University of Alberta – Ophthalmology – Edmonton
Program Director

Dr. Carlos Solarte

Program Administrator

Devra Samay

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Program Details

University of Alberta – Ophthalmology – Edmonton

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Resident Experience

Natalie Arnold, Tony Chae and Gurkaran Sarohia
PGY-1
These 3 highlights were the reason UofA appealed to me and being part of the program has cemented that it was one of the best Ophthalmology programs in the country. 1. People: Working at the eye clinic, I soon realized that all staff and residents show a dedication to teach and are very collegial. There is a high emphasis on resident learning where the staff will make sure that every case is reviewed and the concepts are synthesized before moving to the next case. The best part is that it doesn’t feel like a quiz session but rather they are so supportive and teach each case. It really shows that they want to be there to teach us. 2. Facilities: The clinic is newly renovated and is absolutely beautiful with an indoor garden right outside and an outdoor garden 2 mins walk. Also, there is a cafeteria just a few stairs down as well. All this combined with state of the art lab (6 microscopes) for practice make the facilities a huge draw to the program. 3. Training: Edmonton covers a large area including northern alberta, north eastern BC and some of the territories. This means that there is a lot of pathology that walks through the doors. Within the first week of being at the clinic, there were over 4 globe ruptures that came in. Further, there is also excellent support staff present which help with screening ensuring that the residents can focus on coming up with approaches to pathologies. One huge point is that starting on, these support staff are excellent resources especially when learning about ultrasound techniques, orthoptic techniques etc.
The best part of being a resident is the amount of collegiality there is within the program. Example: As soon as the acceptance letter came in, many residents reached out to welcome me. Further, they also made time to call to make sure that I was finding places to live easily. Similarly, the PD also reached out on multiple occasions to check if I needed any help with the move.
I could talk about this for days. Even in my short period of time, I would say that this is the biggest strength of the program. Starting day 1, I felt that I belonged here. All the residents and staff go out of their way to ensure that the incoming residents feel welcomed. Example: One day the clinic ended around 4 and the staff pulled me aside to get to know me better. We ended up chatting for over an hour with the staff extending a welcome and ensuring that I was settling in okay. They also ended up giving tons of tips on restaurants and activities. What surprised me was that they even invited me to join one of their Sunday ski sessions that they organize for their friends. This is just one of the stories where the residents and staff take time to get to know the new residents and make us feel part of the community.
Edmonton is an underrated city for sure. The program culture was a huge sell for me but I didn’t realize how nice Edmonton is. Regardless of the type of person one is, Edmonton offers it all. 1. Outdoors: Personally, I like being outdoors and I find the river valley is a wonderful way to go for hikes/walks within the city. The valley connects quite a few ravines which still feel pristine and make you feel like you are out in the wilderness. Otherwise, we are fairly close to Jasper, Banff, Valemont – All three I am very excited to experience in the coming month. 2. Restaurants: I think the restaurant scene here is second to none. There are two main stretches of streets where there are restaurants for a few km stretches – Whyte Ave and Jasper Ave. Anything you are looking for – Indian, Asian, Turkish, French, Middle eastern is all present here….and very good too. 3. People: There is plenty of opportunity to get to know residents from other areas as well within the program. There are 2 main hospitals – UofA and RAH and most residents usually live within a 10 minute proximity. This really helps to plan get togethers or just running into them while in the city.
Firstly, there is a department led wellness committee led by some of our staff physicians. This platform openly discusses and promotes wellness initiatives that can incorporate into our department and residency program. Our mentorship program is of paramount importance to our residency program and wellness. Every year, each resident selects one staff member within our department to act as a mentor for the resident. Mentors can be chosen for several reasons and not purely based on academic interests. Some residents pick mentors who have recently completed Royal College Examinations and have lately been fortunate to secure a job. Residents may select mentors who have children to understand work-life balance better or may pick mentors based on similar hobbies. The residents will meet their mentor at least two times during the year, but often these meetings occur much more frequently. This may provide an opportunity for residents to ask difficult questions on a one-on-one basis or to seek advice about career planning, balance with work and life or to informally discuss any problems during residency. There are also several available options for confidential support to our residents. Given a very cohesive and collegial group, the most commonly utilized resource for residents is their fellow co-residents. In a small specialty where residents work closely with staff and close form relationships, staff ophthalmologists also serve as a source of guidance and support. Overall, our program fosters a warm and approachable environment in which the residents have multiple close relationships for support. In particular, all residents have an open communication channel and confidentiality is emphasized by our program director, Dr. Solarte. Within the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Alberta, the Learners Advocacy Wellness Office offers an extensive range of services, including confidential support and mentorship. The Alberta Medical Association also has several initiatives that offer personal support, including WellDoc Alberta, the Physician and Family Support Program and the Physician Support line. Residents also have access to programs offered through the Canadian Medical Association. Our program is unique in that we often go on a resident retreat for a weekend. Before the pandemic, our residency group would go to Montana for a weekend of golf, water sports and other fun activities. Additionally, our group goes to Jasper every year for Retina retreat to which much of the time is directed towards resident wellness. We also choose some academic half days throughout the year to go to local parks and restaurants to promote residency cohesiveness and wellness.
During our first year of residency, we have the opportunity to work with and learn from the patients and excellent staff in our off-service rotations (ie. neurology, plastic surgery, rheumatology, etc.) that complement our development as future ophthalmologists. We have been amazed at the dedication of these mentors and cannot wait to integrate the knowledge and skills learned in these rotations as we enter into our core ophthalmology rotations. In addition, we are fortunate to have 8 weeks of rotation in ophthalmology during our first year of residency where we see a glimpse of the exciting challenges and learning opportunities of our second year. This not only gives us the opportunity to expand our knowledge and experience within ophthalmology, but also helps us integrate into the fantastic ophthalmology team early on in our training. We look forward to starting our core ophthalmology rotations and having the opportunity to work with the incredible staff and residents for the remainder of our residency. All staff and residents at the University of Alberta Ophthalmology take pride in our residency program. It is due to their outstanding dedication and investment in the development of our residents, the residency program, and the field of ophthalmology, that we feel wholeheartedly honored and privileged to begin our second year of residency under their mentorship.
These 3 highlights were the reason UofA appealed to me and being part of the program has cemented that it was one of the best Ophthalmology programs in the country. 1. People: Working at the eye clinic, I soon realized that all staff and residents show a dedication to teach and are very collegial. There is a high emphasis on resident learning where the staff will make sure that every case is reviewed and the concepts are synthesized before moving to the next case. The best part is that it doesn’t feel like a quiz session but rather they are so supportive and teach each case. It really shows that they want to be there to teach us. 2. Facilities: The clinic is newly renovated and is absolutely beautiful with an indoor garden right outside and an outdoor garden 2 mins walk. Also, there is a cafeteria just a few stairs down as well. All this combined with state of the art lab (6 microscopes) for practice make the facilities a huge draw to the program. 3. Training: Edmonton covers a large area including northern alberta, north eastern BC and some of the territories. This means that there is a lot of pathology that walks through the doors. Within the first week of being at the clinic, there were over 4 globe ruptures that came in. Further, there is also excellent support staff present which help with screening ensuring that the residents can focus on coming up with approaches to pathologies. One huge point is that starting on, these support staff are excellent resources especially when learning about ultrasound techniques, orthoptic techniques etc.

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