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Why is the med-school ride necessary for ophthalmology?

I am a sophomore on a pre-med track at university and the uncertainty of med school scares me. I am certain of my desire for ophthalmology, but I worry that many years spent in med school will not be years spent learning about the eyes. Is there any advice to calm doubts and fears of being unsuccessful even after all the years' investments?

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To: Friend
Subject: Career question for you

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Lesly’s Answer

Hello! To become an ophthalmologist in the United States, you'll need to complete four years of college, four years of medical school, and an additional four to five years of specialized training. You can do it! Keep the goal in mind, and you'll be on your way to a rewarding career in eye care.
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Fred’s Answer

I am not a doctor, let alone an ophthalmologist. But, an ophthalmologist is a medical doctor, and from what I can tell, a kind of surgery sub-specialty. It makes sense that someone who will be operating needs extensive training in anatomy, how the body works, and how things interact with each other.

Med school itself probably won't do much teaching about eyes - at least not much more than any other part of the anatomy. Maybe in the later years. As I understand it, most of that training would come in your residency and fellowship once out of med school. But you need the med school degree to get the residency.

It is a long process, but if it is something you are sure you want to do, then by all means go for it!!!
Thank you comment icon Your advice was so helpful! Thank you, Fred. Pamela
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Margarita’s Answer

Ophthalmologist can diagnose a lot of diseases just by looking at the eyes. In opposite, you still need general medical knowledge to recognize signs of other medical conditions that could cause eye problems to look out for. There is no time wasted learning about medicine, and not eyes in particular. That's why ophthalmologists are specialists MEDICAL doctors. It's not just because they can do surgeries, it's the medical knowledge that they have to identify and treat multiple health issues that may affect the eyes or may be revealed by an eye exam.
In addition, there are multiple ophthalmology subspecialties such as pediatric ophthalmology, glaucoma, cornea, retina, oculoplastic. Your general medical time spent will not be wasteful.
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Mary Jane’s Answer

Hi Pamela,

To me, it sounds like you need to speak with some ophthalmologists to learn more about their training path and to discuss your specific concerns. At the end of the day, the only way to become an ophthalmologist is to attend med school and learn about all organ systems. It's important to remember that the eyes are just one part of the highly interconnected and finely regulated system that is the human body. What happens in other organ systems can affect the eyes; for example, diabetes impacts many different organ systems and sometimes an ophthalmologist or podiatrist is the first physician to determine a patient is diabetic. The more you understand the reasoning behind specialists like ophthalmologists and psychiatrists learning about the entire body, the less likely you are to feel like it's somehow a waste of your time because you'll have a clearer picture of how it benefits your future patients. If after talking with specialists you are still unwilling or uninterested in pursuing the med school path, it would also be wise to learn about training options in optometry, which may better align with your goals. Take the time you need to determine the path where you are going to have the most passion and be the most successful. Check in with your college's prehealth advisor to talk through your next steps!
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