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UNC takes great pride in educating and cultivating residents who graduate with outstanding clinical and surgical skills ready to independently practice ophthalmology and provide compassionate, patient-centered care. Our residents succeed in both fellowships and comprehensive practice (see “About Our Graduates”).  The curriculum has three principles in mind: early surgical exposure, longitudinal subspecialty learning, and empowering resident decision making.

PGY-1 / Internship:

This year is spent with UNC’s Department of Internal Medicine. Interns spend six months in internal medicine inpatient units, one month in UNC Medical Center’s ICU, one month on elective, one month involved in research, and three months in early-stage ophthalmology training. During the ophthalmology months, interns will rotate in clinics, subspecialty ORs, and hospital consults. Extensive exposure in ophthalmology facilitates hitting the ground running as a resident.

PGY-2 / First-year Resident:

Residents begin with an orientation and an introduction course covering terminology, management of common ocular diseases and emergencies, use of instruments and examination techniques. PGY-2 residents complete three-month rotations in oculoplastics, pediatrics, neuro-ophthalmology/ocular oncology, and a combined anterior segment rotation (cornea and glaucoma). At the end of the PGY-2 year, one resident will start the cataract surgery rotation.

On the oculoplastics rotation, residents are the primary assistant with complex orbital surgeries and perform blepharoplasties and lateral tarsal strips as the primary surgeon. During time spent on pediatrics, residents learn to do cycloplegic refractions, sensorimotor exams, and perform strabismus surgeries as the primary surgeon. The neuro-ophthalmology rotation provides an excellent foundation for treatment complex neuro-ophthalmologic conditions.

PGY-3 / Second-year Resident:

PGY-3 residents rotate through hospital consults, retina, cataract surgery, and the Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital in Fayetteville. On the retina rotation, residents become proficient in laser panretinal photocoagulation and intravitreal injections, and they are introduced to techniques of core vitrectomy.

On the consult service, residents participate in UNC comprehensive service clinics and observe community ophthalmologists for career exploration purposes. The hospital consult service has a wide range of pathologies as UNC’s hospital is a level one trauma center, the referral burn center for NC, and a tertiary referral center for complex ocular conditions. This results in extensive exposure to amniotic membrane grafts, tarsorrhaphies, canthotomy/cantholysis, eyelid laceration repairs, and anterior chamber and vitreous taps.

On the cataract rotation with our team of anterior segment surgeon teachers, residents usually perform their first 40-50 cataract surgeries as primary surgeon and learn basic and advanced surgical techniques like divide & conquer and chopping.

On the VA rotation, residents reside and work in Fayetteville, NC (approximately 70 miles from Chapel Hill). The rotation is a combination of clinics and ORs dedicated to service to veterans. Residents will have the opportunity to perform cataract surgery, clinic procedures, and eyelid surgeries as the primary surgeon. Residents are provided with apartments with utilities in Fayetteville free of charge while on rotation.

PGY-4 / Third-year Resident:

The goals of this year are to learn complex anterior segment subjects of cornea and glaucoma and to continue to hone cataract surgery skills with two three-month rotations at the VA. Residents at the VA perform eyelid surgeries, glaucoma surgeries, and cataract surgeries as primary surgeons in addition to a variety of clinic laser procedures and intravitreal injections.

While on cornea rotation, PGY-4 residents are exposed to a wide variety of corneal pathology and perform pterygium excision and cataract surgeries. The glaucoma rotation provides residents with the opportunity to expand their knowledge of glaucoma and perform laser procedures and glaucoma drainage device surgeries as primary surgeons.

Representative Block Schedule

PGY-2  July-Sept  Oct-December  Jan-March  Apr-June 
Resident 1 Cornea/glaucoma Neuro Oculoplastics Cataract
Resident 2 Peds Cornea/glaucoma Neuro Oculoplastics
Resident 3 Oculoplastics Peds Cornea/glaucoma Neuro
Resident 4 Neuro Oculoplastics Cataract Cornea/glaucoma


Resident 1 VA Retina Consults Peds
Resident 2 Cataract VA Retina Consults
Resident 3 Consults Cataract VA Retina
Resident 4 Retina Consults Cataract VA


Resident 1 VA Cornea/glaucoma Consults VA
Resident 2 Cornea/glaucoma VA Cornea/glaucoma VA
Resident 3 VA Consults VA Cornea/glaucoma
Resident 4 Consults VA VA Consults