Becoming an Ophthalmologist: What It Takes

Becoming an Ophthalmologist: What It Takes

A first-hand account of becoming an eye-surgeon.

What does it take to become an eye surgeon?


People ask this a lot, so for anyone curious–or better yet, considering it–this is for you.


First, you need an undergrad degree with all the premed requirements: things like Biology, Chemistry, Math, and a bit of Physics.

You can major in almost anything you want as long as you finish your premed requirements.

I personally loved airplanes and rockets growing up and thought I might want to work for Boeing or NASA, so I majored in Mechanical Engineering when I was at Columbia 🤓.

In retrospect, that route took me a bit more time to finish my premed, since the engineering requirements are already pretty strict, but it all worked out.

And ever since then, NYC has been in my blood.




Toward the end of undergrad, you take the dreaded MCAT 😳

It’s stressful but once that’s out of the way, and you hopefully pass and survive the subsequent partying 🥂, you apply and interview for medical school. This can be fun and nerve-wracking at the same time as you travel around and may even fly all over the country. ⠀⠀⠀



Medical school is 4 years.

Most people looking at it from the outside think it’s torture but I had an absolute blast and made some of my closest friends in life 🙌

The first 2 years is mostly lectures and labs.

This is where you dissect a human body, which is a mind-blowing experience for another post!

The second 2 yrs is clinical, where you are rotating through different specialties in the hospital and assisting in surgery and the treatment of patients under the guidance of more experienced residents and physicians.



I personally loved #airplanes and rockets growing up and thought I might want to work for Boeing or @NASA, so I majored in Mechanical #Engineering when I was at @Columbia. #medtwitter Click To Tweet



At the end of med school, you apply for residency.

The application process, otherwise known as the “match”, is a bit of a crazy system which is worth another post.

But essentially, all the applicants rank their choices of programs in order, and the programs rank their choices of applicants in order, and a computer matches everyone up.

I know what you’re thinking–yes, it’s kind of like a dating app for residency spots 😉



Ophthalmology is known as one of the tougher residencies to get into.

In fact, Radiology, Ophthalmology, Anesthesia, and Dermatology are jokingly referred to as the “ROAD” to success because they are higher-paying specialties with an “easier” lifestyle.

As you can tell from my IG account (linked at the bottom), I definitely enjoy my free time outside of work so I always knew one of these was for me 😉


Ophthalmology is known as one of the tougher residencies to get into.


Ophthalmology residency is 4 years:

1 year of general medicine and 3 intense years where you are solely focused on learning to treat medical and surgical eye diseases.

This was, hands down, the most humbling experience of my life so far, but so worth it. And at the end of it…voila, you’re officially an #ophthalmologist 🎓

P.S. I had so much fun in the process that I did a fellowship after that, which is another 1-2 years of subspecialty training.

My training was in neuro-ophthalmology, which is a cool field that I’ll talk about at a different time.

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Sherita D. Gaskins-Tillett, MD

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