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Residents Dr. Neerukonda and Dr. Valdes at their wet lab

The Education Program

The Department's residency program has long been strong in providing a broad-based, high-volume, well-supervised educational experience for promising residents. Program graduates display competency in all areas of comprehensive ophthalmology.

PGY1: Integrated Internship

In July 2021 we welcomed our first class to our new fully integrated internship.  This year is integrated into the Ophthalmology residency and under the supervision of the Ophthalmology Residency Program Director.  This internship year will include 28 weeks of internal medicine, 12 weeks of ophthalmology, and 12 weeks of electives.  Experience will be both at the Syracuse VA and SUNY Upstate University Hospital so that residents will be familiar with both facilities and electronic health record systems during the PGY-2 year.

The goal of the three ophthalmology months is to create a graduated orientation experience that won’t feel like learning to swim in the deep end of the pool. Each month will have increased expectation. The format continues to be tweaked with the input of the first class but currently involves experiences in general clinic, specialty clinic, inpatient consultation, and surgery.

PGY-2 Year

The PGY-2 year is heavy in practical experience. The residents are involved in all aspects of patient care, assisting attending physicians in operating rooms and, along with PGY-3 residents, cover weekend and night call on a rotating basis. Although the program is rich in hands-on experience, faculty are available at all times ensuring residents have support to make patient management decisions within their level of training and medical knowledge.

The PGY-2 year is divided into three rotations.  Each resident will do each rotation in two-month blocks, twice in the year.

550 Harrison Rotation:

Two two-month rotations are spent at the Center for Vision Care at 550 Harrison.  This resident participates in general and specialty resident clinics. As experience builds residents will be taught to do YAG-lasers and intravitreal injections.  Informally known as the “plastics” resident – this resident will operate most Tuesdays with the oculoplastic surgeons.

VA Rotation

Four total months are spent at the Syracuse VA Hospital as a PGY-2. This rotation gives exposure to all the comprehensive and subspecialty clinics. Residents can observe cataract surgery during downtime. There is exposure to the VA Low Vision Rehabilitation program during this rotation.

Float Rotation

Informally known as the “neuro-ophthalmology” resident.  This resident splits time at 550 Harrison and Neuro-Ophthalmology clinic.  In addition, this resident joins our Ocular Pathologist on certain Mondays.

PGY-3 Year

The PGY-3 year is divided into three four-month rotations.

550 Harrison Rotation:

Four months are spent at the Center for Vision Care at 550 Harrison.  Here the resident participates in general and specialty resident clinics.  They perform all of the pediatric and strabismus surgery. as well as accompany the pediatric specialist on ROP rounds in the NICU.

VA Rotation:

Four months are spent at the Syracuse VA Hospital. This rotation gives exposure to all the comprehensive and subspecialty clinics.  The VA procedure clinic, where the resident is given graduated autonomy, is often rated as the best part of this rotation.  Residents often do their first cataract surgery as a primary surgeon on this rotation. 

Inpatient Rotation:

Four months are spent as the inpatient resident based at SUNY Upstate University Hospital (which is connected to Crouse Hospital). There this resident sees ER and inpatients consultations during the day. Both the patients and the resident benefit from the continuity provided. An attending rounds each weekday and as needed on weekends/holidays. Residents cite this rotation as being extremely beneficial in learning how to approach complex diagnostic and inter-disciplinary challenges.

PGY-4 Year

PGY-4 residents assume the role of chief resident of their respective locations. There are three four-month rotations with the primary responsibilities being surgical and contributing to outpatient clinics.

550 Harrison Rotation:

The 550 chief resident is centered at the Center for Vision Care at 550 Harrison. This chief serves as the administrative chief resident and creates the weekly schedules.  They participate in weekly general and subspecialty clinics.  They operate approximately two days a week with an emphasis on cataract and glaucoma surgery.

VA Rotation:

The VA chief resident oversees the comprehensive and subspecialty clinics at the VA. They performs cataract surgery and oculoplastics surgery the Syracuse Veterans Hospital. Finally, the VA chief is responsible for VA inpatient consultations and triages.

Float Rotation:

Centered at 550 Harrison, the float chief is focused on Cornea and Vitreoretinal surgery. They also work alongside the most awesome (and only) uveitis specialist in all the land to care for an impressively diverse and diagnostically challenging patient population. There are some cataracts generated as part of combined cases. This rotation has flexibility to accommodate the interests of the individual resident. Those pursuing fellowship will often gain extra clinical and surgical exposure their chosen area.  Residents interested in comprehensive ophthalmology are given additional cataract surgical opportunity and are encouraged to spend time with the high-volume cataract faculty.

Resident Surgery

Residents gain experience in the most sophisticated and complex surgical procedures during their final year of training. They typically perform at least 200 major surgeries, addressing such issues as major trauma, corneal lacerations, intraocular foreign bodies, and tumors. Residents operate under the guidance of an attending ophthalmic surgeon who provides hands-on assistance.

Outpatient surgery numbers are pretty evenly split between the Syracuse VA and 550 Harrison Operating room.  These facilities contain multiple operating microscopes, current-generation phacoemulsification and vitrectomy equipment as well as Argon, YAG, and Excimer lasers.  Emergent after-hours cases tend to be done at Crouse Hospital.

Residents are also welcome to observe community volunteer faculty perform cornea/retina/cataract surgery at the Specialty Surgery Center and plastics surgeries at Eye Plastics and Reconstructive Surgery Center, both located in Liverpool, NY.

Resident Research

Residents in the Department are encouraged to join faculty in engaging in research. The residency program has a history of generating superb publications and presentations. At a minimum, each resident is required to do a yearly poster at the CNY Vision Forum in the Spring.

The Center for Vision Research is composed of Department research scientists working at the leading edge of molecular biological research of hereditary retinal disease and related disorders. 

The faculty working in these areas are experts in the clinical aspects of inherited retinal disease, as well as in biochemistry, physiology, and cell and molecular biology. Much of the research conducted on campus is supported by grants from the National Eye Institute, National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and other well-known organizations.

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