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GME > Residency Programs > Ophthalmology > About The Program
About Rush University


Program Overview

Medical education is a major activity of the Department of Ophthalmology. The components include:
  • Resident education, including an integrated R-1 year and a three-year ophthalmology residency, didactics and primary care education
  • Resident rotations
  • Continuing Medical Education, including an annual clinical review course, subspecialty conferences, monthly grand rounds and a number of other CME programs throughout the year
  • Clinical program to provide consultant, diagnostic and treatment services for all conditions affecting the eye
  • Research for the department and its faculty to actively engage in a variety of National Institutes of Health, National Eye Institute, FDA and industry clinical trials.
  • State-of-the-art facilities

Resident Education Program

Residency training in ophthalmology at Rush University Medical Center is a three-year program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. Each year, two residents are appointed to begin their ophthalmology training following a pre-ophthalmology transitional year.

The Rush ophthalmology residency program is small, with only two residents training each year, but therein lies its strongest advantage: Rush residents become true comprehensive ophthalmologists on July 1 of their first year, with the ability to follow their own patients throughout the entire residency. Few academic programs offer this continuity-of-care. The small size also allows a very large surgical volume, with residents averaging 180 to 220 cataract procedures, one of the highest volumes in the Midwest. A true family atmosphere between the residents and dedicated faculty exists, creating an unparalleled training experience. The department seeks applicants who are equally dedicated to the learning challenges, and who have strong personal and ethical principles.

For more information about applying to our residency program, please check the Ophthalmology Matching Program of the Central Application Service at SF Match.

Philosophy And Mission

The mission of the ophthalmology program is to train residents in excellent medical and surgical care of patients with all types of eye disease. The program emphasizes continuity-of-care, with residents following patients continuously from the beginning of their training.

Faculty Commitment

There are more than 40 active physicians who are dedicated to resident training. One hundred percent of the ophthalmology faculty at Rush are private practice based, which is one of the strongest advantages of the program. The faculty are present for one reason only, and that is resident education! Residents do not compete for the attending's attention - something seen all too often with university-employed physicians. Present during every clinic, attending physicians are readily available for teaching on every case.

PGY-1: Internship

Unlike many programs, Rush provides the PGY-1 experience as an intern, negating the need for a separate match. This also facilitates the transition into the PGY-2 year, with greater familiarity of the Medical Center. During the PGY-1 year, rotations include internal medicine; infectious diseases; neurology; dermatology; neurosurgery; plastic surgery; ear, nose, and throat surgery; general surgery; and ophthalmology. The last month of the PGY-1 year serves as an introduction to ophthalmology, allowing a gradual and more structured introduction to the specialized terminology and examination procedures of ophthalmology. Multiple in-depth lectures on basic ophthalmology are given. Residents begin supervised examinations of one to four patients each day, allowing a guided introduction to the new examination challenges.

PGY-2: First-Year Ophthalmology

Positions are filled through the Ophthalmology Matching Program sponsored by the Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology. The first year in ophthalmology is an introduction to outpatient general ophthalmic care, subspecialty ophthalmic care, ophthalmic surgery and ophthalmic pathology. Each resident assists attending physicians in intraocular surgery. Extra-ocular surgery may be scheduled by the first-year resident beginning immediately in July. Starting in December of the first year, residents begin scheduling cataract surgery as the primary surgeon with an attending surgeon as first assistant. The introduction of a substantial volume of intraocular surgery in the first year is a strong advantage of the Rush philosophy. The ophthalmic pathology rotation consists of one-half day per week for one-half of the year of the first year of residency. The remainder of the first-year resident's time is spent in the clinic seeing general and subspecialty patients, as well as in-patient and outpatient consultations. First-year residents are on call one to two days per week. Backup coverage is provided by the third-year resident and an attending at all times. At the end of the first year, residents are confident in proceeding with the higher surgical volume seen in subsequent years.

Residency Progression

The rate of development of surgical technique accelerates according to the resident's personal competence. Extraocular procedures are performed immediately after beginning the ophthalmology service. Intraocular procedures are performed in the latter half of the first year in ophthalmology.

PGY-2 & 3: Second- and Third-Year Ophthalmology

Second- and third-year residents have similar rotation schedules. There are four different services, and residents spend three months on a rotation each year. Two services include a rotation with primary retinal surgeons and two services include a rotation with primary anterior segment surgeons. Included in the anterior segment services is neuro-ophthalmology and oculoplastic surgery. In addition, the resident continues to see patients with general eye problems on a daily basis in a continuity-of-care clinic. Each resident has an assigned surgery day each week, but surgery may also be scheduled at any time with prior arrangement. Each year, one of the third-year residents is selected to act as chief resident for administration, while the other handles educational matters. This system allows residents to develop administrative and educational maturity that will prove beneficial in their future careers.

Resident Research

Opportunities exist for clinical and basic science research throughout the three ophthalmology years; in-depth basic science research is not, however, a prerequisite for completion of the program. Second- and third-year residents, however, are required to perform a structured research project to be presented at the Annual Resident & Alumni Day conference in June. Research projects are optional for first-year residents.

Didactic Program and Continuing Medical Education

Rush Department of Ophthalmology is proud to be the leader in Chicago for continuing medical education (CME) programs. Each section director oversees the development of the morning clinical lecture series, assuring complete attention to the basic fund of knowledge required over a three-year cycle. Wednesday afternoons are dedicated to resident education; thus, no clinic is scheduled. Grand rounds are held monthly, and fluorescein and OCT conferences are held quarterly. Journal clubs are scheduled in cornea, neuro-ophthalmology and retina on a bimonthly basis. Completing the didactic schedule, chairman's rounds are held each Friday morning. Educational conferences are open to Rush residents throughout the year. For example, residents are able to attend the monthly conferences of the Chicago Ophthalmological Society, which features renowned outside speakers. From September to May, Rush residents participate in the Chicago Curriculum in Ophthalmology, a unique collaborative effort between all of the Chicago training programs; the lecture series is provided by faculty from each of the Chicago universities and is open to all Chicago ophthalmology residents.

Continuing medical education is an integral component of the educational mission of the Department of Ophthalmology at Rush. Our educational activities range from basic reviews to "cutting edge" curriculum in an effort to inform health care professionals of the most advanced diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical management options for ophthalmic diseases.

Primary care education is an important component of the educational mission of the Department of Ophthalmology at Rush. Rush medical students, as well as students from other medical schools, may choose two or four week rotations in ophthalmology. A rotation in ophthalmology is required for residents in the departments of pediatrics and family medicine. In addition, residents in internal medicine may rotate through ophthalmology with the consent of their program director and the program director in ophthalmology. Rush ophthalmology residents take an active role in assisting in this student experience. We believe that there is no better way to learn than to teach.

Fellowship Interaction

The Rush Department of Ophthalmology sponsors a highly successful two-year fellowship in retina and vitreous diseases. All fellows rotate through the department and greatly enhance the residency education experience. There is NO competition for surgical cases between the residents and fellows, who achieve their extensive surgical volume outside of Rush, within the private practice of Illinois Retina Associates. The fellows also actively participate in resident journal clubs, academic conferences and didactic presentations.

The Eye Center At Rush

Most outpatient clinical activities, research protocals and residency training occur in the Joseph and Helen Regenstein Eye Center of Rush University Medical Center, located on the 9th floor of the Rush Professional Building.

Resident Exam Facilities

Each resident is assigned an examination lane that is equipped with all examination instruments, including an indirect ophthalmoscope. Residents are required to purchase only their hand held lenses. For easy interaction with staff, the lanes are clustered around the attending lane and office. A resident resource room allows retrieval of labs and digital images, as well as provides a space for private teaching and colleague consultation. Teaching scopes and video indirects enhance the teaching experience.

Complete Digital Access

A digital server system allows integration of all diagnostic images, including fluorescein and ICG angiography, optical coherence tomography (OCT), visual fields, ultrasonography, corneal topography and wavefront analysis, specular microscopy and electrophysiology. Each resident exam room outfitted with a computer terminal allows access to all patient images, which can be displayed for patients and family members, enhancing the clinical teaching to the patient. A separate viewing room in the attending office allows conference and reading of images with attendings.

Patient Education Suites

Two patient education suites allow patients and their families to watch educational videos about diseases and upcoming surgical procedures, such as intraocular surgery, refractive surgery and cosmetic oculoplastic procedures. If desired, families can also sit in the suite and view the refractive procedures as they are performed on their family members. Resident and technician staff members may use a variety of teaching models.

Outpatient Treatments

Dedicated rooms within the center provide the latest treatment equipment, including a three-color thermal laser, laser indirect ophthalmoscope, YAG laser, selective laser trabeculoplasty and photodynamic therapy laser. A minor operating room allows minor lid and external procedures with an operating microscope.

Resident Education Offices

Each resident has an office carrel with LAN and Internet hookup. A nearby conference room and lounge is dedicated for the resident staff, and can be used for small meetings, lectures or just relaxation. The conference room is equipped with complete audio/visual facilities. A kitchenette is also contained within the education suite. A powerful graphics workstation is available to residents, allowing them to produce PowerPoint presentations, with links into the digital image server, Medline, and the Internet. The main eye center waiting room displays photos of all faculty and residents.

Surgical Education and Virtual Reality Simulator Laboratory

Alcon Surgical has provided a generous $250,000 grant to create a one-of-a-kind surgical education laboratory. The lab houses an amazing surgical simulator, allowing both cataract surgery and retinal surgery in a virtual reality world. Residents and medical students can practice a variety of ophthalmic procedures without fear of harming the "virtual patient." A separate practice surgery table and microscope allow surgery and suturing practice on eye band and animal eyes, all while video recording the procedure both externally and within the eye. The room also contains a professional AVID video editing suite, run by a department A/V specialist who assists in producing broadcast quality video presentations.
Conference Theatre and Library
Our conference room/theater allows for interactive PowerPoint presentations linked to telecommunication abilities, and live links to the two eye operating rooms in the main hospital, the excimer laser suite and a live patient exam room. The adjacent media exam room provides video cameras on the indirect ophthalmoscope, slit lamp and external to allow viewing within the theatre. All activities held in the room, including live surgery video feeds, can be recorded digitally and packaged to remain on a special media server. Telecommunications can link speakers in other cities. Resident lectures can be recorded, including all PowerPoint slides, videos and the face and voice of the lecturer for later viewing (e.g. if a resident is absent or on vacation).

Research Center

A clinical research center houses all clinical research activities, including NIH and FDA programs, along with the clinical coordinators' and staff offices.

Art Deco Movie Motif

The interior of the Eye Center resembles an art deco movie theatre. More than 250 large movie posters, from the silent era to the present, are framed throughout the new facility, and each movie title has the word "eye" in the title. Neon wall sconces, deco furniture, and movie memorabilia with "eye" themes are also displayed. The elevator lobby entrance to the eye center has the look of a grand deco office building. Our goal is to create an environment that sets patients at ease and makes them smile.

Resources and Benefits

Residency and fellowship training is an exciting and challenging phase of the education of physicians. Rush University Medical Center is committed to maintaining excellence in our graduate medical education programs and to creating an environment for our housestaff that is conducive to outstanding clinical experience, expert teaching and personal well-being. At Rush, we are very proud of our house officers and consider them a vital part of our health care community.

For detailed information regarding benefits please refer to Rush House Officer's Agreement and the Quick Benefits Reference.

Rush Residency Resources

  • Complete library resources. Rush University carries a comprehensive collection of medical journals, books, government documents and audiovisual materials. In addition, our library provides access to computerized information retrieval systems.
  • Computer access, including Rush email and Internet linkage. The McCormick Educational Technology Center is accessible to housestaff, 24/7.
  • Discounts on products and services. A number of local vendors offer discounts and/or services to Rush University Medical Center employees. Benefits include reduced price theatre tickets, special rates for local health and fitness centers, discounted admission for certain local and national attractions, employee rates at local hotels, and discounts for products and services, including mobile phones, car rentals and computer equipment.
  • Free and confidential counseling and psychiatric support services. An employee assistance program is available to house officers and their immediate family members who experience personal problems with issues such as anxiety, depression, alcohol and drug abuse, financial and legal matters, career, marital or family and adjustment to illness.
  • International services. Our Office of International Services helps residents and fellows from foreign countries make a successful transition to Chicago. The international office assists housestaff who hold nonimmigrant visa status. This office is the liaison with ECFMG for J-1 Exchange Visitors and for H-1B workers. For additional information, email
  • An active Rush Housestaff Association, which meets monthly and addresses the needs of the housestaff. It provides opportunities for open communication and involvement in Medical Center affairs.

Ophthalmology Residency Benefits

  • The Department of Ophthalmology has established a series of additional benefits that enhance the residency experience.
  • The American Academy of Ophthalmology Basic and Clinical Science Course, a 13-volume set, is given to first-year residents.
  • A yearly travel allowance of $1200 is provided to each resident for attendance at a national ophthalmology meeting.
  • An additional travel allowance of $1200 per year is available to any resident presenting a paper at a national meeting, e.g. ARVO.
  • Each year, two senior residents may attend the American Academy of Ophthalmology Annual Meeting at the department's expense.
  • The department will also cover fees for each resident to attend the weekly Chicago Curriculum in Ophthalmology lecture series and the monthly meetings of the Chicago Ophthalmological Society.

Rush is a great place to be an ophthalmologist. It is an even better place to train!


Current Residents


Afua Annor, MD

Rachel Epstein, MD




Brian Herst, MD 

Tanya Spektor, MD



Alex Grigalunas, MD

Jill Zaveri, MD



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