The Iowa Guide to the Ophthalmology Match
Authors: Charlene Tran; Uma Balakrishnan; Pavlina Kemp, MD; Updated August 2021
Original Author: Jesse Vislisel, MD, July 2015
Posted: August 13, 2015; Updated: September 6, 2017, August 2021
Ophthalmology is an incredibly fascinating and rewarding field. It offers a distinctive combination of medical and surgical management while utilizing amazing technological devices to maintain and restore vision. Many consider vision the most prized of the senses, therefore ophthalmologists can make a tremendous impact on the lives of their patients. The ophthalmology application and match process are fairly unique, because it is coordinated by the San Francisco Matching Program (SF Match) rather than the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) like most other specialties. As a result, the field has its own separate application process, deadlines, and Match Day. This guide attempts to consolidate the most important information in hopes that it will make your life easier during your preparation, application process, and interviews. While preparing our own applications, we gathered information from peers, residents, faculty, websites, and books.
Ophthalmology is a competitive specialty, although perhaps less so than it has been in the past. In 2020, there were 635 applicants for 496 positions with an overall match rate of 67% for all Match registrants. For those who submitted a rank list (and therefore attended at least one interview), the overall match rate was 78%. The good news is U.S. medical seniors have a match rate which is much higher than these figures (86%).  Because of the fierce competition, especially for placement into top programs, it is important to begin preparing your application early. In fact, resume‐building should begin on your first day of medical school. Create a document to keep track of every achievement and volunteer activity you have completed during college and medical school (with dates). This practice will make it much easier to create a CV when preparing your residency application.
A successful applicant will have a diverse and well‐rounded application. However, some aspects are weighed more strongly than others by admission committees. Nallasamy et al. surveyed residency programs in 2010 to analyze trends in the residency selection process. The most significant factors were interview performance (95.4%), clinical course grades (93.9%), recommendation letters (83.1%), and board scores (80.0%).  The least significant factors were musical ability, having a parent as an ophthalmologist, being a leader, being a high achiever in sports, and having a PhD. With the paradigm shift in Step 1 scoring to pass/fail in January 2022, it will likely be more important than ever to display your academic excellence via routes aside from standardized tests.NEXT PAGE: COVID-19 Changes