Ophthalmology is a popular specialty and so the aspiring eye surgeon can expect considerable competition. There are certain essential requirements. First, an initial interest in physics and optics is helpful and most important is a considerable degree of manual dexterity. Good binocular vision goes along with the manual dexterity demanded by microscopic surgery. That is to say, the future surgeon should see well out of each eye and should be able to use the eyes together to give proper stereoscopic vision.
In many cases, an interest in the subject is aroused in medical school by a mentor or a good teacher. By and large, those who see ophthalmology as a soft option are not happy in their career. Those who, as most doctors do, set out to improve the lot of the patient, find the specialty very rewarding because it is undoubtedly extremely effective in this respect.
In the UK, medically qualified graduates can start their eye training with a senior house officer (SHO) job and thence look for a specialist registrar post in one of the training centres. A question sometimes asked is what jobs as an SHO, other than ophthalmology, are best suited to an eventual career in ophthalmology. Obvious ones are in plastic surgery, neurology or neurosurgery but sometimes a seemingly unrelated one can prove to be good experience. The membership part of the FRCOphth qualification is needed at this point and once on the training ladder there is an exit examination before training is completed. The rules about training arrangements can vary from time to time and advice on this can be provided by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists. A handbook for trainees is supplied by the college on application. When the doctor is fully trained, he or she can decide whether to start applying for consultant posts or whether to gain a fellowship in a subspecialty and perhaps obtain a higher degree. At the present time consultant posts are often advertised as requiring some special expertise, such as paediatric ophthalmology or retina surgery.
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