Why I Did a Residency at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute

By: Mark Schaeffer O.D

Only a few short months ago I walked across the stage with my diploma during graduation from Southern College of Optometry in May. I, like LeBron James, took my so-called talents to South Beach and am now a resident at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami. From the moment I started patient care in my second year, I knew I wanted to do a residency in ocular disease. Treating and managing all conditions of the eye is something that is very important to me and something I wanted to pursue further.

Let me first say this: I loved optometry school. The academic environment of getting those really strange and complex patients and then discussing them over lunch or drinks after work was unavoidable to me. I always welcomed it. No matter where I went with my classmates we always ended up talking about our cases. From binocular vision problems to glaucoma to unidentifiable corneal issues, lots of debate, conjecture, and opinions ensued. However, my four years of optometry school were not enough for me. It’s not that I didn’t feel prepared to be working in private practice or at a referral center or in a commercial setting, but my education was not finished. I am greatly appreciative of the knowledge gained while in school, but I was ready to take on more.

Being in residency has been the greatest decision of my optometric career so far. I know it has only been 6 months, but I am certain that this will change my path forever. Every day, I am surrounded by complex and interesting cases from around the globe sent to our hospital to be seen in every subspecialty from glaucoma to neuro-ophthalmology to cornea and refractive surgeries to retina. I get to discuss with other optometry and ophthalmology residents and fellows diagnoses, differentials, treatment plans, alternatives, and follow-up care of a multitude of diseases. I am very fortunate to be in this environment.

Other residencies offer very similar type experiences but in various different fields. It allows you the opportunity to engage in dialogues with other physicians in a clinical setting. You get to see how other doctors think and process information and their respective management styles. By seeing how other doctors have treated patients, I get to shape my own style. It gives you the chance to grow from other people’s experience. You don’t have to carbon copy another doctor unless that is how you want to practice.

Residency, however, is not for everyone. Some people finish school and are ready as soon as their license is signed and mailed to practice optometry. They feel they can manage anyone that walks through their door and I applaud their courage. I am not one of those people. I am confident in my skills taught to me by my institution and my externships, but again, I wanted more.

We as students and residents are not perfect. Nor will we ever be. But these last 5 months have given me the opportunity to perfect how I think I should act as a doctor. I will continue to strive for that on each patient, on each day, in each clinic where I’m working. And my residency has put me on that path.


By: Mark Schaeffer O.D

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