Before you begin your Ophthalmology Residency, you need to take one year (PGY-1) of clinical base training at Mayo Clinic or in another academic medical setting. This year normally includes clinical training in internal medicine, along with specialty electives, such as neurology and otorhinolaryngology.

To fulfill this requirement, Mayo Clinic offers the Internal Medicine Preliminary Residency (Minnesota).

Clinical training

Your clinical training combines 16 months of clinical rotations with 20 months of ophthalmic surgery services. During clinical rotations, you study the entire spectrum of ophthalmic diseases. You have the opportunity to learn and practice these examination techniques and procedures:

  • Argon, krypton and YAG laser surgery
  • Biomicroscopy
  • Color vision testing
  • Cryotherapy
  • Dark adaptometry
  • Electroretinography
  • Fitting contact lenses and low-vision aids
  • Fluorescein angiography
  • Ophthalmic photography (including corneal endothelial specular microscopy)
  • Ophthalmoscopy
  • Orthoptics
  • Outpatient surgery
  • Perimetry
  • Refraction
  • Slit-lamp photography
  • Tonography
  • Ultrasonography

Subspecialty training

In addition to general ophthalmology, you gain focused clinical experience in these subspecialty areas:

  • Anterior segment diseases
  • Glaucoma
  • Medical and neuro-ophthalmology
  • Oculoplastic and orbital surgery
  • Ophthalmic pathology
  • Pediatric ophthalmology
  • Refraction, contact lenses and low-vision aids
  • Retinal and vitreal diseases
  • Strabismus
  • Uveitis and ocular inflammation

Surgical training

During your 26 months of ophthalmic surgery training, you care for both inpatients and outpatients, assist in surgery with your assigned staff member, and assume increasing surgical responsibilities as your training progresses. The surgical rotations include:

  • Anterior segment and cataract surgery
  • Corneal surgery
  • Glaucoma surgery
  • Oculoplastic and orbital surgery
  • Retinal and vitreal surgery
  • Strabismus surgery
  • Pediatric ophthalmology surgery

During your third year, you serve as chief resident at Mayo Clinic and the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs (VA) Health Care System. As a chief resident, you have the primary responsibility for a surgical and medical service. Mayo Clinic funds the authorized additional costs of travel and housing. Our residents consistently rate these rotations very highly.

Rotation schedule

This is a typical Ophthalmology Residency rotation schedule:

Comprehensive ophthalmology 4 months
Ophthalmic pathology and neuro-ophthalmology 2 months
Refraction, contact lenses and low vision 2 months
Oculoplastics and orbit 1 month
Cornea 2 months
Retina 1 month
Retina-vitreous 2 months
Glaucoma 2 months
Pediatric ophthalmology and strabismus 2 months
Anterior segment and cataract surgery 4 months
Oculoplastics 2 months
Chief resident, Mayo Clinic 3 months
Chief resident, Minneapolis VA Health Care System 3 months
Comprehensive ophthalmology, Mayo Clinic 6 months

Rotation descriptions


First-year rotations are scheduled in these clinics:

  • Comprehensive ophthalmology service
  • Refraction, low-vision, contact lens and retina
  • Neuro-ophthalmology
  • Cornea
  • Oculoplastic and orbit

During this time, you gradually assume patient care responsibilities. You are responsible for evening and weekend call after two months of outpatient training.

The first year also includes an ophthalmic pathology rotation, which incorporates didactic sessions and examinations of pathology specimens with an ophthalmic pathologist. This rotation also includes formal wet lab instruction in surgical technique by staff surgeons, as well as a cadaver orbital dissection.


The second year includes two-month rotations through the surgical subspecialties. During this time, you are given the opportunity to observe and perform surgery under the close guidance of the staff. Your surgical responsibilities increase based upon your abilities so as to obtain the expertise and confidence that is expected from an ophthalmic surgeon and to provide patients with the best surgical care.

You also complete first-call duties early in the second year and begin second call. Second call requires that the resident be available for consultation on cases seen by the first-call resident and assist the chief resident associate in surgery. Call is every fourth night and may be taken from home, although in-house facilities are available.

Near the end of the second year, each resident is asked to present to the department a mini-thesis on a topic of his or her choice. This project is undertaken in collaboration with a staff member, and many of these works have been published or presented at national meetings.


The third year includes the most rewarding portion of the training program, the chief residency. If you are in satisfactory academic standing, you are appointed as chief resident, assuming primary responsibility for the surgical and medical care of your patients. Additionally, the chief resident is on call for all emergency operations and emergency hospital admissions.

To maximize the surgical experience on this service, each PGY-4 resident spends nine months at Mayo Clinic and three months at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System. During your interview, you have the opportunity to visit with individuals who can share their experiences about these sites.

Call frequency

Your call schedule is different for each rotation. Mayo Clinic follows the recommendations of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).

Didactic training

Each week during your residency, from September through June, you participate in a series of didactic lectures presented by the staff members of the Department of Ophthalmology, which explore the entire field of ophthalmology during the three-year program.

This series is structured around the Basic and Clinical Science Course issued by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Additional special conferences in optic, refraction and fluorescein angiography are available.

Lectures include:

  • External and corneal diseases
  • Fundamentals and principles of ophthalmology (anatomy, biochemistry, physiology and pathology)
  • Glaucoma, disorders of the lens and anterior segment trauma
  • Intraocular inflammation, uveitis and other tumors
  • Neuro-ophthalmology
  • Ophthalmic pathology
  • Optics, refraction and contact lenses
  • Orbital, lacrimal and eyelid diseases
  • Retinal and vitreous diseases
  • Pediatric ophthalmology and strabismus

During your residency, you are able to attend a national meeting of your choice. Attendance at additional meetings for the purpose of presenting original research is also encouraged. Financial support for these activities is provided.

Grand Rounds

During your three years of study, you prepare case study presentations. You present the pertinent information of an interesting case, conduct an in-depth discussion of that case and provide a current bibliography as part of Ophthalmology Grand Rounds.

Committee assignments

You are given an opportunity to gain experience in a number of administrative capacities. For example, appointment to the Education Committee provides you with experience in education administration.

Research training

You are expected to conduct and complete at least one clinical research project during your residency. You are also required to present the results of your research at the annual residents' research symposium and at appropriate national meetings. If your paper is approved by the department and is accepted for presentation at such a meeting, Mayo Clinic funds the associated authorized travel costs.

Teaching opportunities

You have the opportunity to teach Mayo Clinic School of Medicine students, visiting students from other medical schools and other residents in the clinical setting.


To ensure that you acquire adequate knowledge and develop the appropriate technical skills to meet program expectations, your performance is monitored carefully during the Ophthalmology Residency. At the end of each two-month rotation, the staff consultants examine and grade your performance. In addition, you have an individual biannual conference with the program director to assess and discuss your progress, as well as educational and organizational matters.

You are asked to submit a written evaluation of the residency every year. A computerized data collection system tracks your surgical experience throughout training.

Academic progress is formally monitored by quarterly oral and written quizzes, as well as by the performance in the annual Ophthalmic Knowledge Assessment Program (OKAP) examination.

Additional training

In addition to this three-year Ophthalmology Residency, Mayo Clinic offers five ophthalmology fellowships. If you are interested in one of these fellowships, contact the Ophthalmology Residency director.

Academics ▸ Residencies and Fellowships ▸ Ophthalmology Residency (Minnesota) ▸ Curriculum