Ophthalmology Resident Training

Wake Forest Eye Center sees over 75,000 patient visits per year, providing an ideal substrate for resident clinical experience.

The clinical portion of the teaching program is structured with subspecialty rotations in the mornings (where residents work side by side with attending subspecialists in all major areas), and the Comprehensive Eye Service in the afternoon.

First-year residents have one-month subspecialties to be visited during the first year, gaining more familiarity with all areas of ophthalmology early in training.

The two-month second-year rotations are more intensive, and residents are expected to function with a higher level of expertise.

The program’s philosophy is that exposure to all subspecialty areas during the first year is important not only for patient care, but also as many post-residency fellowships that require decisions early in residency training. 

Ophthalmology Residents Group Photo

Comprehensive Eye Service 

One unique feature of the program is a continuous care clinic, the Comprehensive Eye Service (CES), in which residents care for their own population of patients for the entire three years of their training.

This general outpatient service allows residents to manage patients much like a community ophthalmology practice, following their patients longitudinally for the duration of their training period.

The CES provides an ideal opportunity for clinical teaching and is supported by dedicated supervising faculty, staffing, and Eye Center facilities.

Feedback from residents who have completed our program consistently place high value on their CES experience; often described as one of the “crown jewels” in our residency program. These residents note that it fosters development of the clinical skills needed to “hit the ground running” immediately after residency, whether for private practice of fellowship. 

Inpatient Consults/ER 

Eye Exam Photo

Residents learn the ocular manifestations of systemic disease first-hand as they participate in busy inpatient consultation service, working with faculty in the evaluation of patients from the various medical and surgical services at the Medical Center.

Trauma experience is also exceptional, as Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center is a designated Level I Trauma Center, and the Eye Center is a member of the National Eye Trauma System (NETS). 

Surgical Experience 

The training program is busy medically and surgically. More than 32,000 major ocular surgeries are performed by faculty, residents and fellows each year. These procedures include a full array of both outpatient and inpatient procedures performed in the operating rooms of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

Almost 800 additional procedures are performed yearly in the minor operating suites of the Eye Center itself.

With this volume of surgical experience, residents have an opportunity to perform many surgical procedures, far exceeding recommended minimums set by the ACGME. For instance, residents currently perform 250 - 300 or greater cataract procedures as primary surgeon during their training (with set minimum of 86 by ACGME). 

VA Experience 

One third of the residents’ training takes place at the W. G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center in Salisbury, NC, a 45 minute drive from the Wake Forest Eye Center.

Many residents live just south of the town, thus shortening their commute. Most of the time the residents carpool, making access to the VA clinic more convenient.

During our annual reviews the residents unanimously state that the drive to the VA is “worth the effort” given the high volume of surgical and medical experience at the VA hospital. This train of thinking was also reflected at our Annual Graduation Ceremony, where the residents present the Dr. Altemare the Wake Forest University Eye Center Residents Award for Excellence in Teaching. This award is given to faculty members for their inspiring, challenging and effective teaching methods, and who’s concern and respect is evident both in and out of the clinic/teaching environment.

During the first year of training, residents spend four one-month rotations at the VA, and they spend two two-month rotations as a second-year resident. Senior residents rotate through a continuous cycle allowing each senior resident a full operating day each week at the VA.

Resident’s clinics are busy with many comprehensive and cataract patients, as well as glaucoma and retina subspecialty consultations.

Junior residents perform many lasers, intraocular injection, and minor procedures. The Veterans Administration hospital has a full optometric service, which means that patients encountered at the VA clinics are essentially ‘prescreened’ for pathology. This is especially true with patients having cataracts, with a high percentage of patients initially encountered at the ophthalmology clinic proceeding on with the resident for cataract surgery. About 70 percent of resident cataract surgery is performed at the VA, with 30 percent at the Wake Forest Eye Center.

Lectures and Conferences 

Ophthalmology Residency Surgery PhotoThe didactic schedule is designed to cover all of the material in the AAO Basic Clinical Science Course (BCSC) in a two-year cycle, allowing some flexibility for senior residents with their surgical schedule.

More than 170 hours of didactic lectures are provided each year by the full-time faculty.

Wednesdays are reserved for didactic lectures and clinical conferences, and all residents (including residents on VA rotations) are in attendance at the Wake Forest campus.

Each Wednesday morning begins with a 7:15 am clinical conference in which all attendings, residents and fellows participate, with residents presenting interesting, informative cases, or cases needing multidisciplinary consultation.

Four to six hours of didactic lectures are scheduled on Wednesday, covering the subspecialty areas in a rotating fashion.

Three hours on Wednesday afternoon are available for clinical time; this clinical time is generally reserved for minor procedures, and also allows the rotating VA resident to follow some of their long-term patients while on off-campus rotations. 

Visiting professors also bring their expertise to the Eye Center. The annual meeting is one such event with three invited lectures of national or international status. Grand Rounds are also held, typically three times a year, with visiting specialists participating in case conferences (usually with patient examination and discussion) 

Resident Research 

Ophthalmology Resident Research PhotoEach resident is required to pursue a clinical research project of his/her choice under the supervision of a faculty person and is encouraged to publish at least one paper in a peer-reviewed academic journal before the training program can considered to have been successfully completed.

Residents are given specific instruction in presenting case reports and scientific papers, and they benefit from superior audiovisual services for academic and scholarly pursuits.

It is anticipated that residents will produce at least a case report during their first year, with rigorous research projects anticipated for the second and third year.

Second and third-year residents are required to present the results of their research at the Wake Forest University Annual Eye Meeting as a scientific talk; this is expected to be a publication-worthy project. Residents who have papers or posters accepted at outside peer reviewed meetings will typically be sponsored by the Eye Center to attend, but this decision is made on a case by case basis.

Call Responsibilities 

Ophthalmology Residency Surgery Photo 2All call is from home.

The first and second-year residents take “first call”; so on average call is every sixth night. However, call is more frequent on the Wake Forest rotations than when residents are on their VA rotations, so there is some variability through the year.

Senior residents take “second call” and thus are on call on average of one out of every three nights for backup call. Senior residents are expected to come to the Eye Center after hours as needed (admissions, emergent procedures, or when the junior residents have clinical questions).

Faculty coverage is available at all times, and faculty staff supervises all trips to the operating room, both scheduled and unscheduled. 


The training program also supports fellows in retina, cornea, and oculoplastics. Having fellows in these three busy services has been a benefit to residency training, allowing more predictable educational structure for residents rotating through these subspecialties. Resident surgical volume has not been negatively affected by the addition of fellows to our program. 

Additional Information 

Chairman: Craig M. Greven, MD

Residency Program Director: Timothy J. Martin, MD

Associate Residency Program Director: Paul J. Dickinson, MD

Residency Program Coordinator: Hannah McSawley hmcsawle@wakehealth.edu


Quick Reference

Opthalmology Residency
Craig M. Greven, MD
Department Chair
Timothy J. Martin, MD
Residency Program Director
Paul J. Dickinson, MD
Associate Residency Program Director
Hannah McSawley
Residency Program Coordinator


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Last Updated: 01-20-2016
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