Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins Medicine will debut its optometry residency program this year, with its first resident matriculating in July.
The new program will train burgeoning optometrists in primary care optometry and provide an additional teaching opportunity for the institute’s optometry faculty.
Peter J. McDonnell, M.D., the William Holland Wilmer Professor of Ophthalmology and director of the eye institute, says introduction of the optometry residency is in line with the institute’s mission of developing the world’s best eye care experts. “One of the things that accounts for Wilmer’s success is that we train great people — ophthalmology residents and fellows, Ph.D. scientists, nurses, ophthalmic technicians, administrative interns — and we’re able to retain many of them,” he says. “Our goal for this training program is that we will train the best and brightest optometry resident each year and hopefully keep a lot of them at Wilmer.”
The residency’s co-coordinators, Amanda Crum, O.D., M.S. and Bryce St. Clair, O.D., say the institute can offer much through a residency program. “Most of us are products of optometric residencies,” Crum says. “This is an opportunity for us to give back to the community and train future optometrists, and potentially future colleagues.”
Reflecting that meeting the needs of the growing and aging U.S. population will require optometrists and ophthalmologists to effectively coordinate their efforts, Ashley Behrens, M.D., medical director of the Wilmer Eye Institute’s comprehensive eye care division (in which a substantial number of optometrists from the institute have worked in for years) serves as the residency program’s senior adviser.
Residents will work with Crum, St. Clair and fellow optometrists Corinne Casey, O.D. and Lee Guo, O.D. to gain experience with commonly encountered ocular diseases and other aspects of optometry. In addition to providing patient care, the residents will participate in Grand Rounds with their ophthalmology residency peers at Wilmer, and Grand Rounds and a journal club with institute optometrists. They will also make presentations at the local, state and national levels.
Crum says an advantage of participating in a residency program rather than entering private practice after graduating from optometry school is that residents obtain high-volume exposure in the specialty of their choice during the one-year program. “If you went out into private practice, you might eventually be exposed to all of those same cases, but it could take you five or 10 years to get to that level of efficiency,” she says.
Nationally, the number of optometry residency programs and optometry residents has trended up in recent years as more students seek advanced levels of clinical competency. The number of participants in optometry residency programs grew from 348 in 2014 to 386 in 2022, with a high of 397 in 2021. In that time, the number of optometry residency positions offered increased from 400 positions in 210 programs to 513 positions in 287 programs, according to Optometry Residency Match and the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry.
St. Clair says faculty members at the Wilmer Eye Institute have wanted to establish the new residency for several years. “I’m just giddy and I’m ready to have it happen,” he says. “This is really allowing us to compete with other preeminent academic medical institutions.”
The residency’s application deadline is Feb. 1, and the first resident will be chosen in March. For more information or to apply, visit natmatch.com/ormatch/.