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The Vitreoretinal Fellowship Program at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill is a two-year Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology – Fellowship Compliance Committee (AUPO-FCC) compliant medical and surgical fellowship, with one applicant accepted into the program every two years.

The primary goal of the fellowship program is to educate ophthalmologists to become ethical, competent, independent vitreoretinal surgeons. We hope to train leaders in the field of vitreoretinal surgery by providing an outstanding learning environment for the development of the necessary knowledge and technical skills.

The fellowship provides extensive training in all aspects of the diagnosis, clinical care and surgical management of vitreoretinal disorders. While strong clinical training is the core of the program, clinical or basic science research opportunities are available and strongly encouraged.

Vitreoretinal fellows work directly with the UNC retina faculty mentors.

UNC Retina Service Faculty



J. Niklas Ulrich, M.D.                    Vitreo-Retinal Surgery                Retinopathy of Prematurity


Alice Zhang, M.D.                    Vitreo-retinal Surgery



Beatrice Y. Brewington, M.D.    Medical Retina


Miguel A. Materin M D Ocular Oncology
Miguel A. Materin, M.D.              Ocular Oncology


Keirnan Willett, M D Vitreo-retinal Surgery Uveitis
Keirnan Willett, M.D.                  Vitreo-retinal Surgery                  Uveitis

Clinical Training

Vitreoretinal fellows experience balanced and extensive clinical and surgical training. In both the first and second years vitreoretinal fellows are fully integrated into all aspects of medical and surgical retina. The vitreoretinal fellows spend approximately 2 days in the operating room and 3 days in clinic per week.

Clinic Experience

The fellows’ training takes place primarily at the UNC Kittner Eye Center, which has been housed in a new outpatient facility since August 2013.

Clinics will include exposure to conditions common to most vitreoretinal specialists’ practices, in addition to highly specialized fields of retina such as uveitis, ocular oncology and genetics.

Vitreoretinal fellows become competent at interpreting the following diagnostic modalities:

  • Ocular echography (A-scan and B-scan)
  • Spectral domain optical coherence tomography
  • Fundus photography
  • Autofluorescence
  • Fluorescein and indocyanine green angiography
  • Multifocal and Ganzfield electroretinogram
  • OCT-angiography

Our imaging department is equipped with the latest technology and is staffed with certified imaging specialists.

Surgical Experience

Fellows mainly operate at the new UNC Hillsborough Hospital.

Fellows obtain extensive hands on experience in the operating room. The vitreoretinal fellows are surgeons or first assistants based on complexity of the case and capability of the fellow. Attending supervision is available for every vitreoretinal procedure.

In addition to procedures common to vitreoretinal specialists, vitreoretinal fellows have ample exposure to the management of complicated vitreoretinal conditions such as ocular trauma, intraocular foreign bodies, complex retinal detachments (proliferative vitreoretinopathy, giant retinal tears, advanced proliferative retinopathy, pediatric retinal detachments).

The intraoperative techniques that vitreoretinal fellows become familiar with include: 23-, 25- and 27 gauge instrumentation; contact and non-contact viewing systems such as the Resight, small and wide field contact lens; chandelier systems; scleral buckling techniques; pneumatic retinopexy; cryocoagulation; drug delivery implants; intravitreal injections; radioactive plaque management and Retcam imaging.

Vitreoretinal fellows become proficient in all modalities of laser photocoagulation: indirect and slit lamp delivery and photodynamic therapy.

The vitreoretinal fellows will also have access to the new state-of-the-art NC Eye Bank Surgical Skills Laboratory in order to practice techniques and teach residents.

At the end of two years vitreoretinal fellows are up-to-date with the current standard of care and have the expertise to handle a wide range of retinal cases, from the most common to the most complex.

Research Opportunities

Vitreoretinal fellows are expected to participate in at least one research project. Research projects are presented in a dedicated program held each June at the UNC.

The research interests of the faculty include a wide variety of clinical, translational and basic science projects. UNC’s extensive research community can also provide valuable resources.

Vitreoretinal fellows are encouraged and funded to present research at academic meetings.

Clinical Trials

UNC Eye is involved in many multicenter collaborative clinical trials and fellows obtain knowledge of clinical trial operations and procedures. Although FDA regulations restrict the ability for fellows to directly participate in some clinical trials, the vitreoretinal fellows play an active role in the care of these patients.


Vitreoretinal fellows have many opportunities to teach and supervise residents and medical students in clinics, on the hospital consult service, during procedures and in clinical conferences.


Vitreoretinal fellows meet on a regular basis with the retina faculty, residents and rotating medical students to discuss interesting topics. Vitreoretinal fellows provide some didactics to the residents, in addition to participating in a variety of conferences and seminars at UNC Eye. Teaching conferences include retinal imaging conferences, surgical case conferences, ocular oncology tumor board, morbidity and mortality rounds, and retina journal clubs.

Fellow evaluation

Fellows receive both formal (every 6 months) and frequent informal feedback from faculty regarding their progress in training.


Vitreoretinal call with vitreoretinal attending supervision: 1 out of 2 weeks.

Serve in rotation as faculty-on-call: 1 out of 6 weeks.

Fellow Funding and Benefits

The UNC Department of Ophthalmology provides funding for this fellowship with salary support, medical malpractice insurance, and health benefits. Fellows will be paid at the appropriate PGY level, as established by the office of Graduate Medical Education.


Two weeks – Time will be allowed towards end of fellowship for job interviews

Clinical appointments

Considered attending physicians.


Fellows must obtain an unrestricted North Carolina state medical license prior to beginning the fellowship. All three parts of the USMLE must be passed for the North Carolina medical license.

Application Process

Applicants should apply to the San Francisco matching program ( and complete the CAS retina fellowship application.