About Residency

We invite you to consider the advantages of a program that will expose you to:

  • high-powered faculty members dedicated to your success
  • comprehensive exposure to all subspecialties
  • state-of-the-art clinical facilities

The accomplishments of our residency graduates demonstrate our commitment to help you develop necessary medical judgment to succeed in your career endeavors.

The ophthalmology resident training program gives residents a broad comprehensive ophthalmology background and opportunities to gain experience subspecialties as well.

In training residents, the Department strives to produce excellent practitioners. We also want our residents to learn to be good teachers and to acquire a critical and inquiring approach to investigating the unsolved problems of ophthalmology.

Residents rotate through every service, work closely with faculty and fellows, and participate fully in surgery under the expert guidance of faculty. Residents are required to actively participate in clinical or basic research during their training.

Committed to Education

The ophthalmology resident training program lasts three years with five residents appointed annually. Our program is poised to meet the needs of the changing face of today’s health care. We aim to assure that residents receive a broad comprehensive background in ophthalmology and develop research skills to make them better clinicians. We want to assure our graduates are completely ready for whatever they may encounter in private practice or in further training in a subspecialty. We are committed to providing all our trainees with an appropriate and varied surgical experience to achieve competence as ophthalmic surgeons. With this commitment, we feel we have a moral obligation to our patients and the public to foster the highest moral and ethical behavior.

Approximately half of our graduates enter private practice immediately upon completion of the 3-year residency. Others pursue fellowship training before going into practice or entering an academic career. Regardless of a resident or fellow's choice of career path, he or she should feel fully confident of having received the best possible training in ophthalmology. As part of the Iowa Ophthalmology Family, they have worked with dedicated and experienced faculty in a contemporary and world-renowned program. We believe at the completion of training, graduates of the University of Iowa Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences are prepared for the challenges ahead and can look forward to the fulfillment that comes from pursuing a career that fosters life-long education.

Joint Internship

Our joint internship (PGY-1 year) is in its second year with rotations in our internal medicine and ophthalmology departments. The joint internship is required starting with interns entering July 2015.

This internship will include 8 four-week rotations on the medicine service and 5 four-week rotations on ophthalmology. The interview for the internship will occur along with our ophthalmology residency interview. We hope this will make the process simpler and more economical for applicants.

As an intern on the ophthalmology service, you will learn basic examination skills and be ready to take care of most simple problems and triage complex eye problems. While on the ophthalmology service, you will have no call, thus allowing you to focus on study.

The intern year will be divided into thirteen 4-week rotations:

  • Two to three 4-week ophthalmology rotations at the Iowa City VA Medical Center, caring for patients in clinic.
  • Two to three 4-week rotations on the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics comprehensive ophthalmology service, caring for patients in clinic, the emergency department, and the inpatient units. 
  • Eight 4-week rotations on the medicine service, covering the wards at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics and Veterans Affairs.  Two of the eight rotations will be outpatient ambulatory medicine rotations, 1 block of rheumatology and 1 block of either general ambulatory medicine or endocrinology, during these blocks there is no call, allowing further time for study.   The objective during these rotations will be to hone your basic medical skills, including the management of inpatients.
  • Three weeks of vacation over the year, two during medicine blocks and one during ophthalmology blocks

We believe there are many distinct advantages to our joint internship program:

  • Providing far more ophthalmology experience than would be possible at an outside preliminary or transitional year program. This added level of experience, all before taking any call, will make the transition to call responsibilities smoother and more effective.
  • Becoming an integrated member of our ophthalmology team early in your training.
  • Avoiding multiple interviews for other intern year positions, saving time, money and stress.
  • Monthly lunch lectures directed towards interns on basic, commonly encountered diagnoses in ophthalmology.
  • Moving only once during residency.
  • Gaining familiarity with the hospital, electronic medical record, and members of other services with whom you will be working throughout the remainder of your residency.
  • Having access to our structured wet lab and Eyesi surgical simulator.
  • Acquiring exposure to a broad range of available research projects that can be carried forward through your ophthalmology residency.

We are excited to offer this joint opportunity that promises to make our program the best in the country. In the additional five months of ophthalmology training, our residents will learn systems-based skills, have ample time for independent study, and learn basic ophthalmology exam and assessment skills which will put them far ahead by the time they begin their PGY-2 year.


For questions regarding our new combined internship feel free to contact our program staff or any of our current joint IM/Ophthalmology interns:

First Year Residency

The first year is spent in a combination of comprehensive ophthalmology service and subspecialty clinics. The year is arranged to allow the resident to acquire skills in complete ocular examination and refraction of ophthalmic patients at the UIHC Comprehensive Ophthalmology Clinic and during a 10 to 12 week rotation at the VA.

In this year, Residents also rotate through subspecialty clinics with the intent of learning some of the vocabulary, examining techniques, and equipment used in each area. There are 5 rotation blocks per year, however, some of these rotations are split between two or more services. This in the first year, the resident will spend time in the following services (See Ophthalmology Rotations page for details):

  • Comprehensive Ophthalmology Clinic
  • Cornea/External Disease
  • Glaucoma
  • Neuro-Ophthalmology
  • Oculoplastics
  • Ocular Pathology
  • Pediatric Ophthalmology & Adult Strabismus
  • Retina
  • VAMC-Iowa City

  Also see about our Research Requirement in Research Training to follow.

Second Year Residency

During the second year, residents begin their surgical rotations. They have five rotations spending ten to 12 weeks in pediatric ophthalmology/strabismus, glaucoma, neuro-ophthalmology, retina, and at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Iowa City. While on the neuro-ophthalmology rotation, residents spend one day a week on cataract surgery. They spend less time on call during this phase of the residency program and often work on their required research project and case presentations for eyerounds.org.

  • Pediatric Ophthalmology and Adult Strabismus Service
  • Glaucoma Service
  • Neuro-Ophthalmology Service
  • Vitreoretinal Service
  • VAMC-Iowa City

Third Year Residency

The third year the resident has increased clinical responsibility. This year is mostly spent with leadership and surgical experiences in the Iowa City and Des Moines VAMCs and University Comprehensive Service. Residents also train in Oculoplastics, office management, and Cornea.

Residents have a ten-week rotation in the Des Moines VAMC that includes a clinic at the affiliated Broadlawns Hospital two afternoons a week.

A rotation in office management allows the resident to begin learning the ever-changing domain of billing, coding, and compliance with federal and state regulations. This rotation takes place in our departmental Billing Office to allow residents to learn the basic coding and billing principles needed for practice in today’s health care environment. This is a split rotation, with oculoplastic surgery covered every other Friday.

  • Oculoplastics/Orbital Oncology Service  
  • Cornea / External Diseases and Refractive Surgery
  • Comprehensive Ophthalmology and Cataract Surgery
  • Veterans Affairs Medical Centers
    • VAMC Des Moines
    • VAMC Iowa City  
  • International Ophthalmology Experience Option

Also see about our Research Requirement in Research Training to follow.

Ophthalmology Residency Rotations and Services

Ophthalmology Fellow teaching residentRotations in Ophthalmology are ten to 12 weeks in length. Most are located at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics.

Rotation Goals

  • 1st year: 4 rotations at UIHC, 1 rotation at VA Iowa City
  • 2nd year: 4 rotations at UIHC, 1 rotation at VA Iowa City
  • 3rd year: 3 rotations at UIHC, 1 rotation at VA Iowa City, 1 rotation in Des Moines (VA and Broadlawns)


The Comprehensive Ophthalmology Service examines all patients desiring a general eye examination, cataract surgery, as well as those referred to the hospital because of vision problems. The university student population of over 30,000 provides a major source for routine refractions. The Comprehensive Ophthalmology Clinic provides general ophthalmic care for more than 16,000 patient visits annually. Patients are screened for specific ocular problems and, if necessary, referred to appropriate specialty services. In addition, the Comprehensive Ophthalmology Clinic provides a daytime on-call service for emergent eye problems, diagnosis, care, and consultations.

Each resident is expected to do a complete ophthalmic examination on each patient. This includes a manifest or cycloplegic refraction by retinoscopy, slit lamp biomicroscopy, gonioscopy when indicated, and direct and indirect ophthalmoscopy of the retina. Residents are expected to become thoroughly familiar with all techniques and methods of the ocular examination.

CATARACT SERVICE: One day a week during the 10-12 week Neuro-ophthalmology rotation in the second year will be spent in the Cataract Service. The resident on this service develops increasing responsibility for the care of patients before, during and after cataract surgery. They use deliberate practice of the capsulorhexis and post-surgical video formative feedback to hone their surgical skills. Residents on this service will hone their professional communication skills by helping with the preoperative, operative, and post-operative documentation on this busy service

During the third year, the resident will rotate through the comprehensive service for a ten to 12 week continuous period.  During this time, the resident develops comprehensive ophthalmologic care, evaluates and manages ophthalmic emergencies, and performs high-quality, efficient, anterior segment surgery. 


On the Corneal/External Disease and Refractive Surgery Service, residents receive extensive training in the medical and surgical management of corneal diseases, including eye banking and refractive surgery. Each resident will rotate through this service twice during their training.  The first-year resident, under the direction of the faculty, fellows, and more senior residents, are introduced to cornea and external disease examination techniques and treatment strategies, they also spend two days each week during the last five weeks of this rotation in contact lens.The third-year resident has greater responsibility in the management of patients with cornea and external diseases. In the third year, refractive surgery is done under faculty supervision. There is a one-year fellow working with residents.


A full-time optometrist supervises the Contact Lens Service. Under the supervision of the optometrist and optician, residents will enhance their knowledge of optics and develop an understanding of basic contact lens design and materials. During this time reisdents will experience fitting uncomplicated and cosmetic-type contact lenses, as well as post cataract surgical patients, infants as young as 2 weeks old, and others.

In the third year, the resident spends one day per week for 5 weeks in the Contact Lens Service under the guidance of a full-time optometrist. During this time, the resident continues study in the specialty of contact lens fitting and problem solving, evaluation, and dispensing of contact lenses. 


The Glaucoma Service provides experience with medical and surgical decision-making in the management of these patients.

The first-year resident spends time in this clinic three to five days a week for ten weeks. This initial exposure serves as the introduction to the clinical evaluation of glaucoma patients. The resident learns and performs diagnostic skills including visual fields and OCT needed for the evaluation of anterior segment disease as it pertains to glaucoma.

The second-year resident spends ten weeks managing challenging glaucoma patients. The resident does complete evaluations of new glaucoma patients and provides continuing care to patients returning for follow-up care. The resident gains experience at gonioscopy, optic nerve head examination, kinetic perimetry, and static threshold perimetry. Laser therapy for glaucoma, including Argon laser trabeculoplasty and laser peripheral iridotomy, is performed by the resident under staff supervision. Glaucoma filtering surgery and cataract surgery on patients with glaucoma are performed during this rotation. There is a one-year fellow on the Glaucoma Service.


The Neuro-ophthalmology Service is both an outpatient clinic and an inpatient consultation service. Many patients have complex problems that require extensive evaluation. Each patient is seen by a resident or fellow and staffed by faculty. Patients requiring an in-hospital work-up are admitted to Neurology but are followed by the Neuro-ophthalmology Service. Consultations for temporal artery biopsies are handled by this service. All patients are presented to staff at the time they are seen and are then discussed during daily working rounds. Residents from Neurology and Neuro-surgery may take elective rotations in the Neuro-ophthalmology Clinic. There are usually one or two fellows in the Neuro-Ophthalmology Service.

First-year residents spend one day per week for 10 weeks on this rotation. In the second year, the rotation occupies 10-12 weeks. The second-year resident on the Neuro-op Service is also responsible for moderating morning rounds.

Residents on the Neuro-ophthalmology Service are also responsible for moderating morning rounds.


The Oculoplastics Service is involved with the evaluation and management of patients with diseases of their eyelid and adnexa, lacrimal system, and orbit.

The first-year resident spends one day per week on this service for five weeks during this rotation. (The rotation is split in the first year between Cornea, Oculoplastics, Pediatrics, and Contact Lens). The resident is instructed on the techniques in the evaluation of these patients, including exposure to the interpretation of radiologic studies of the orbit. The resident is also expected to be present in the operating room for the first case on every Wednesday morning while on this rotation.

A third-year resident spends ten to 12 weeks on this service. The clinic is conducted two days per week, with the residents and fellow seeing all patients prior to examination by the staff. The third-year resident performs or assists in surgery two days per week under the direction of staff or a fellow. Faculty provide guidance in ophthalmic plastic and orbital examination techniques, diagnosis and treatment of oculoplastic/orbital disorders, pre-operative and post-operative evaluation, management of surgical patients, and surgical management of oculoplastic/orbital problems. The oculoplastics fellow spends 24 months in training. The fellowship is approved by the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.


While on this rotation, residents perform gross examinations on tissues passing through the laboratory including whole eyes, corneal buttons, and all varieties of biopsy material. This gross examination is entirely supervised by faculty from the Division of Eye Pathology. Each resident is responsible for studying the microscopic appearances of tissues and for discussing these cases. There will be no unsupervised handling of tissues.

In the first year of residency, the afternoons of the Glaucoma-Consults/Pathology rotation are spent in the ocular pathology laboratory. Each resident is responsible for studying the microscopic appearances of tissues and for discussing these cases. Each rotation includes at least two presentations in Morning Rounds of a histopathologic clinical correlation. Residents are responsible for inpatient consultations during the work week.


All pediatric eye problems other than routine refractions are directed to Pediatric Ophthalmology and Adult Strabismus. Faculty, fellows, residents, and orthoptists examine and evaluate children and adults with motility problems. Two certified orthoptists and student orthoptists participate in the clinic. There are usually one or two postgraduate fellows on the service as well.

First-year residents spend Monday, Tuesday, and Tuesday of a second 5 week block in this clinic, Most of the first-year rotation time is spent with the orthoptists learning the basic pediatric eye exam.

An additional ten weeks on this service occurs full time in the second year. The second-year residents on the Pediatric Ophthalmology and Adult Strabismus Service work up all patients referred to the service. Surgical cases are supervised and handled by the senior attending staff, fellows, and the residents on the service.

In advance of the rotation on the Pediatric Ophthalmology Service, a study outline with pertinent references is given to each resident. At various times, topics are discussed. Reading of the prescribed outline is essential in understanding these discussions.


The Medical Retina rotation introduces first-year residents to medical retinal diseases. The first-year resident is not expected to be in the operating room. Emphasis is placed on vascular disorders of the eye, diabetic retinopathy, macular disease, and retinal detachment. The resident also receives instruction on fluorescein angiography, indirect and direct ophthalmoscopy, slit lamp biomicroscopy, and diagnostic contact lens examination, and other techniques for the diagnosis of diseases of the retina and vitreous.


The medical retina rotation also involves the evaluation of patients with low vision.  In the Vision Rehabilitation Service, the first-tear resident is exposed to the various vision rehabilitation aids. The work-up and rehabilitation of low vision patients is done with faculty supervision. The resident will first observe a vision rehabilitation practitioner providing vision rehabilitation services.  As the rotation progresses, the resident will perform the basis elements of the vision rehabilitation evaluation.  Following this rotation the resident will be able to evaluate the needs of individuals who are visually impaired.


The Vitreoretinal Service provides an opportunity for residents to gain a broad experience in disease and surgery of the retina and vitreous. The resident will be trained in the use of laser photocoagulation to treat retinal breaks and diabetic retinopathy.  Residents will receive an introduction into the theory and practical application of scatter laser treatment for diabetic proliferative disease. 

During the second year of residency, the resident becomes skilled in the use of indirect ophthalmoscopy, scleral indentation, contact lens examination of the fundus, and fluorescein angiography. They perform laser treatment on diabetic patients under faculty or fellow supervision. The quality of the resident's work-up, skill in indirect ophthalmoscopy and Goldmann lens examination, and surgical dexterity are important factors in ascertaining the resident's qualifications for this type of surgery. Faculty and fellows actively participate in resident training. Four fellows spend 24 months studying vitreoretinal diseases and surgery and ocular oncology. The vitreoretinal fellowship is staggered so that two new fellows begin each July.


Residents rotate through the Iowa City VA Medical Center in each of the three years of residency.

During their first-year rotation, residents share primary patient responsibility in the VA clinic with a second-and third-year resident. The first-year resident begins to work in the OR starting in the simulator and wet lab. Faculty supervise the clinic and assist the second-year residents in cataract surgery. All pre-operative patients will be examined and approved by a staff member. Subspecialty surgery is supervised by members of the appropriate service.  Faculty supervise the clinic and assist residents in surgery.

The Veterans Administration Medical Centers in Iowa City and Des Moines allows the third-year resident to supervise and run a busy outpatient clinic, with faculty supervision available promptly on request. Third-year residents spend ten to 12 weeks at the Des Moines VAMC, which includes a clinic at the affiliated Broadlawns Hospital.

  • VAMC Des Moines
  • VAMC Iowa City


This intensive experience in a busy Uveitis Clinic takes place on 10 half-days during a 10 week rotation during the first year.  The resident develops the history-taking and examination skills to care for complex uveitis patients.  The resident learns to navigate the system of care to allow for consultation with various services and laboratory assessment to properly care for uveitis patients.

Rounds, Lectures, and Conferences

Physician giving lectureGrand rounds are held Monday through Thursday from 8:00 to 8:45 a.m. in the Braley Auditorium. All residents and staff attend unless operating or engaged in acute medical care. During rounds, residents and fellows develop their public speaking skills by making presentations. Discussion by the faculty and house staff follows each case.

The cases and discussions presented by Residents and Fellows at Grand Rounds are often further developed and published as case reports and tutorials on EyeRounds.org.

Afternoons are, in general, reserved for rotation-specific conferences. Some services such as glaucoma, cornea, neuro-ophthalmology, and pediatric ophthalmology have "chart rounds". These conferences focus on interesting patients that presented that day. Discussions center on patient care but also cover other areas such as communication, ethics, and systems based care. Other services such as retina have formal conferences, such as Fluorescein conference on Monday afternoons, and Dr. Ed Stone's molecular ophthalmology rounds on Tuesday nights.

Once a week during the academic year, didactic lectures on ophthalmology are presented. These two-hour lectures are organized to coincide with the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s Basic and Clinical Sciences Course. Lectures cover most aspects of basic and clinical ophthalmology. Once every 10 weeks these sessions include a journal club covering recent journal articles in that subject area to help develop skills in practice based learning.

Six, day-long clinical conferences are held during the academic year. Clinics are closed on these days. Ophthalmologists from throughout Iowa and Illinois attend and present challenging clinical problems for discussion by faculty and guests. These meetings feature a visiting professor who presents a lecture based on his/ her research interests. The day is balanced by the presentation of a more clinically oriented topic. This conference has contributed to the excellent rapport between practicing ophthalmologists and the ophthalmology staff at the university. 

Each year in June, alumni and other members attend a two- to three-day Iowa Eye Association meeting with invited speakers and a focus on a specific subspecialty topic.

Presentations of research are made annually during the Resident/Fellow Research Conference at the end of the academic year.

Ophthalmology Upcoming Event Calendar

Ophthalmology Training Program Duty Hours

Duty hours are defined as all clinical and academic activities related to the program, i.e., patient care (both inpatient and outpatient), administrative duties related to patient care, the provision for transfer of patient care, time spent in-house during call activities, and scheduled academic activities such as conferences. Duty hours do not include reading and preparation time spent away from the duty site.

Duty hours must be limited to 80 hours per week, averaged over a four-week period, inclusive of all in-house call activities.

Residents must be provided with one day in 7 free from all educational and clinical responsibilities, averaged over a 4-week period, inclusive of call. One day is defined as one continuous 24-hour period free from all clinical, educational, and administrative activities.

Adequate time for rest and personal activities must be provided. This should consist of a 10-hour time period provided between all daily duty periods.

At-home call (pager call) is defined as call taken from outside the assigned institution.

  • The frequency of at-home call is not subject to the every-third-night limitation. However, at-home call must not be so frequent as to preclude rest and reasonable personal time for each resident. Residents taking at-home call must be provided with one day in 7 completely free from all educational and clinical responsibilities, averaged over a 4-week period.
  • When residents are called into the hospital from home, the hours residents spend in-house are counted toward the 80-hour limit.

The program director and the faculty must monitor the demands of at-home call in their programs and make scheduling adjustments as necessary to mitigate excessive service demands and/or fatigue. Residents should report time spent at hospital after 2:00 AM to the Program Director or Program Coordinator the next morning and will most likely be released at noon to avoid fatigue related errors.

Weekend Call Duties

The weekend on-call residents have the same responsibilities as weekday call. Additionally, any patient scheduled for admission or work-up on the weekend is the resident's responsibility. If an operative permit is required, it will be explained to the patient by the surgical team who will come in to the hospital to examine the patient and answer the patient's questions. Any questions about weekend patients should be directed to the senior resident on call or the appropriate service.

The second call physician (a senior resident) will be available to the first call resident for consultation. In addition, he or she will decide, after clearing it with the senior staff member on call, when and if emergency operations should be done. No surgery is to be performed without approval of the senior faculty. Intraocular trauma or orbit cases may only be performed in the presence of a senior faculty member. The senior resident must be available by telephone at all times. The senior resident is required to come in to see any patient on whom the "First Call" resident requests consultation.

Finally, there are four "Senior Staff Call" lists. 1) The senior staff member on general call will be consulted by the third-year resident and will be contacted before any patient is admitted to the hospital or before an operation is planned. 2) The senior staff retina call list is made up of members of the Vitreoretinal Service, who will assist in handling posterior segment trauma and retinal detachments. 3) The Oculoplastic Service covers the plastic call and assists in any problems involving trauma to the lids, adnexae, and orbit. 4) The Neuro-ophthalmology on call staff. The senior staff members also have pagers.

No operation may be performed without the consent and assistance of the senior staff member.

Ophthalmology Resident Call Schedule


  • First year residents: First call (none for the first 2 months) then every 5th weekend day and about every 10th weekday night
  • Second year residents: First call every 5th weekend/weekday for first 3 then about every 10th weekday night
  • Third year residents: Call backup about every 5th weekday and every 5th weekend

At the VA

  • Des Moines VA: The Third Year Resident on the Des Moines rotation takes call during the week from Monday to Thursday evening from home. (Rarely come in)
  • Iowa City VA: First and Second Year Residents take alternate weeks of call while on the Iowa City VA rotation. (Rarely come in)

Research Training

Research Training

Researcher in labEach ophthalmology resident and fellow is expected to complete a research project based on clinical or laboratory experience. Research is usually performed within the department, but can take place in another department or, occasionally, at another institution. The research interests of the faculty are varied, and many projects are in progress. Presentations of research are made annually during the Resident/Fellow Research Conference at the end of the academic year. The P.J. Leinfelder Award is given annually by a faculty committee to the fellow who has made the most significant contributions in preparing and delivering their research.


Research in Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

The Carver College of Medicine is internationally recognized for its excellence and leadership in biomedical research. Among public medical schools, the College of Medicine ranks 11th in NIH funding in both the number of grants and total grant dollars per research faculty in public medical schools. In 2013, Stephen A. Wynn made a $25 million gift to the University of Iowa and the Institute for Vision Research continues to garner philanthropic funding for its ground-breaking research.

Carver College of Medicine faculty have been awarded approximately half of the University's total research funding and more than 80 percent of its National Institutes of Health funding. The University of Iowa is at the forefront among research universities in this country, and its contribution has been nationally recognized by such eminent authorities as the Carnegie Foundation, which classified The University of Iowa as having "very high research activity" among research universities.

The Laboratory for Disease Gene Discovery (LDGD), directed by Val C. Sheffield, MD, PhD, has as its primary goal the identification and characterization of genes involved in hereditary human disease with special emphasis placed on the study of hereditary retinopathies including age-related macular degeneration. The main strategies used by the laboratory are the use of genetic mapping methods and genomic resources to identify disease genes based on their position within the genome and/or putative function. The LDGD has developed thousands of highly polymorphic human genetic markers and novel genetic mapping methods to aid in the efficient mapping of disease loci. In collaboration with the MOL, the LDGD has succeeded in the mapping of over thirty human disease loci, and the identification of ten disease-causing genes including genes involved in glaucoma, macular degeneration and syndromic retinopathies (Bardet-Biedl Syndrome).

The Iowa Glaucoma Center, directed by Dr. Wallace L.M. Alward, researches the causes of glaucoma and develops tools to aid in diagnosis and treatment.

The Glaucoma Genetics Laboratory, directed by John Fingert, MD, PhD, is dedicated to identifying these genes and investigating their role in the development of disease with the ultimate goal of preventing vision loss by improving diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma.

The Glaucoma Cell Biology Laboratory, directed by Markus Kuehn, PhD, is located in the Medical Education and Research Facility. The goal of this laboratory is to determine the molecular events that lead to retinal ganglion cell death in a variety of retinal diseases. While the research focus is glaucoma, the lab is also investigating ganglion cell death in retinal ischemia and other optic neuropathies, such as idiopathic intracranial hypertension.

The Chorioretinal Degenerations Laboratory is directed by Rob Mullins, PhD. The major focus of this laboratory is to understand the cellular and molecular basis of macular diseases, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), central serous retinopathy and Best vitelliform macular degeneration.

The laboratory is exploring the role of the choroid in the development of AMD and other diseases. It is also looking at the pathogenesis of other macular diseases including Best disease, Bardet-Biedl syndrome, Leber congenital amaurosis, retinitis pigmentosa, uveitis, and other acquired and inherited diseases of the retina.  It utilizes animal models, human donor eyes, cell culture approaches, biochemical methods and genetic resources unique to the Carver Family Center for Macular Degeneration to approach this problem.

The Iowa Visual Field Reading Center is directed by Michael Wall, MD. The University of Iowa Visual Field Reading Center was established to provide clinicians and researchers a means to quickly access and evaluate both raw and processed visual field data and to provide timely feedback to researchers, clinicians, and patients. The Center is located at the Oakdale Research and Technology Innovation Campus.

Research in Gene Therapy for eye diseases is under the auspices of Stephen R. Russell, MD and Arlene V. Drack, MD. The University of Iowa is a leader in finding genetic causes of common and uncommon eye diseases such as Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA).  Under the Carver Family Center for Macular Degeneration in the Department of Ophthalmology Institute for Vision Research, Drs. Russell and Drack are collaborating with pioneer gene therapists at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to treat children blind from birth with Leber’s congenital amaurosis. In addition, Drs Drack and Russell are investigating gene replacement therapies and gene directed therapies in mice for other inherited retinal conditions.

Stem Cell Research for retinal, eye and related diseases is directed by Budd Tucker, PhD. New to the UI in 2010, Dr. Tucker’s research on combining state-of-the-art patient-specific stem cell and biodegradable tissue engineering technologies for the treatment of blinding retinal degenerative diseases has earned a 2010 National Institutes of Health Director's New Innovator Award.

Computer-Aided Diagnosis. Dr. Michael Abramoff and coworkers have established large retinal imaging networks in the Midwest of the United States and the Netherlands, with widespread networks of retinal cameras connected through the internet to the University of Iowa, for screening of diabetic retinopathy. The research combines clinical ophthalmology, visual neuroscience, and bioinformatics to study the phenotypes and genotypes of diabetic retinopathy, age related macular degeneration and glaucoma.

Many of our faculty are investigators for the Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Visual Loss at the Iowa City Veterans Administration Medical Center. Investigators: Randy Kardon, MD, PhD; Michael D. Abramoff, MD, PhD; Chris A. Johnson, PhD; Markus Kuehn, PhD; Young H. Kwon, MD, PhD; Thomas A. Oetting, MD; Milan Sonka, PhD; Michael Wall, MD.

See additional information at The University of Iowa Institute for Vision Research. The IVR supports and coordinates the vision research activities of nine existing research units at the University of Iowa.  

Each ophthalmology resident and fellow is expected to complete a research project based on clinical or laboratory experience. Research is usually performed within the department, but can take place in another department or, occasionally, at another institution. The research interests of the faculty are varied, and many projects are in progress. Presentations of research are made annually during the Resident/Fellow Research Conference at the end of the academic year. The P.J. Leinfelder Award is given annually by a faculty committee to the fellow who has made the most significant contributions in preparing and delivering their research.


International Ophthalmology Experience

Project Orbis, Ophthalmology ResidentThe University of Iowa provides a global perspective. Ophthalmology Residents have an opportunity to participate in an international training experience during their third year of training. This experience exposes residents to different health care systems around the world and helps shape practice and career choices. In some cases, residents travel with Iowa alumni on global health and mission trips. Our residents have traveled to places such as Nigeria, Philippines, India, Peru and the Dominican Republic.

Quick Facts

By the Numbers

  • Number of residents accepted each year: 5
  • ACGME approved residents for our training program: 15
  • Length of Residency: 3 years
  • Graduates who go on to fellowships: 54%  
  • Faculty Members who train Ophthalmology residents: 28

Required rotations

  • 1st and 2nd year: four of five 10-12 week rotations are scheduled at University of Iowa Hospital
  • One rotation annually is at the VAMC, Iowa City
  • 3rd year: one of five rotations is in Des Moines at the VA Medical Center


  • Competitive Stipends
  • Comprehensive medical, dental, hospitalization and pharmacy benefits for residents/fellows and their dependents
  • Vacation each year: 3 weeks

Board Certification Requirements

Contact Us

Laura Pitlick, Resident Program Coordinator
Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics
200 Hawkins Drive, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1091
e-mail: laura-pitlick@uiowa.edu

Ophthalmology Resident Surgery Statistics

Surgical Statistics for Ophthalmology Residency Graduates

  RRC Minimums 2019 National 50% 2019 Iowa Averages
Cataract 86 197 279.2
YAG Capsulotomy 5 20 34.2
Laser trabeculoplasty 5 12 8.4
Laser iridotomy 4 13 7.6
Panretinal laser photocoagulation 10 23 34.6
Keratoplasty 5 8 17.4
Pterygium/conjunctival and other cornea 3 6 21.0
Keratorefractive Surgery 6 9 11.8
Strabismus 10 19 38.6
Glaucoma - Filtering/shunting procedures 5 13 23.0
Retinal vitreous 10 22 16.2
Intravitreal injection 10 96 63.2
Oculoplastic and orbit 28 61 125.0
Eyelid laceration 3 8 17.8
Chalazia Excision 3 7 5.6
Ptosis/blepharoplasty 3 15 58.8
Globe Trauma 4 8 12.0

FAQ From Ophthalmology Residency Applicants

We are asked a number of questions about the residency program, about Iowa City, about the University of Iowa. Below are some short answers. You may find much more about Iowa, Iowa City, the University of Iowa, and general information about residencies at Iowa at the GME web site.

What is Iowa City Like?

Where is Iowa City?

Iowa City is 220 miles directly west of Chicago on Interstate 80. It's also within a 4 to 5 hour drive to Milwaukee, Madison, Minneapolis, Omaha, Kansas City and St. Louis. It has the cultural, educational, social and political opportunities of a bigger city with the values and ambiance of a midwestern town. It's clean, safe, nothing is farther than a 20 minute car ride, it has a great city bus system (with bike racks!), wonderful parks, bike and hiking trails, sports, schools and even sailing. Those who have lived here and left, frequently return because what they were looking for was in their own back yard.We're not the only ones who think Iowa City is great:

Iowa City is frequently recognized as a best place to live by national publications. Since 2010, Iowa City has appeared on more than 40 such lists, including being named as:

  • "Healthiest Town in the United States," Men's Journal, February 2010
  • #2 "Best Places for Business and Careers" list (smaller metros), Forbes, April 2010 
  • #5 "Top 10 Cities for Book Lovers," Livability.com, September 2011
  • #6 "The 10 smartest cities in America", MarketWatch, July 2015.
  • "Top City for Starting Over in 2012," TheStreet.com, January 2012
  • #10  "10 Best Cities for Singles," Kiplinger, April 2012
  • #3 "Best place to live in America," Outside Magazine, August 2015
  • Livability.com ranked Iowa City 9th on its list of Top 100 Best Places to Live 2016

 In 2008, Iowa City became the world’s third United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) City of Literature, following Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia. The Iowa Writers’ Workshop, based at the University of Iowa, is one of the world’s foremost programs in creative writing; workshop alumni have won 12 Pulitzer Prizes and four alumni have been named U.S. Poet Laureate. 

The Weather

What's the weather like in Iowa City?

It depends on what you like. Our weather was a lot better than the East Coast this year! For about two weeks every winter it's very cold and windy and for two weeks every summer it's really hot and humid. For the rest of the time it's pretty nice. We consider our weather character building.

  • The average warmest month is July and the coolest month is January.
  • High temperatures between May and September are between 73 and 87 degrees (Yearly Avg. 60.9).
  • The average low temperatures between October and April range from 15 degrees to 42 degrees (Yearly Avg. 39.8).
  • Average number of sunny days is 166.
  • The highest recorded temperature was 104°F in 1988.
  • The lowest recorded temperature was -26°F in 1996.
  • The maximum average precipitation occurs in June, average annual rainfall is 35.2".
  • Average snowfall is 28" (with an average of 16 days of measurable snowfall per winter).
  • Check today's weather (from the National Weather Service)

Playing downtown

What is there to do in Iowa City when you're not working?

There are 15 different festivals and art fairs, plus concerts and race events. There are many music venues, sports events and neighborhood street fairs and garden walks. We also have a really big mall and several smaller ones, 50 parks, 9 golf courses, 6 public tennis courts, 6 public pools, some lakes and a reservoir with trails, camping & boating. There are hiking and bike trails, some famous bookstores, a ton of galleries and excellent museums. There are half a dozen or more performing arts venues. There's always something going on.

What's Iowa City like for kids and families?

There's ice skating, bowling, organized sports, public parks, miniature golf, a great public library, a toy library, fun centers, swimming pools and 3 beaches, 9 museums including a children's museum, dance companies and public recreation centers that feature many activities for kids and families at little or no cost. We also have 20 movie screens and 50-licensed daycare providers. The Iowa City schools are perennially ranked among the top schools in the nation. Iowa City is unique in the facilities and services available for individuals with disabilities. Many families who have a family member with a disability are reluctant to leave Iowa City because they cannot duplicate those services in another location.

It's a great place to live, but don't just take our word for it, see what others are saying:

Are there any job opportunities for my spouse/significant other?

Yes, in August 2019, Iowa City had an average of 2.1% unemployment (compared to 2.8% in the state of Iowa and 3.7% nationwide). Also check out The University of Iowa's Dual Career Network.

Is this a family friendly program?

We love children and support residents in their efforts to balance work with family life. We have several dual physician resident and faculty families and understand the stresses. Women residents receive up to 6 weeks of paid maternity leave after delivery. Men get 5 working days off for paternity leave. The house staff health insurance policy provides full coverage for spouses and children. There are several childcare facilities near the hospital and one on-site. The training program also has activities during the year where all family members are invited.

How ethnically diverse are the patients?

Like a lot of university towns, we have a large international community. Growing cultural diversity is another reason Iowa City is an interesting place to live. Diversity is embraced and celebrated with city and university events, festivals, clubs and programs. The University works hard to recruit and retain minorities with its affirmative action policies. About 15% of Iowa Citians are non-white, this percentage is paralleled in our clinics.

What are the fellowship opportunities available?

Ten to 12 fellows train in our accredited fellowship programs each year. We have fellowships in all of our sub-specialty areas. Most are one-year fellowships but 2-year fellowship opportunities are available as well. About half of our residents enter fellowships immediately after graduation.

Is there sufficient patient volume so that I can have multiple exposures to a variety of eye diseases and conditions?

Our patients represent all age groups and all socioeconomic strata and they present with virtually all acute and chronic conditions of the eye.

With nearly 64,000 annual patient visits you will see plenty of the most common eye conditions and many of the less common ones as well. Our clinical practice serves the general eye care needs of the local community and the sub-specialty needs of the region. The UIHC is a tertiary care center and our department receives referrals for specialized services from Iowa and neighboring states. Some patients travel from outside the continent to be seen by our physicians.

In an average year, patient visits per sub-specialty are approximately:

  • Cornea: 7,000
  • Comprehensive Ophthalmology: 14,400
  • Glaucoma: 7,300
  • Neuro-Ophthalmology: 2,650
  • Oculoplastic Surgery: 6,300
  • Contact Lens: 4,100
  • Pediatric Ophthalmology: 9,800
  • Retina/Vitreous: 20,000
  • Vision Rehabilitation: 3,700
  • Other: 1,600

The surgical statistics for ophthalmology resident graduates will give you an idea of how many surgeries you may encounter over your three-year residency: Surgical Statistics for Ophthalmology Residency Graduates.

What is the program's balance between primary and specialty care?

We seek to provide each resident physician with a sufficiently broad experience that he or she can choose wisely among all the options to pursue a career in ophthalmology in private practice, group practice, or an academic career. About half of our graduates go on to private practice while the remainder go on to fellowships in ophthalmic subspecialties or academic ophthalmology.

What are the on-call expectations of ophthalmology residents?

Call is divided into first call, backup call, and faculty call for Retina, Oculoplastics, Neuro-ophthalmology, as well as general call. Resident call schedules are prepared by the residents. The week day calls are split by the first and second year residents. Weekends and holidays are covered by first year residents. Third year residents provide back up call. Residents are not placed on the call schedule during their first 2 months in the department. At-home call must not be so frequent as to preclude rest and reasonable personal time for each resident. Residents taking at-home call are provided with one day in 7 completely free from all educational and clinical responsibilities, averaged over a 4-week period. (call schedule)

What makes a great resident? 

As part of an interview for Pearls of Ophthalmology, our residency program director, Dr. Tom Oetting addressed this question and an excerpt from this interview follows:

"A great ophthalmology resident is hard to define but when you see it, you know it. A great resident has infectious enthusiasm for our great profession and the science of the eye. He or she enjoys working with patients and wants more clinic opportunities, more surgical opportunities, and more chances to learn. A great resident makes our patients feel cared for and special. A great resident is coach-able (i.e. learns from his or her mistakes and moves on). A great resident is a great teacher and creates a sea of medical students interested in ophthalmology. A great resident gets things done when they said they would. A great resident does their dictations, notes, work hour requests, faculty evaluations, and the other important administrative jobs on time and with no fanfare. A great resident gives more than he or she takes. And like a good camper, a great resident leaves our program better than when they arrived"

Is there a research requirement for graduation?

Yes, participation in research is an integral part of the training experience. During the first year, residents develop a research plan for conducting at least one research project. All projects are done in collaboration with a faculty preceptor who will supervise all phases of the project. Each resident presents the results of his/her research at the department's resident and fellow research day. The initial presentation is made in the spring of the first year even when the results are in the pilot or preliminary stages. Updated presentations are made in the spring of subsequent years revealing the maturing or completed project. While some projects will not result in a published manuscript, our residents are co-authors on a number of published papers each year.

What's so good about Iowa?

  • Our faculty are really nice, and exceptionally dedicated teachers too.
  • We have a diverse faculty with wide-ranging clinical and research interests.
  • Some of our faculty are internationally known and have been with us for many years.
  • We also have several bright young faculty who bring new interests and enthusiasm to the practice.
  • You work with and learn directly from faculty on all rotations.
  • All the subspecialties are represented in our training program.
  • Our programs, clinical, research, and teaching are consistently ranked in the top ten nationally.
  • The clinics, hospital, and inpatient units are located within a single hospital, with 1 rotation per year at the VAMC located just across the street. The ASC is conveniently located directly above the clinic at both locations. (No hours of commuting through traffic daily to get to work.) .
  • You have access to a locked resident room with your own desk, file, phone, internet port, and personal space.
  • A dedicated ophthalmology library located directly below the clinic with a world-class librarian.
  • A state-of-the art EMR system (EPIC), with the ability for both remote and mobile access
  • Our residents are great people and they make exceptional ophthalmologists.
  • Iowa City is a highly intellectual community (Iowa City has been named a UNESCO City of Literature) with an abundance of arts and culture events that are accessible to residents both in terms of cost and location.
  • A competitive stipend and benefits in a region with very low cost of living
  • We have an outstanding school system for children in grades K-12.
  • A great training program and a high quality of life
  • We want you to succeed.


For more information about pay, benefits, general GME policies and much more, take a look at the University of Iowa GME web site.

More Questions?

If you have additional questions please contact our program coordinator at laura-pitlick@uiowa.edu

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Mission Statement

The University of Iowa Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences is committed to providing the highest quality care to all patients, regardless of age, ethnicity, race, sex, religious background, sexual orientation, gender identity, or ability status. We specifically recognize that a major barrier to equitable healthcare for our patients is systemic and institutional racism.

We are actively working to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in our department, and the residents are central to this effort. As part of this undertaking, we endeavor to critically reflect on the structures and practices that have contributed to the under-representation of minority groups in ophthalmology. With these efforts we hope to inspire and normalize conversation to deconstruct our own implicit biases and raise awareness towards practices that potentially detract from patient health outcomes. 

Departmental Initiatives

The Committee for DEI is actively working towards an integrated anti-racism curriculum. This includes open and closed discussion forums among residents and faculty, guest lectures, a speaker series, and multimedia screenings. The development of these initiatives is ongoing. 

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) has developed a DEI toolkit to assist residents and faculty in improving awareness. The Minority Ophthalmology Mentoring (MOM) program is a partnership between the AAO and Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology that serves to increase DEI in ophthalmology by connecting underrepresented students with mentorship, career planning, networking opportunities and educational resources. Several of the University of Iowa residents are mentors in this program. We are proud of our Department Chair, Dr. Keith Carter, who is the Chair of the MOM Executive Committee and who spearheaded this initiative. To learn more about the program, visit the MOM homepage or listen to a recent podcast with Dr. Carter.

Institutional Initiatives

The University of Iowa is committed to actively engaging in diversity, equity, and inclusion.

View the University wide anti-racism initiatives. Furthermore, the University of Iowa has developed the Anti-Racism Collaborative (ARC) and anyone is encouraged to participate in the ARC conversations. This includes both open forum discussions in addition to speaker series with special guests. View a list of upcoming events. More diversity-related resources can be found in the following links: 


Committee for DEI

Pavlina Kemp

Associate Program Director

David Ramirez

Representative for Class of 2022

Caroline Yu

Representative for Class of 2023

Mahsaw Motlagh

Representative for Class of 2024

Cy Lewis

Representative for Class of 2025

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Resources

The DEI Committee has curated a listed of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Resources.

The C. S. O’Brien Eye Library hosts discussions on books, movies, lectures, and more that  feature stories about diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. All members of the Department of Ophthalmology are welcome to participate.

Diversity Visiting Student Scholarship

Diversity visiting scholarship graphic OphthalmologyDiversity Visiting Student Scholarship

We are pleased to announce the new Diversity Visiting Student Scholarship, which offers students from URiM backgrounds an opportunity to explore the field of ophthalmology. View more information on the scholarship.

Diversity Visiting Student Scholarship

We are pleased to announce the new Diversity Visiting Student Scholarship, which offers students from URiM backgrounds an opportunity to explore the field of ophthalmology.

Who is eligible?

Fourth year medical students who identify as URiM interested in completing a 4-week away rotation at the University of Iowa Department of Ophthalmology

  • From racial or ethnic groups underrepresented in medicine, including but not limited to Black/African American, Latinx, and Native American, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander
  • Preference is given to those who self-identify as a member of a racial or ethnic population that are underrepresented in ophthalmology relative to their numbers in the general population. We recognize that this definition is only a starting point and does not encompass the myriad of social, political, and economic disparities within medicine. Therefore, individuals who self-identify differently, such as those from economically disadvantaged background, first generation college graduates, etc., are also invited to apply and will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Scholarship details

$2,500 unrestricted stipend towards housing, travel, food, and other miscellaneous expenses

Four-week visiting ophthalmology rotation at the University of Iowa, with the opportunities to explore subspecialties such as Cornea and Neuro-ophthalmology, experience call with the current residents, as well as to volunteer at the Iowa City Free Medical Clinic.

Networking opportunities with faculty and current trainees at the University of Iowa

Why was this scholarship created?

In 2020-2021, only 6% of ophthalmology applicants came from URiM backgrounds, a statistic that has not changed significantly in the past three decades. Furthermore, more than 75% of medical students come from the top two household income quintiles according to the AAMC [1].

However, these statistics do not reflect the diverse racial, sexual and gender orientation, religious affiliation, and socioeconomic backgrounds that patients identify with, creating further barriers for minority patients to receive culturally sensitive and clinically competent care.  For example, black and Hispanic patients have an increased prevalence of age-specific blindness [2], and children from less affluent families have a higher incidence of undiagnosed amblyopia and strabismus [3].

Therefore, there is a need to promote diversity within physicians so that patients from all backgrounds can have equitable outcomes. Students from URiM backgrounds face barriers on a systematic level, with one significant barrier being financial [4]. Furthermore, not all medical schools have ophthalmology departments that students can rotate at, limiting their exposure to this specialty. Thus, this scholarship was envisioned to support URiM students in gaining exposure to the field of ophthalmology. 

Application Process:

Please submit your application based on instructions here. In your letter of interest, please tell us why you are interested in this opportunity and detail your commitment to improving ophthalmic care for underserved communities (300 words or less).

  1. AAMC Analysis in Brief. 2018 Oct; 18(5). Available at: https://www.aamc.org/media/9596/download
  2. The Eye Diseases Prevalence Research Group*. Causes and Prevalence of Visual Impairment Among Adults in the United States. Arch Ophthalmol. 2004;122(4):477–485. doi:10.1001/archopht.122.4.477
  3. Stein JD, Andrews C, Musch DC, Green C, Lee PP. Sight-Threatening Ocular Diseases Remain Underdiagnosed Among Children of Less Affluent Families. Health Aff (Millwood). 2016 Aug 1;35(8):1359-66. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2015.1007. PMID: 27503958
  4. Greysen SR, Chen C, Mullan F. A history of medical student debt: observations and implications for the future of medical education. Acad Med. 2011;86(7):840-845.

Accreditation and Board Certification

Accreditation of Ophthalmology training PROGRAMS is provided by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). The ACGME sets general requirements for all residency training programs as well as special requirement and prerequisite information for each specialty. These requirements are enforced by the various Residency Review Committees (RRC). For additional information visit www.acgme.org. 

 ACGME-accredited programs in ophthalmology must be 36 months in length.

Certification of INDIVIDUALS trained in Ophthalmology is provided by the American Board of Ophthalmology (ABO). To be eligible for examination you must have satisfactorily completed 12 months of broad clinical training (PGY-1) and a formal residency training program in Ophthalmology of at least 36 months (some programs require 48 months). All training must be in accredited programs in the U.S. or in Canada. It is possible that a State Licensing Board will give you credit for foreign training, whereas the ABO will not. You should check with the ABO about this before you enter the match or start your training.

The Board Certification process must be completed not more than 6 years after your training. All Certificates require completion of a designated renewal program every 10 years. For more detailed information visit the American Board of Ophthalmology's website at www.abop.org.