Article Date: 4/1/2010

Should You Pursue a Residency?
From the AOSA

Should You Pursue a Residency?

The options are numerous, the process is clear cut and the rewards are significant.

By Shilpi Ratra, AOSA Treasurer

Although Residencies aren't mandatory in optometry, ODs who have completed a residency say this advanced clinical training teaches more in one year than most folks learn in several years of clinical practice. Residencies allow ODs to expand their clinical knowledge, and they open doors to new opportunities to work in hospitals, organized optometry and academic institutions.

If you agree that learning is an ongoing process, then an optometric residency may be right for you.

A Fulfilling Experience

Optometric residencies have been around since the late 1960s. The first one began as a 3-month clinical training program at the University Optometric Center in New York City. Since then, residencies have been developed all over the country, and the numbers continue to grow. In fact, the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education has accredited more than 300 residency positions in academic institutions, Veterans Administration Hospitals, secondary and tertiary care centers and military settings.

Residency programs are one year long and emphasize specific areas of optometry, offering numerous opportunities to expand your knowledge. They emphasize reading and reviewing the current literature and often require residents to write papers that are worthy of publication. In addition, many residency programs offer teaching opportunities, such as lecturing and supervising optometry students. What's more, a residency gives you the opportunity to spend a year exploring a new locale.

How to Get Started

If you're a student who's interested in completing a residency, begin your research early. A good resource is the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry ( Contact coordinators and visit sites. During your third year, focus on sites that are of particular interest to you and make sure that their programs suit your needs.

In your fourth year, it's time to apply. Applications are due Feb. 1 with the Optometric Residency Matching Service ( The applications will require three letters of recommendation, your optometry school transcripts, a curriculum vitae and a letter of intent or interest in the programs. Once the programs have received your applications, you'll visit the sites for interviews.

Finally, by the first Friday in March, you submit the list of residencies that you would like in order of preference, and the residency sites do the same with their chosen candidates. A matching algorithm then pairs programs and candidates.

Never Too Late

Although many residents are recent graduates, there is no age limit. Sometimes, established optometrists take a temporary break from practice to complete a residency. These individuals are often seeking to further their knowledge, add a credential that may open new doors or simply pursue new challenges.

Whether you're a new grad or an established practitioner, when you're a resident, hard work and dedication are essential for success. Although compensation is lower in comparison to working, student loans often are deferred because the year is dedicated to education, and the specialized knowledge and experience that you gain are priceless. nOD

Special thanks to Dr. Diane Adamczyk, Dr. Jaclyn Benzoni, Dr. Leon Nehmad, and Dr. Chung Song for their input on this article

Shilpi Ratra, the newly elected AOSA Treasurer, is a 3rd year optometry student at State University of New York, College of Optometry. She received her BS in Biology with an emphasis in neurobiology, physiology and behavior at the University of California, Davis. After graduation, she plans to return to California and apply for a residency. E-mail her at

Optometric Management, Issue: April 2010