Ophthalmology is one of the most promising options for medical students, whether internationally or locally. The year 2019 survey from Medscape revealed that ophthalmology residents' annual earnings touched $59,000. Naturally, there is a steady increase in the average number of applications per applicant in ophthalmology residency over the past ten years.
Since applicants perceive it is challenging to secure a match in the ophthalmology residency, they apply to various programs so as to receive more interview invitations and increase the probability of matching successfully. However, it is merely an assumption based on inaccurate and incomplete information. The Match is a complex process based on both qualitative and quantitative characteristics.
If you are preparing to apply for an ophthalmology residency, several things might appear confusing to you. Read till the end to find out answers to all your questions.
Yes, indeed, it is a competitive industry. As per the statistics from January 2019, ophthalmology residents had a 75% match rate, and they were filled from an application pool of around 790.
According to the data from January 2019, there were about 485 positions for ophthalmology residency. Out of these 485, 484 were filled while approx. 53% of applicants who matched had placed ophthalmology at the top of their rank list.
On the other hand, 25% had placed it second in their list, while 22% of the matched candidates kept it in third place. Typically, a majority of ophthalmology programs have three to four spots available. The residency takes four years, a one-year long internship followed by a three-year-long ophthalmology-specific residency.
You must realize that ophthalmology residency's application process is very long as there are more than 110 residency programs for ophthalmology in the US. Hence, it would help if you narrowed down your choices reasonably. The criteria driving your decision might be unique to you; however, it should include the program's reputation, number of spots, location, and surgical statistics.
In summer 2020, the American Academy of Ophthalmology switched to an integrated four-year structure, which means ophthalmology residencies will include a PGY-1 year associated with the residency or an integrated program PGY-1-4 all running through an ophthalmology department. This is a new process, which will be implemented entirely by the 2023 match cycle.
This means that wherever you match for the residency, you will remain there for the next four years. You will do your intern year at the same hospital, and it will be incorporated into three months of ophthalmology. Hence, you will spend nine months either doing internal medicine, pediatrics, family medicine, or general surgery, depending on the program's arrangement.
When applying to residency in the fourth year of your medical studies, the application's core components will be the following:
The submission date usually falls in August, and the application must be submitted when you are in your fourth year. After you have applied, the interview process will begin in September and go on until the end of December. The interviews are staggered by the programs. Such as, the Midwest programs start interviewing from September, and the process continues until October. The rest of the programs conduct interviews during November and December.
After the interview, you will submit your rank list along with the rank lists from the residency programs. The lists are required by early January. The Match program runs these lists through their algorithms, and it takes about one week for the system to release the matches.
On Match Day, which is usually the second week of January, the applicant discovers where they will have to spend the next four years of their lives.
In 2020, the average number of submitted applications per matched individuals increased considerably, from 52 in 2011 to 77 in 2020. For an average applicant, the point of diminishing return, which is a situation when more applications don't result in more interviews, was around 40 applications. Conversely, ophthalmology positions increased by 7.6% between 2011 and 2020, whereas the match rate remained stable between 74-78%.
Therefore, the number of programs you need to apply to will depend upon how competitive your application is. It is very challenging to get a sense of this as you are only starting. It is a good idea to ask your mentors in the ophthalmology industry to determine the number of programs.
Reportedly, nearly 40 applications submitted at some point will not offer the desired results. Applying to less than 40 programs will require you to have a strong understanding of programs that are suitable matches for you. In this process, good communication and interview skills will play an important role in your success. Here are some factors to consider while narrowing down the number of programs to apply to:
First-time applicants or US graduates intending to apply for ophthalmology with USMLE scores above 243 do not need to apply to 60 or 80 programs to increase their matching chances. Instead, they should settle for 40 to 45 applications. The 40 to 60 range is more appropriate for initial applicant US grads with USMLE scores between 217 and 243. International Medical Graduates and previously unmatched candidates, which make up around 12% of the entire applicant pool, should apply to over 80 programs, especially if their USMLE score is less than 236.