dug up. If you have the choice... go to Doheny or Bascom Palmer...you will be set. But if this is not an option or if high powered academic programs aren't your style...all is not lost if it was meant to be.
I just matched into my top choice after interviewing at 12 of the top surgical retina fellowships. In deciding where to do residency, I would have two things in mind: 1) who will write my letters (ideally two mentors who are well known in the field, yet approachable and whom you can publish with during residency), 2) into what retina fellowships have the residents matched in past years (just ask the program director or current residents). The applicants at the most competitive programs all came from top 20 residency programs, but that doesn't mean you can't match at a great fellowship if you go to a lesser program that happens to house a big name a big name in retina whom you befriend as your mentor. There are a lot of wonderful opportunities out there. Best of luck!!