Expansion of residency program strengthens learning and service opportunities

Ophthalmology resident group photo for 2021-2022
The inaugural integrated internship residents started in July, 2021. The new group of 5 joins the 15 other residents currently in the program with program director Dr. Thomas Hwang and education manager Susan Minnieweather (far right).

Adding a new class of residents improves ophthalmology training experience

This past year has been very exciting for the residency program team, which prepared to welcome its inaugural class of integrated internship in July 2021. For the past few years, OHSU Casey Eye Institute’s ophthalmology residency program has had 15 residents total, five per year over three years. The residents began the ophthalmology portion of their residency in the second year of training after completing an internship year between medical school and residency outside of OHSU. With this new integrated class, there are now five residents per year over four years, totaling 20 residents.

In 2021, the national governing body for accreditation of graduate medical education required that an internship year be included in ophthalmology residency programs nationwide. Casey was more than ready to make this change. “We have been preparing to expand our program for the last few years and are very excited to launch our new curriculum with the OHSU School of Medicine,” said Susan Minnieweather, education manager.

The new integrated internship year provides a balanced introduction to general medicine and ophthalmology. An extra year of exposure to ophthalmology enriches resident learning, brings them closer to their fellow residents, and better prepares them to take primary call in their second year. 

Culture of service

Many of our residents come to Casey with an amazing record of service, and they continue to make a difference while they are here. Service is a critical component of our residency program, as it helps residents become engaged in the community, address healthcare inequities and use their skills and knowledge to help underserved communities. Residents say that their service experiences at Casey are critical to their professional development, helping shape a career with dedication to volunteerism, empathy for their patients, and awareness of eye care access barriers and how to help reduce them.

With the inaugural integrated internship class added in 2021, Dr. Hwang wasted no time in encouraging new residents to volunteer with the program. “Service is an incredibly important part of residency training at Casey,” said Thomas Hwang, residency program director. “We want to train people who leave the program with the same idealism and commitment to make the world the better place that they come in with. How do we maintain that commitment and idealism? In addition to giving them all the support they need to nurture the sense of gratitude, we fuel it through opportunities for service.”

The residents play a central role with the Casey Community Outreach Program Mobile Clinic, which is entirely donor-funded and provides free vision screenings to underserved communities throughout Oregon. As volunteers, the residents learn about helping patients with a wide variety of eye conditions, including many who have never received eye care before. They provide eye exams and referrals to community physicians, which helps them understand the healthcare system and how to be an advocate for their patients. Residents help make Casey’s mission to reduce preventable blindness possible, having already volunteered about 120 hours with the outreach program from January through September 2021.

Casey Eye Institute has built a national reputation for providing a world-class ophthalmology education and was listed #8 in the Best Residency Programs category in Ophthalmology Times 2020. Casey’s residency program continues to be one of the most competitive in the country. Residents say its diverse, world-class clinical opportunities covering all ophthalmic subspecialties with top-notch teaching, a warm and supportive environment, and robust opportunities for research and impactful service as reasons they choose this program. Philanthropic support is critical to achieving the success of our program and allows us to provide the residents with state-of-the-art equipment, scholarly support, and facilities that are second-to-none.