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Wilmer Residency Frequently Asked Questions

The following are frequently asked questions about the Wilmer ophthalmology residency program. Keep in mind that there are changes in the schedule from year to year, so that certain rotations and resident responsibilities may change.

What is the call schedule?

First Year (PGY-2) Wilmer (in house) Second Year (PGY-3) Bayview (from home) Wilmer primary weeknight call for the first 3 months of the year. Wilmer back-up (from home) Third Year (PGY-4) Bayview primary call for the first 3 months of the year. (from home)

Are USMLE Step 2 scores required?

No (because they are not available from all applicants prior to our interview process), but they are helpful if available. Any updates to an applicant’s file must go through the Centralized Application Service (CAS) at

Do you consider foreign medical graduates and what visa requirements do you have?

Foreign medical graduates are considered for interviews. Applicants must be from an ACGME-accredited medical school or one that is approved by The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine for reciprocity. There is an approved list of such schools; applicants from other schools must go through a review process. Foreign Medical Graduates must hold a valid certificate from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) at time of appointment. Applicants must have a J1 visa sponsored by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates. Johns Hopkins Hospital will process the visa on your behalf. In rare cases, an H1 visa may be acceptable, but this would require an internal review. A B or T visa is not acceptable.

What does the program look for in applicants?

Above all, we look for candidates who demonstrate a true passion for ophthalmology and who show the potential to become leaders in the field. There are no absolute requirements beyond what the CAS lists. We do not have minimum cut-off scores for USMLE or ECFMG examinations. Each application is carefully reviewed by multiple members of our selection committee. We do not discriminate on the basis of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality or year of graduation from medical school. In general, however, applicants selected for an interview will have all or most of the following:

1. Excellent board scores.
2. Outstanding grades.
3. Selection to AOA (if available) at the applicant’s medical school.
4. Evidence of scholarly activity (clinical or bench research, publications).
5. Outstanding letters of recommendation from faculty who can comment on applicants based on personal interaction.
6. Favorable Dean’s Letter.
7. Demonstrated leadership potential.

Why is a criminal background check required for residents?

It is the policy of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine that all offers of a house staff position (as well as offers to applicants for medical school or fellowship in any Graduate Medical Education program sponsored by Johns Hopkins) are conditional, based on a review of the prospective house officer’s criminal background. The University reserves the right to rescind an offer of appointment to any educational or training program, including the Wilmer Eye Institute, to any individual whose background investigation reveals a history of criminal conduct that:

1. the University reasonably determines increases the risk of harm to patients or individuals on Johns Hopkins premises;
2. was not accurately disclosed in response to a direct question regarding criminal history on any application for admission or appointment in connection with the program; or
3. is inconsistent with the high standard of ethical conduct required of all members of the academic community or is otherwise unbefitting a member of the academic community. A complete description of the policy is available upon request.

Is there anything additional beyond what CAS requires? Can I send additional information after the deadline date?

We do not require anything beyond the minimum requirements listed by CAS. We recognize that our early application deadline results in some relevant information becoming available after the deadline, such as election to AOA, publication of a scholarly journal article, grades, Dean’s Letter, or board scores, and such information can be sent to CAS for forwarding to our admissions committee. Do not send the information directly to Wilmer, as it may very well not be distributed to all members of the committee. Please do not send extra letters of recommendation, reprints of publications, etc.

What are the minimum board scores required to be considered for an interview?

We do not have minimum scores. While most applicants who are invited for interviews have scores above the 90th percentile, a variety of factors go into our decision to interview any given applicant.

Do you sponsor internships or transitional years?

No; applicants must apply separately through the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) for their PGY-1 year. For applicants who match with us and who wish to do their internship at The Johns Hopkins Hospital or at The Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, we are happy to speak with the program directors at those institutions to facilitate the process as much as possible. Similarly, in the absence of a “couples match,” we strive to work with other departments to which the spouse or significant other of one of our applicants is applying for residency.

Does the program allow clinical elective rotations for residents from outside programs?

Unfortunately the hospital regulations require that all residents be fully credentialed at Johns Hopkins to participate in patient care activities and at this time we are unable to accept requests for electives unless the residents is already credentialed at Hopkins or will be an incoming resident.

What makes the Wilmer program special?

1. The breadth of the faculty, which includes nationally and internationally recognized experts in every subspecialty, who are committed to teaching the residents. There are over 20 endowed chairs at Wilmer, signifying not only the excellence of the faculty, but the extraordinary generosity of the patients and former faculty who have sponsored them.

2. The variety of patients seen.

3. The commitment to “learning by doing,” with busy and vibrant General Eye Services in which the residents are the primary care providers and enjoy continuity with patients over 3 years, with graduated autonomy.

4. The Wilmer Chief Resident (Assistant Chief of Service, or ACS), a one-year faculty position filled by a former Wilmer resident who has done two years of fellowship training. The ACS works closely with all three years of residents, and the bonds between the first-year residents and their “Chief” often last a lifetime.

5. The Wilmer Eye Emergency Service, Maryland’s only designated trauma center for ocular injuries, and through which residents see an enormous range of eye pathology during their residency.

6. The Consultation Services, in which residents see inpatients on other services within Johns Hopkins Hospital, providing frequent interaction with other medical and surgical disciplines.

7. The interactions with one’s fellow residents, providing a “critical mass” of intellectual stimulation as well as close personal friendships.

8. In addition to their numerous publications in the peer-reviewed literature and presentations at major ophthalmology meetings such as the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, Wilmer residents have received numerous fellowships.

Who applies to Wilmer?

In the most recent year for which data are available, there were approximately 450 applicants. The interviewees included 20 women and 15 men from 29 different medical schools. The average USMLE Step 1 scores ranged from 186-268 (mean 243) and the Step 2 scores (when available) ranged from 195-270 (mean 253).

How are residents evaluated, how are work hours monitored, and how do residents keep track of their surgical cases?

In addition to ongoing in-person feedback, residents receive formal evaluations midway through the rotation. These evaluations may be done by a single faculty member (e.g., the Assistant Chief of Service) or a consensus of divisional faculty, depending on the rotation. The program director also meets with each resident at least twice a year to review performance and develop individual learning goals. The Clinical Competency Committee, composed of several faculty members, evaluate each residents’ progress every 6 months, based on the ACGME ophthalmology milestones. Feedback on a resident’s performance is also obtained from peers, patients, and staff as required by the ACGME. This data will be shared with each resident at their semi-annual reviews to provide even more detailed feedback about their performance. Faculty members complete an evaluation of the resident at the end of each rotation using E-Value. E-Value is also used by residents to log their duty hours and to complete and view their own evaluations of faculty and rotations. Residents log their surgical cases on the required ACGME website.

How does the Wilmer residency support research?

Wilmer is an outstanding research institution with faculty doing a tremendous variety of research. As such, Wilmer residents participate in many different types of research projects ranging from basic science to clinical trials to epidemiological studies. Wilmer residents are eligible for Wilmer Resident Association research grants of up to $2,000 per year. In addition, the several residents receive the Mitchell Prize for Resident research every year, an award of several thousand dollars. Finally, all residents are given 2 days off for attending scientific meetings each year with additional time permitted to present research at national meetings.