UNC Eye Hosts First-Ever Tri-Residency Cataract Course

Newly Opened NC Eye Bank Surgical Skills Lab at UNC hosts UNC, Duke, & Wake Forest faculty and residents who converge to discuss cataract treatment

UNC Eye Hosts First-Ever Tri-Residency Cataract Course click to enlarge Dr. Ken Cohen oversees training in the Surgical Skills Lab

UNC Eye recently hosted the first-ever Tri-Residency Cataract Course, in which faculty and residents from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, and Wake Forest University gathered together for lectures and case discussions about cataract treatments.  Faculty from each institution gave lectures on cataract surgery and then residents had the opportuthnity to practice under supervision in the newly opened NC Eye Bank Surgical Skills Lab at UNC.

UNC Eye Department Chair Donald L. Budenz, MD, MPH said, "The ability to teach microsurgery to residents in a state-of-the-art laboratory is a huge advance in residency training. In addition to weekly training in cataract surgery, we will be holding courses in every subspecialty monthly to teach surgical techniques to treat glaucoma, corneal disease, retinal disease, oculoplastics, and strabismus surgery. This will be excellent preparation for our trainees before they begin operating on real patients."

Dr. Budenz continued, "In addition, we are in the process of organizing weekend training courses in the implantation of newly approved implants for the management of glaucoma. These courses will be open to practicing ophthalmologists who may not have received training in the implantation of devices that were not available when they did their residency training."

Bradley King - Surgical Skills Lab
First-year resident Bradley King, MD
Residents & Fellows in Lab
Residents and Fellows in Surgical Skills Lab

The cross-University participation was greatly appreciated.  UNC Eye Professor Kenneth L. Cohen, MD said, "To me, the exciting part of our first phacoemulsification training course was the educational experience received by ophthalmology residents from not only UNC, but Duke and Wake Forest. As state-of-the art as our facility is, our successful course could not have happened without expert participation by faculty from Duke and Wake Forest, vendors, teaching by our very own third year residents, and support from our department."

Dr. Cohen teaching in lab
Dr. Cohen provides instruction and leadership

UNC Eye Residents were very excited to have this new resource at their disposal.  Chief Resident, Kevin Gertsch said, "The Surgical Skills Lab is an amazing new addition to our residency program. This first-class facility demonstrates the clear focus on education at UNC.  The Surgical Skills Lab allows us to master the skills necessary to become excellent surgeons. Residents can learn and be observed through monitors at individual stations to provide one-on-one instruction.  This training is invaluable for both the residents and their patients enabling residents to become proficient and confident with procedures prior to going to the operating room.  We currently have access to the lab for both large group instruction as well as individual practice time. This allows for a variety of learning opportunities."

Dr. Gertsch continued, "We have weekly lab time to work on surgical procedures of our choice and monthly conferences with faculty members teaching specific procedures in the various subspecialties within ophthalmology.  We have the chance to practice techniques required for corneal transplants, glaucoma procedures, eye muscle surgery, complicated anterior segment procedures and even practice retinal lasers.  The facility has more than enough room and stations for our entire residency program to practice at the same time.  We have enjoyed sharing the facility with our colleagues in Otolaryngology and Neurosurgery as we all benefit from the available technology and training resources.

Our recent tri-residency cataract course was a success for all who attended.  Residents from UNC, Duke, and Wake Forest were able to be instructed by faculty from all three residency programs and then put the new principles learned into action in the wet lab.  Using pig eyes and artificial eyes from the KITARO wet lab system, first year residents practiced the multiple steps of cataract surgery under the supervision of faculty experts and upper-level residents.

Residents in Surgical Skills Lab2
Chief Resident Kevin Gertsch, MD, first-year Resident Rob van der Vaart, MD, and second-year Resident Adam Dao, MD instruct fourth-year medical student Ronald Milam


The cataract course for first-year residents reflects the strong tradition at UNC to begin learning surgical skills early in residency training to encourage a more in-depth and comprehensive understanding of the principles of ophthalmic surgery.  We plan to hold similar courses in the future and hope expand to invite upper-level residents from all three NC programs to participate as well.  We also hope that the new lab will be a center for education for other surgeons in the community."


Second-year UNC Eye Resident, Adam Dao, MD was somewhat surprised by his experience during the course, saying, "The UNC Cataract Course was the most educational, efficient, and dare I say it, fun(!) educational activity that I have had since I have been an ophthalmology resident. It was great to get formal instruction and feedback from faculty from a myriad of institutions. It was also nice to meet other residents from other programs and to share (and commiserate about) our experiences in learning cataract surgery. The course was as professional and high caliber as the new North Carolina Eye Bank surgical skills laboratory."


Third-year UNC Eye Resident, Jim Wrzosek found the course extremely valuable, stating, "Overall, being able to first see lectures from experienced faculty on basic phaco techniques followed by an immediate opportunity to practice those techniques under the supervision of the faculty and advanced residents showcased the one of the main strengths of both the training course and the new practice lab.  The availability of top end phaco equipment from AMO and the new cataract simulation equipment from Kitaro also helped make the course valuable for the residents."


For more information on the North Carolina Eye Bank Surgical Skills Lab at UNC, please contact lab manager Matt Pillsbury at matthew_pillsbury@med.unc.edu.

Gertsch in lab instructing
Chief Resident Kevin Gertsch, MD provides instruction