Customize your JAMA Network experience by selecting one or more topics from the list below.
Yang A, Zhang X, Liu J, Chow J, Adelman R, Forster S. Educational and Scholarly Opportunities for Medical Students and Residents in Professional Ophthalmology Organizations. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2018;136(12):1417–1419. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2018.3963
How can we enrich the educational experience of medical students despite a steady decrease in ophthalmology content and exposure in the standard medical school curriculum?1 We report a range of educational and scholarly opportunities offered by professional US ophthalmology organizations that may potentially be used to complement formal clinical teaching and maximize exposure to ophthalmology.
Two investigators (A.Y. and X.Z.) independently reviewed the websites and bylaws of 17 major national ophthalmology organizations. Policies on membership, leadership (such as committee service and voting rights), annual meeting attendance, research and travel funding, annual membership fees, and early registration nonmember annual conference fees were recorded. Data were verified for accuracy through direct telephone and/or email correspondence with all organizations. The Yale Institutional Review Board determined this study to be exempt from review; therefore, no informed consent was obtained.
Of the 17 organizations, 4 (24%) offered membership to medical students, with 2 (50%) offering free memberships, and 9 (53%) offered memberships to residents, with 6 (67%) offering free memberships (Table), all with restricted statuses distinct from regular or full membership. Overall, mean (SD) membership fees were $43 ($67) for medical students, ranging from $0 to $120, and $33 ($53) for residents, ranging from $0 to $125. In comparison, mean (SD) membership fees for full members were $465 ($253) and ranged from $125 to $1075, assuming associate membership for Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology and individual membership status. Two of the 17 organizations (12%) allowed students to serve on committees, whereas 4 (24%) allowed residents to do so. None permitted medical students or residents to vote.
All organizations that held annual conferences allowed medical students and residents to attend. Fourteen (82%) allowed students and 15 (88%) allowed residents to submit and present research. The mean (SD) fee for early nonmember registration to annual conferences was $307 ($284) for medical students, $314 ($282) for residents, and $720 ($427) for nontrainee nonmember ophthalmologists. Two (12%) offered students and 4 (24%) offered residents the opportunity to apply for travel funding to their annual conference. One (6%) provided funding for medical student research through competitive grants compared with 3 (18%) for resident research.
This study evaluated enrichment opportunities offered by professional ophthalmology organizations to medical students and residents. Although involvement fees are overall consistent with those reported by other surgical specialties, ophthalmology organizations seemed less likely to offer opportunities in student membership and leadership based on a comparison of 3 reports.2-4 In addition, although membership or annual conference fees were discounted from those of nontrainee ophthalmologists, fees for medical students were overall not further reduced compared with those of residents.
Of note, the scope of our investigation is limited to a review of opportunities within ophthalmology organizations at the national level. Students or residents seeking exposure to ophthalmology outside their formal training should consider a wide range of sources, including regional or state opportunities, for their potential educational value.
It is not known yet whether increased access to ophthalmology organizations will attract more qualified applicants. However, professional organizations offer a range of career development resources, formalized mentorship programs, and scholarly opportunities, as well as exposure to ophthalmologists outside one’s own institution, which have been reported elsewhere to serve as meaningful educational supplements to traditional methods of teaching and learning.5,6 For example, mentorship programs have previously been reported to improve medical school performance and increase exposure and research productivity in a given field.5 Presenting scholarly research at conferences may catalyze a student’s decision to pursue academic ophthalmology and enhance competitiveness in the residency application process.6 We found approximately 20% of professional ophthalmology organizations to be open to student members and 50% to resident members. There appears to be room for expansion of opportunities in more, if not all, subspecialties and of those aimed at nurturing future leaders in ophthalmology. Investing in early career experiences and existing resources offered by ophthalmology organizations could be invaluable in exposing medical students to the field early in their careers, as well as promoting ongoing learning for young ophthalmologists throughout training.
Accepted for Publication: July 12, 2018.
Corresponding Author: Susan Forster, MD, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science, Yale School of Medicine, 40 Temple St, Ste 3D, New Haven, CT 06510 (email@example.com).
Published Online: September 20, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2018.3963
Author Contributions: Ms Yang and Dr Forster had full access to all the data in the study and take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.
Concept and design: Yang, Chow, Adelman, Forster.
Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: Yang, Zhang, Liu, Forster.
Drafting of the manuscript: Yang, Zhang, Forster.
Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: Yang, Liu, Chow, Adelman, Forster.
Statistical analysis: Yang, Zhang, Liu.
Administrative, technical, or material support: Yang, Liu, Adelman, Forster.
Supervision: Liu, Chow, Adelman, Forster.
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: All authors have completed and submitted the ICMJE Form for Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest and none were reported.