By Jaclyn Chang, OD
As graduates approach the final stretch of optometry school, the decision to spend an additional year immersed in a residency program might come into view for some near-to-be optometrists.
While a residency provides the advantage of specialized training in a unique clinical setting, it may also defer the process of landing a job or starting your own practice.
Dr. Rosa Yang graduated from the University of Waterloo School of Optometry in 2019. She interned at various clinics in Canada and in the USA, including Houston Eye Associates in Texas, where she worked closely with ophthalmologists specializing in cataract, glaucoma, and corneal diseases.
Dr.Yang pursued a post-graduate residency program in Cornea and Contact Lenses at the University of Waterloo.
Dr. Jaclyn Chang discussed Dr. Yang’s residency experience.
Jaclyn: I really admire anyone who has done a residency and I’ve never heard anyone say they regret doing one. Can you comment on the opportunity that residency provides?
Rosa: For sure! Residency gave me the platform to meet people and experience a variety of opportunities. I was able to connect with eyecare specialists not just in Canada, but on an international level. Some of them became my mentors and friends. Now, when I need help to tackle a difficult case, they are my go-to people.
I have always loved teaching and residency allowed me to TA in labs and provide clinical supervision for students. I got to write case report, oral presentations, and conference posters. Through the process of preparing for them, I feel like I became a stronger critical and independent thinker – these are important traits for a clinician to have. I also travelled to so many places to attend conferences – I think I flew to five difference places in half a year, imagine how many more places I could have gone to if COVID did not happen.
Overall, it is such an enriching year with memories that I will never forget!
Jaclyn: That’s awesome! How did you feel about jumping in and doing things that we didn’t necessarily have a lot of experience with? For example, teaching, being a clinical supervisor and presenting at conferences.
Rosa: Of course, I was nervous. I am the type of person who thinks I need to be 100% prepared and execute with perfection. That is not how real life works. More often, you learn along the way, but only if you have a good attitude and put in the hard work. I feel extremely lucky and thankful of my residency mentors. They have always believed me even when I doubt myself. Their encouragements have meant a lot to me and I think have been monumental for my growth!
Jaclyn: Can you talk a little bit about why you decided to go into residency?
Rosa: In my fourth year, I worked with a corneal ophthalmologist. Many of his patients had dysfunctional lives because they had corneal diseases and saw very poorly. With surgeries, many of them saw vision improve, but I wondered “I don’t do surgeries, is there anything that I can do for these patients?” The surgeon often told his patients “I do surgeries, but there are these special contact lenses that will probably make your vision even better. I don’t do them, but I will send you to the right people.” The surgeon was referring to us – optometrists, and he reminded me that specialty contact lens is a niche thing that optometrists do.
Then, I was mentored by a specialty contact lens optometrist. We saw a patient who had keratoconus. He started out desperate and very hopeless – he was struggling with his vision and he was told by several doctors that the only option was corneal transplant. We told him about scleral lenses and I can never forget the change in his facial expression the moment he looked around the room after we inserted the lens. The change was a total 180. I thought, this is something I really want to do.
Jaclyn: It’s cool how people who we encounter throughout our school, especially our supervisors in fourth year, really influence us on where we want to go.
Thank you so much for your insight. It’s always great to learn more about residency and your experience is very encouraging to other prospective students. I can’t wait for you to share your expertise with us on how we can better incorporate specialty contact lenses into our practice with our next talk!
JACLYN CHANG, OD
Dr. Jaclyn Chang graduated from the University of Waterloo (UW) with an Honours Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences before continuing at Waterloo to complete her Doctor of Optometry degree. She is currently a practicing optometrist in Toronto.
Dr. Chang is committed to sharing information and bringing new resources to her colleagues. As a student, she sat on the Board of Trustees for the American Optometric Student Association, organizing events to connect students with industry. She was the Co-Founder/Co-President of the award-winning UW Advancement of Independent Optometry Club, the first club at UW dedicated to private practice optometry. Dr. Chang is also a passionate writer, who aims to make information accessible and easily digestible to her colleagues. She has published in Optometry & Vision Science and Foresight magazine and contributed to Optik magazine. She is excited to bring valuable resources to Canada’s next generation of optometrists with NewOptometrist.ca.