The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and the Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology (AUPO) are proud to present this year’s Straatsma Award for Excellence in Resident Education to R. Michael Siatkowski, MD. The award recognizes and celebrates Dr. Siatkowski’s achievements as a residency program director in ophthalmology.
Dr. Siatkowski was selected as the 2020 Straatsma Award recipient because of his commitment to resident education, having been the residency program director at the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Oklahoma for 9 years. What sets him apart to his residents is his character, as he consistently models excellence and teaches his residence to strive for excellence in every part of their lives. He instills confidence in his residents and truly cares about them as people. He exemplifies professional accomplishment, transformational educational advancement, mentorship, leadership, inspiration, creativity, and service on a local, regional, and national level.
As Program Director, Dr. Siatkowski has presided over expansion of the program from 3 to 5 residents per year, development of a microsurgical training facility, and constitution of an outstanding visiting professor series. Resident research and scholarly activities have more than doubled during his tenure as program director. Given his leadership in elevating the academic profile of the Institute and Department, there has been a dramatic increase in the publication and presentation numbers for the faculty. In addition, his residents have benefited from the ethics course that he has developed. He has also been very thoughtful, proactive, and effective in dealing with multiple educational issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thanks to Dr. Siatkowski’s personal attention and leadership, resident surgical experience in glaucoma, retinal, and cornea have improved dramatically. Resident surgical training also has been enhanced by his skill in raising $300,000 from the Sarkeys Foundation for a Microsurgical Education Center and by establishing a more formalized microsurgical training curriculum. Given the success of his own program, Dr. Siatkowski has developed an instructional course at the annual meetings of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS) on teaching residents struggling in surgery.
Beyond his remarkable gifts as an educator, Dr. Siatkowski has served as a personal and professional mentor to many of his residents and, in recent years, has inspired some of his very best residents to enter careers in pediatric ophthalmology and strabismus and also helped secure prestigious fellowships for them at Duke University (3), Vanderbilt University (2), and Washington University at St. Louis (1 ). He has been equally supportive in ensuring that residents seeking other subspecialty fellowships are well-positioned to be highly competitive with a fellowship match rate for residents of 96%.
In view of his passion for resident education and the breadth and depth of his leadership roles in ophthalmology, Dr. Siatkowski was elected as a member of the AUPO's Program Directors Council (PDC), for which he served as President during 2018-2019. He contributed significantly to the PDC in this role by leading sessions at the 2019 AUPO Annual Meeting and fulfilling the organization's objectives just as he has in every other leadership position that he has assumed. As a nationally respected Residency Program Director, Dr. Siatkowski also has skillfully mentored three other ophthalmology program directors over the past few years. Residents from at least 36 other institutions in the United States and abroad also have deeply benefited from his exceptional expertise as a Visiting Professor.