An ophthalmologist is a physician who specializes in the medical and surgical care of the eyes and visual system and in the prevention of eye disease and injury. They provide a full spectrum of care including routine eye exams, diagnosis and medical treatment of eye disorders and diseases, prescriptions for eyeglasses, surgery, and management of eye problems that are caused by systemic illnesses. Ophthalmologists can be medical doctors (M.D.) or doctors of osteopathy (D.O.).
After completing 4 years of undergraduate study at a college or university, ophthalmologists attend 4 years of medical school to obtain an M.D. or D.O. degree. After graduating from medical school, they complete a 1-year internship and 3 years of training in ophthalmology in a residency program approved by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). Following residency, ophthalmologists may enroll in a 1- to 2-year fellowship program.
A fellowship offers the opportunity to develop expertise in a subspecialty such as:
- Corneal diseases
- Retina and vitreous diseases
- Pediatric eye problems
- Plastic surgery
Ophthalmologists are licensed by a state regulatory board to practice medicine and surgery. In addition, they are board certified, which means that they have passed a rigorous two-part examination that tests their knowledge and ability to provide expert care. The examination is administered by the American Board of Ophthalmology, and if the doctor passes, he or she becomes a board-certified ophthalmologist.