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The ABCs of Fellowship Applications

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The first stop for most ophthalmology residents interested in a fellowship is SF Match. The San Francisco-based matching program has been coordinating the processing, distribution and review of post-graduate medical education applicants since 1977 and has processed more than 50,000 registered applicants worldwide.

The program’s ophthalmology fellowship match was established in 1985, with a singular goal of coordinating fellowship appointments between applicants and participating fellowship programs. The Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology (AUPO) sponsors the process and is responsible for enforcement of applicable rules.

Application Process
The match process runs from June to November of any given year. The actual match takes place in December and is used to process all applicants who want to start their fellowship training in July of the following year.

Tips from the Editorial Board
 • Allow enough time to get the three recommendation letters required as part of the application. One of the letters must be from a committee chairman, so be sure to request your letters far in advance of the application deadline.
 • Double-check application requirements with the individual program. “Do NOT assume that the central app is all you need,” says Natasha Herz, MD. “You’ll get burned.”
The registration fee for the match is a one-time, non-refundable cost of $250, which covers registration, use of the central application service (for participating subspecialties and up to eight applications) and matching.

Participation in the match is fairly straightforward. Complete the online registration form at sfmatch.org and submit your payment. Once registered, you will receive e-mail confirmation and additional information on matching procedures. These include identifying key dates related to your specific subspecialty.

After registration is complete, you can access SF Match’s online directory of available programs and work with the central application service to apply for all ophthalmology subspecialties (with the exception of neuro-ophthalmology and pathology). You will need to:

  • Fill out the service’s universal application form;
  • Gather one copy of each of the appropriate documents; and
  • Mail your entire package to the service.

SF Match will process, scan and distribute your applications to each of the programs you request, up to eight (any additional applications are $35 each). Bear in mind, however, that some programs may require secondary applications in addition to the match’s universal application. Follow up with the individual program to see what else may be required.

If you are interested in a program that doesn’t use the central application service (i.e. neuro-ophthalmology and pathology), you must register with SF Match, then contact programs directly for application information and materials.

Individual programs will then contact applicants and bring them in for an interview. After the interview but before the match deadline in December, you submit your “rank list” to the match’s office. All lists can be submitted online. SF Match will e-mail you a confirmation of your list choices within two business days of receipt.

Training Requirements
Currently, the American Board of Ophthalmology and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) have not officially defined any subspecialty areas in ophthalmology. Therefore, no fellowships can be ACGME accredited, nor can it lead to an official certification.

As a rule, though, clinical fellowships that involve direct patient care will generally require a completed ophthalmology residency and a license to practice in the United States. There are a few cases, such as research-based fellowships, that may be open to pre-residency applicants and to foreign applicants who do not yet have a license to practice in the United States.

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About the author: Kimberly Day is a freelance health writer and medical editor and a frequent contributor to YO Info. She is the co-author of Hormone Revolution and ghost writer of Eat Papayas Naked.