• Andrew Samuel, Stuti Misty Tanya

Event Summary: University of Alberta CaRMS Open House

Source: University of Alberta website

University of Alberta Ophthalmology Virtual Open House event took place on November 16, 2021.

The U of A ophthalmology program is located in the heart of the Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH) in central Edmonton. Within the RAH exists the Eye Institute of Alberta (EIA), U of A’s teaching facility that successfully trains eager residents and fellows to become leading eye specialists. As such, everything (with the exception of pediatric ophthalmology out of Stollery Children’s Hospital) is based out of a single hospital, with no commute required from one site to another.

  • While U of A is known for its large surgical volumes for residents, with approximately 1000 cataract surgeries per resident by the end of the five years, the residents shared a common emphasis regarding the outstanding family tradition that exists within the program.

  • A common theme shared amongst all the residents when asked what their favorite part of the U of A program was “the people” and “the healthy work environment with a family-feel tradition of looking out for one another.” Such a supportive environment is made possible by U of A’s mentorship program, advocacy by the department head, buddy call system, in-hospital collegiality, and resident wellness initiatives.

  • Mentorship exists both formally through assigned senior ophthalmology mentors and informally through day-to-day shared activities such as dinner, exercise, and going for drinks. Dr. Carlos Solarte, the U of A ophthalmology residency program director, was described by residents as “very hardworking and a true resident advocate.” Likewise, in-hospital collegiality is made possible since the residents all work out of the RAH, thereby making it common to run into some friendly faces.

  • Additionally, the R1 residents, Dr. Tony Chae, Dr. Natalie Arnold, and Dr. Gurkaran Sarohia, all described how pleasant it is to have 8 weeks of ophthalmology electives during R1 with an ophthalmology-specific academic half day at the end of every week to regroup with co-residents.

  • Overall, resident wellness and collegiality is held to a high standard through wellness days and retreats throughout all residency years, mental health advocacy by house staff Dr. Morli Coutzner, and even Dr. Scott Anderson (PGY 4) kindly lending a helping hand with home and deck restoration projects!

  • Additionally, Dr. Marvi Cheema (PGY 5) and Dr. Simrenjeet Sandhu (PGY 5) emphasized a “Happy to See” program mantra towards patients, whereby residents are truly able to provide patient-centered care to its highest regard. To expand, such a mantra touches on the shared resident attitude towards seeing any and all patient referrals anytime of the day as a demonstration of dedication to providing optimal care and eagerness to learn from patients. Consequently, there exists a healthy collaborative nature amongst referring multidisciplinary staff from optometrists, ER, IM, neurology, etc.

  • From a clinical perspective, U of A has one of the largest catchment areas nationally as it serves North Western Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, North Eastern British Columbia, and Northern Alberta, on top of its primary Edmonton region. Further, residents increase their knowledge through service to the RAH’s in-patient ophthalmology ward, a highly unique asset to the U of A ophthalmology residency program. Such an opportunity allows residents to keep up to date on one’s general medical skills.

  • It was also noted that many in-house staff are “generous surgical teachers who go above and beyond in getting residents involved.” As such, there exists a high volume of surgeries in subspecialities such as strabismus, retina, glaucoma, cornea, and oculoplastics. Similarly, Dr. Garry Drummond, a pediatric ophthalmologist from Alberta, has offered individual fellowship-level training for all residents annually.

  • To add to the U of A ophthalmology department’s 80-year excellence as a residency program, they have a state-of-the-art 24/7 surgical skills center that is equipped with the same equipment as the OR, including unique tools such as iris retractors and capsular tension rings.

  • From a research perspective, residents described having respected elective research time with the option of taking one month for research or clinical work during PGY1. Also, residents are dedicated a half-day per week for their research projects that may be presented at their annual research day.

  • Besides what U of A has to offer in terms of its academia, residents were very enthusiastic about what Edmonton had to offer as a city to live in. Dr. Meghan Smith (PGY 4) shared her passion for running along the Edmonton River Valley, which contains 160 km of available trails. In the chance that one wants to explore beyond the city, Jasper, Banff, and Calgary are all great weekend getaways that are less than 4 hours away.

  • Of note, U of A ophthalmology residency alternates between accepting 2-3 CaRMS applicants per year.

  • Overall, U of A has much to offer from immense surgical and clinical skills, research and academia, excellent mentorship and resident advocacy, and an emphasized importance on work-life harmony among their residency program.

  • For a CaRMS video, click here.

  • For a walk through the Eye Institute of Alberta, click here.

For more information, please checkout the U of A ophthalmology website and Instagram.