Medical Students & Foundation Doctors

Thinking about a career in ophthalmology? There are resources and information to help you along your decision to specialise.

At medical school, you should aim to leave your ophthalmic attachment feeling confident about the fundamentals of this branch of medicine. The Royal College of Ophthalmologists provides medical students and foundation doctors with the support to learn essential ophthalmology skills.

It’s important for all doctors to have basic ophthalmology knowledge and skills. Whether you’re a GP supporting a patient with sight loss or a foundation doctor seeing a patient in the A&E Department who has presented with an acutely painful red eye, ophthalmology skills are an essential part of patient care.

Medical students and Foundation doctors can join as Associate Members: this has several benefits, not least access to the emerging online learning platform, INSPIRE. Please look here Associate Membership to see the benefits and information on how to apply.

If you’re not sure what basic skills and knowledge in ophthalmology you should have, look at our curriculum which covers a full list of core clinical skills, knowledge and learning objectives to help direct your learning. This is simply a guide you should refer to your own medical school’s specific learning objectives for ophthalmology too.

For Foundation Doctors considering a career and specialist training in Ophthalmology read the So you want to be an Ophthalmologist? short career guide covering what you can expect from training and a career in ophthalmology.

As an innovative specialty, those working in ophthalmology have plenty of opportunity to pursue a career in academic research.

The College has created a curriculum for Undergraduates and Foundation Doctors, which can be found here.

The curriculum is intended to help medical students focus on what is important, to guide medical schools and to encourage standardisation of what is learnt UK-wide, and beyond. It was written with the hope that every medical graduate will have this core knowledge, sufficient to assess and manage a range of ophthalmic problems outside ophthalmology settings, and perhaps also inspire some to pursue the specialty. It is simply a guide: you should refer to your own medical school’s specific learning objectives for ophthalmology too.

The Duke Elder Undergraduate Prize Examination

The Duke Elder Undergraduate Prize Examination takes place once a year. This is a competitive international examination run by The Royal College of Ophthalmologists. Anyone from any country can enter: it is held remotely and strictly proctored, so you can sit the paper in your home location. Further details can be found here.

Essay Prize for Foundation Doctors

Further details of this annual competition – including previosu winning essays – can be found on the Scholarships, Awards and Prizes page.

Student Ophthalmology Review Day (SORD)

The knowledge you gained as an undergraduate can start to feel less familiar without regular practice. This course is for medical students who want to revisit the essential skills in ophthalmology (or indeed who have covered little or no ophthalmoloy in their studies). By the end of the course, students should be able to competently assess patients presenting with an ophthalmic symptom and make an appropriate management or referral decision.

SORD usually takes place at the RCOphth in April and November.  You can check the Events page for all the seminars, courses and meetings we run.

RCOphth Student Societies Meetings

The Student Societies Meeting is an annual online meeting run by the College to allow medical student societies to get together, present their activities, cases, electives, challenges and accomplishments, and hopefully to make connections. University medical student ophthalmology societies from the UK and Republic of Ireland are all invited to apply for a slot, and individuals who present for their Societies are given a certificate. The 2023 meeting took place on Friday 3 May 2023 and the programme can be found here. The following societies took part in the 2023 meeting:

Brighton and Sussex Ophthalmology Society Dundee and St Andrews Ophthalmology Society Leicester Ophthalmology Society Liverpool Ophthalmology Society
Manchester Ophthalmology Society Medical Students Ophthalmology Society of Ireland Plymouth Ophthalmology Society Queens University Belfast Ophthalmology Society

There is an award made to the society which gives the best presentation on the day. The 2023 winners were the University of Leicester Ophthalmology Society.

The 2022 winners were the University of Birmingham Ophthalmology Society. The 2022 RCOphth Student Societies programme can be found here. A full report of the day by Dr Michael Williams (RCOphth Lead for  Undergraduate and Foundation Doctors) can be found here.

Should your university undergraduate ophthalmology society be interested in taking part in a future RCOphth SSM please contact [email protected] to register your interest.


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