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Training in the year of the eye: the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on ophthalmic education
  1. Shaunak K Bakshi1,
  2. Allen C Ho2,
  3. James Chodosh3,
  4. Adrian T Fung4,5,
  5. R V Paul Chan6,
  6. Daniel Shu Wei Ting7
  1. 1 Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2 The Retina Service of Wills Eye Hospital, Mid Atlantic Retina, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  3. 3 Ophthalmology, Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Howe Laboratory, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  4. 4 Discipline of Clinical Ophthalmology and Eye Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
  5. 5 Department of Ophthalmology, Faculty of Medicine, Health and Human Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
  6. 6 Retina, Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary, Chicago, Illinois, USA
  7. 7 Vitreo-Retinal Department, Singapore National Eye Center, Singapore, Singapore
  1. Correspondence to Dr Daniel Shu Wei Ting, Singapore National Eye Centre, Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore 168751, Singapore; Daniel.ting.s.w{at}

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At the dawn of the new decade, the year 2020 heralded an auspicious occasion for ophthalmologists worldwide. Thus far, however, it has been marked by great challenges and stress, with the global outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The resulting COVID-19 pandemic, with over 8 million estimated confirmed cases as of June 17,1 has placed an overwhelming burden on healthcare systems throughout the world, from Wuhan (China) to Bergamo (Italy) and New York City (USA). Physical distancing measures have been implemented widely to stem transmission, with large-scale lockdowns in place currently in numerous countries. With the allocation of resources towards COVID-19 management, and escalation of attempts to reduce spread, clinic visits and elective surgeries have been minimised or cancelled altogether. In ophthalmology, for clinical encounters that are still occurring, a variety of practices have been adopted to protect asymptomatic patients and providers.2,3 Overall, however, in the midst of this global crisis, clinical activity within eye care has significantly diminished. Given this, how are our ophthalmologists-in-training continuing to learn? The downstream effects of COVID-19 have influenced the educational experience of both trainees and practicing clinicians around the world.


Clinical experience

In some locales with a heavy COVID-19 burden, trainees have been redeployed to emergency departments or intensive care units, temporarily halting their ophthalmic training. For those who have not, providers are frequently organising into separate team units to care for patients, thereby reducing cross-exposure risk. The pandemic has necessitated triage to prioritise urgent cases requiring an examination and possible intervention. Though waiting rooms are not crowded and in-person chronic disease management is less regular, this assessment process may provide a unique learning experience for involved trainees. Further, in some cases, teleophthalmology has been employed for screening and basic visits. While learning may be impacted by the currently limited nature of …

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