The number of ophthalmology-trained residents applying to neuro-ophthalmology fellowships has not increased despite a trend toward seeking fellowship training after residency. This study sought to identify factors affecting the choice to pursue or not pursue neuro-ophthalmology fellowship training by graduating ophthalmology residents and recently graduated neuro-ophthalmology fellows.
An anonymous survey was sent to Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology residency directors to distribute to post-graduate Year 4 (PGY4) ophthalmology residents graduating in either 2018 or 2019. A second anonymous survey was distributed via the North American Neuro-Ophthalmology Society (NANOS) Young Neuro-Ophthalmologists listserv to ophthalmology-trained neuro-ophthalmology fellows. A total of 147 respondents, including 96 PGY4 ophthalmology residents not going into neuro-ophthalmology and 51 practicing neuro-ophthalmologists are included.
The most common reasons for residents to choose to not pursue further training in neuro-ophthalmology included a stronger interest in other fields, types of patients seen, no intraocular surgery, and the assumption that it is a nonsurgical discipline. The leading factors influencing graduated, ophthalmology-trained fellows to choose neuro-ophthalmology included interest in the clinical diseases treated, interaction with other specialty fields, and a supportive NANOS culture. Interestingly, despite perceptions of graduating residents, two-thirds of the neuro-ophthalmologists surveyed perform surgery. There were no differences between the 2 groups with respect to the degree of exposure to neuro-ophthalmology in medical school, presence of a dedicated neuro-ophthalmology rotation in residency, or timing of the rotation.
There are a variety of factors influencing decisions regarding pursuing neuro-ophthalmology fellowship among ophthalmology residents. The perceived lack of surgical opportunities in neuro-ophthalmology is a deterrent for many. However, a significant number of neuro-ophthalmologists continue to perform surgery, including intraocular surgery. Repeated exposure later in residency may provide an opportunity to reconsider the field and to re-emphasize opportunities to remain surgically involved as a neuro-ophthalmologist. Exposure to the practice patterns of recently graduated neuro-ophthalmologists offers residents in training excellent exposure to the contemporary practice of neuro-ophthalmology. Hence, ensuring trainees receive a balanced exposure to practicing neuro-ophthalmologists across the spectrum of seniority and scope of practice may promote greater interest among ophthalmology residents to pursue a career in neuro-ophthalmology.