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Student Careers

Careers in ophthalmology

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 01 July 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:0207234
  1. Amar Alwitry, specialist registrar in Opthalmology1
  1. 1Nottingham

Don't be put off by memories of fumbling with an ophthalmoscope. Amar Alwitry discusses what is involved in this expanding specialty

Due to the enormous medical curriculum and the pressures on time in undergraduate training, ophthalmology teaching at medical schools tends to be quite a shortlived affair, with only about two weeks being dedicated to this vast subject. Subsequently, when medical students graduate and begin to decide on their future career, few have had a true taste of ophthalmology. The occasional clinic session spent fumbling with the ophthalmoscope, confidently saying you can see the disc margins clearly while being focused on an eyelash, may give a false and slightly offputting impression of this rewarding career.

What is ophthalmology?

Ophthalmology is the study of the eye and the visual system. It encompasses the skin around the eyes, the globe and orbit, and the nervous connections in the brain all the way back to the visual cortex. Pathology in this system and the management of systemic diseases that affect the eye are in the remit of the ophthalmologist.

The eye is the window to the soul

Ophthalmology combines surgical skills with medical skills. There are few medical conditions that are not related to or may manifest as eye signs. Numerous rheumatological, neurological, vascular, and cardiovascular conditions have ocular features, and these features may be the primary presentation of systemic disease.

Ophthalmologists deal with a healthy, elderly population. Patients walk in and out of a clinic under their own steam and are extremely grateful for anything you do for them. Often patients are followed up for an extremely long period of time, which allows for the building of a true rapport. On the flip side these innumerable follow up appointments may be draining on the doctor. Most operations are undertaken on a day case basis and under local anaesthesia, which means few ward inpatients …

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