Ophthalmology Career advice for Undergraduates and Junior Doctors

So You Want To Be an Ophthalmologist! :
10 ways to start on your Portfolio while at Medical School.


Ophthalmology is a fascinating career with surprising diversity in the opportunities available, ranging from the variety of sub-specialties on offer to the rich research and academic prospects.These factors and many more make Ophthalmology a highly competitive field and it’s never too early to build up your portfolio – you can even start now in medical school!

As an F1 keen on Ophthalmology, I have summarised a few ideas, tips and experiences that my friends and I would recommend to anyone thinking of Ophthalmology. I hope you find them helpful in developing your interest in Ophthalmology!



1. Say Hi to your Local Ophthalmology Department

Introduce yourself to your local Ophthalmology department and spend some time shadowing the clinicians, both in clinics and theatre. Ophthalmology is a multidisciplinary specialty, so make sure to spend time with the specialist nurses, Opticians and Orthoptists.



2. Carry out Projects

You can carry out a student selected component and project in Ophthalmology. You’ll be able to really get your teeth into the world of Ophthalmology and it will give you more insight into the speciality as a career.



3. Join your Ophthalmology Society

Be part of your medical school Ophthalmology Society – if you don’t have one then set one up! Make sure to achieve meaningful goals for the society. My friends and I ran revision sessions, posted regular blogs and even organised a public student art gallery all about eyes!



4. Teach

There is no better way to consolidate your learning than teaching. Run revision sessions for your fellow medical students, give out summary sheets for people sitting their finals and run Duke Elder Revision Sessions (see later!)



5. Go to Conferences and Courses:

When I was first deciding if Ophthalmology was for me, I went to the Annual Student Trainee Ophthalmic Conference (ASTOC) as a 3rd year Medical student. The talks, posters presentations and people I met really helped solidify my decision! I also attended several courses such as the “Microsurgical Course for Medical Students” organised by the Royal College which I highly recommend. I also attended  teaching sessions organised my Moorfields and UCL aimed at Medical Students.

Some useful key links I used include:

· www.rsm.ac.uk - Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) website list several conferences and highlight the ones appropriate for medical students.

· https://www.rcophth.ac.uk/training/undergraduate-ophthalmology/ -  The Royal College of Ophthalmologists website holds all the information you need to about what the process of applying to Ophthalmology entails. The website also advertises several conferences and courses – the medical student courses do get filled in fast so I would recommend regularly checking in!

· Also view the Welsh Ophthalmology YouTube videos:


6. Publish and Present.

If you’ve done projects in Ophthalmology ask if it’s worthy of publication or if you are able to present your findings at a local meeting, national conference or international seminar. Medical Students have presented at meetings around the world from London, Lisbon, Barcelona and Helsinki etc. In Wales we have regular audit sessions and regional meetings, which medical students can present at.



7. Sit the Duke Elder Exam

The Duke Elder Exam is a national undergraduate exam all about Ophthalmology. https://www.rcophth.ac.uk/examinations/duke-elder-undergraduate-prize-examination/ It is organised annually by all medical schools – so do email your course administrator for more details. It is a tough exam and revision will be necessary. The scope of the exam goes beyond most undergraduate Ophthalmology curricula. However, do not let that phase you, as just sitting the exam shows commitment to specialty which will be valuable at Ophthalmology Training interviews in the future. If you do pass then it counts as an extra point on your application form!



8. Do Your Elective in Ophthalmology

Do try to incorporate Ophthalmology into your elective. A friend of mine spent time in both Canada and the several Caribbean Islands shadowing Ophthalmologists. This gave her great insight into differences in clinical practice and patient presentation between the two areas. While another friend spent time in the Philippines with an Ophthalmology charity. You don’t need to go far to get a meaningful elective – I, for example spent part of my elective at Bristol Eye Hospital shadowing the Vitreo Retinal Surgeons.


If you are able to organise some exciting Ophthalmology research projects, do consider applying for the Patrick Trevor-Roper Undergraduate Travel Award [https://www.rcophth.ac.uk/training/undergraduate-Ophthalmology/]



9. Volunteer for an Ophthalmology Charity

Volunteer and raise money for an Ophthalmology charity, such as Sightsavers! This shows good organisational and team working skills.


 I hope you’ve found this list useful and helpful in spurring on your interest in Ophthalmology. Just by reading through this you’ve already taken your first step. If you have any more questions I’d be more than happy to help.



Zain Amir

Academic FY1 – UHW and UHL