surggirl

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I am a general surgery resident and have been considering switching to opthalmology for some time now. I was interested in opthalmology as a student, but at the time I thought gen surg would be a better choice. General surgery is not quite what I thought it would be. Thus far, I have just been thinking about the idea because I have no idea where to start taking any action on it. I would like to get some advice on where to find open positions, and what program directors look for. I guess I would like to know how feasible it would be for me to switch residencies completely.
 

orbitsurgMD

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Dec 27, 2005
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I am a general surgery resident and have been considering switching to opthalmology for some time now. I was interested in opthalmology as a student, but at the time I thought gen surg would be a better choice. General surgery is not quite what I thought it would be. Thus far, I have just been thinking about the idea because I have no idea where to start taking any action on it. I would like to get some advice on where to find open positions, and what program directors look for. I guess I would like to know how feasible it would be for me to switch residencies completely.

There are quite a few people who have done at least a general surgery internship before starting ophthalmology. I am one of them.

You haven't said exactly where you are in your residency. Each year, there are some open PGY2 spots; they are hard to predict. If you want to skip the usual match process, which anticipates a delay for internship, you might try to fill a vacancy. You should be prepared to relocate to do this, there aren't usually very many. Be prepared to explain your change of mind, though.
 

baya

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Just a gentle reminder to spell it as "ophthalmology" when you apply...

I am a general surgery resident and have been considering switching to opthalmology for some time now. I was interested in opthalmology as a student, but at the time I thought gen surg would be a better choice. General surgery is not quite what I thought it would be. Thus far, I have just been thinking about the idea because I have no idea where to start taking any action on it. I would like to get some advice on where to find open positions, and what program directors look for. I guess I would like to know how feasible it would be for me to switch residencies completely.
 
OP
S

surggirl

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May 16, 2008
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There are quite a few people who have done at least a general surgery internship before starting ophthalmology. I am one of them.

You haven't said exactly where you are in your residency. Each year, there are some open PGY2 spots; they are hard to predict. If you want to skip the usual match process, which anticipates a delay for internship, you might try to fill a vacancy. You should be prepared to relocate to do this, there aren't usually very many. Be prepared to explain your change of mind, though.
Thanks for responding. I am currently a PGY2. You mentioned that you did a general surgery internship. Were you in general surgery, or was this just the preliminary year you chose instead of medicine? And if you were in surgery, how did you make the decision to switch?
 

anisocoria

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Apr 3, 2007
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I was a categorical surgery resident/intern at a pretty good program in Philadelphia. I too had been considering ophthalmology as a MSIV, but ended up going into GS. It became clear to me pretty quickly that I had made a mistake--general surgery just didn't match my temperament, etc. Once I got the guts to actually make "the decision," I spoke with my program director. He was really nice, and even introduced me to the Wills program director who served as my mentor during the whole process of applying to ophthalmology. My fellow residents were super nice and I was able to switch calls etc. in order to attend interviews. My advice, though, is to pay attention to timing. I was very late in entering the ophthalmology match. When you do decide to go for it, make sure you are able to get your letters and application in early. I did have a year between finishing my surgery internship and starting ophthalmology, so I did a year of research in plastic surgery and transplantation. And I read. Overall I have no regrets. I love ophthalmology and feel that the sacrifices and time lost involved in the switch are more than compensated for by a much better fit for me and also a much brighter future as an attending (it goes without saying that it's a much nicer life as an attending ophthalmologist than an attending general surgeon in terms of hours, headaches, etc).

So to summarize:

Notify your program director (only) once you've really committed to making this switch.

Find an ophthalmologist (preferrably an academic) to serve as your mentor during the process.

If you match directly into an immediate vacancy, that's great. If not, you'll have to come up with something to do during the interim year. Make it productive and enjoyable. It's a great time to beef up your CV and to read a lot of ophthalmology.


If this is really what you want to do, I say go for it. But a person doing this should have a relatively strong application (USMLE, grades, letters of rec, etc.) because you will be reviewed as an "atypical" applicant. And if you lose your general surgery position and don't match into ophthalmology, you will definitely be up the proverbial creek for a while.

Good luck.
 
May 5, 2010
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I was a categorical surgery resident/intern at a pretty good program in Philadelphia. I too had been considering ophthalmology as a MSIV, but ended up going into GS. It became clear to me pretty quickly that I had made a mistake--general surgery just didn't match my temperament, etc. Once I got the guts to actually make "the decision," I spoke with my program director. He was really nice, and even introduced me to the Wills program director who served as my mentor during the whole process of applying to ophthalmology. My fellow residents were super nice and I was able to switch calls etc. in order to attend interviews. My advice, though, is to pay attention to timing. I was very late in entering the ophthalmology match. When you do decide to go for it, make sure you are able to get your letters and application in early. I did have a year between finishing my surgery internship and starting ophthalmology, so I did a year of research in plastic surgery and transplantation. And I read. Overall I have no regrets. I love ophthalmology and feel that the sacrifices and time lost involved in the switch are more than compensated for by a much better fit for me and also a much brighter future as an attending (it goes without saying that it's a much nicer life as an attending ophthalmologist than an attending general surgeon in terms of hours, headaches, etc).

So to summarize:

Notify your program director (only) once you've really committed to making this switch.

Find an ophthalmologist (preferrably an academic) to serve as your mentor during the process.

If you match directly into an immediate vacancy, that's great. If not, you'll have to come up with something to do during the interim year. Make it productive and enjoyable. It's a great time to beef up your CV and to read a lot of ophthalmology.


If this is really what you want to do, I say go for it. But a person doing this should have a relatively strong application (USMLE, grades, letters of rec, etc.) because you will be reviewed as an "atypical" applicant. And if you lose your general surgery position and don't match into ophthalmology, you will definitely be up the proverbial creek for a while.

Good luck.

I would love to switch to Optho from IM, is it possible to do so with no research though? Is it possible to finish my intern year and then try and arrange for a clinical research year (do they even exist for Optho?) and then apply to Optho?
 

Eyefixer

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Nov 26, 2007
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I would love to switch to Optho from IM, is it possible to do so with no research though? Is it possible to finish my intern year and then try and arrange for a clinical research year (do they even exist for Optho?) and then apply to Optho?
Ahhh, Ophtho misspelled 3 times. Come on, it's not that hard. O-P-H-T-H-O.
Please realize if you do this on your application, you won't get a single interview, promise.

On a more positive note, just took my oral boards!!!!! I am soooo tempted to burn Last Minute Optics, but what if I need it in 6 months??? Oh well, we'll know in 3 weeks.