So, you want to be a veterinary ophthalmologist?!

DJ Haeussler, Jr.
The Animal Eye Institute

So, you want to be a veterinary ophthalmologist? Of course you do, it’s the best job on the planet earth! Who wouldn’t want to be a veterinary ophthalmologist? After all, you get to help a variety of animals, their associated owners, practice at the highest level of veterinary medicine, help animals maintain vision, improve their comfort, and you get to perform eye saving procedures and help blind animals see again! So what does it take to get there?

After graduating high school, students then attend undergraduate college. While obtaining a degree is typical, it is not required to be accepted into veterinary college. Application to veterinary college is intense! You have to obtain good grades, experience working with veterinarians in the field of veterinary medicine, obtain letters of recommendation from veterinarians, volunteer work with the communities, and then obtain a high score on a national test known as the Graduate Requisite Examination (GRE). Most students are accepted to veterinary college after 4-5 years of undergraduate classes and work experience.

Once enrolled in veterinary college, you must again obtain good grades, obtain a four-year veterinary degree, and pass a national examination to be licensed to practice veterinary medicine in the United States. Most students at this point have also spent time helping with research, writing scientific papers, and shadowing an ophthalmologist to gain experience. After the student has graduated from veterinary college, they then obtain a one-year rotating internship working with various specialists in disciplines such as ophthalmology, neurology, emergency/critical care, internal medicine, oncology, cardiology, radiology, surgery, dermatology, and others. At this time, they are eligible to apply to residencies in ophthalmology or a one-year specialty internship in ophthalmology.

During an ophthalmology residency, which are typically three or four years, the resident works intently on only ophthalmic cases with specialized equipment under the direct supervision of an ABVO board certified veterinary ophthalmologist. The resident is learning current terapeutic measures to treat ophthalmic diseases and learning how to perform complicated surgical procedures. At the completion of the residency, the resident’s mentor must acknowledge completion and the resident must pass a national board examination consisting of a three day test consisting of a written portion, an image recognition portion, and perform successful surgeries in front of ophthalmologists that are members of the ABVO Exam Committee. Whew! Talk about a long road!

As you can see, your veterinary ophthalmologist has been down a long road to make sure that your pet is receiving the best care for ophthalmic disease. If you are interested in a career in veterinary ophthalmology, a student should get started early and know that the road is not only long…but well worth it!

Amanda Brown