University of Iowa Health Care

Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

The Iowa Guide to the Ophthalmology Match

2015-2016 edition; with updates for 2017-2018

Jesse Vislisel, MD, The University of Iowa

August 13, 2015 and September 6, 2017


Ophthalmology is an incredibly fascinating and rewarding field.  It offers a distinctive combination of medical and surgical management while utilizing amazing technological devices to maintain and restore vision.  Because many consider vision the most prized of the senses, ophthalmologists can make a tremendous impact on the lives of their patients.  The ophthalmology application and match process is fairly unique, in that it is coordinated by the San Francisco Matching Program rather than the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) like most other specialties.  As a result, the field has its own Match Day and application deadlines.  It is a huge relief to match months before your peers, but having a separate application process can make the process extremely confusing.  Unfortunately, there is no consolidated source of information for the ophthalmology match.  While preparing my own application, I gathered information from peers, residents, faculty, websites, and books.  This guide attempts to consolidate the most important of this information in hopes that it will make your life easier during your preparation, application process, and interviews. 

Ophthalmology is a competitive specialty.  In January 2017, there were 702 applicants for 468 positions (1).  For those who submitted a rank list (and therefore attended at least one interview), the overall match rate was 78%.  U.S. medical seniors have a match rate much higher than these figures (92%).  Because of the fierce competition, especially for placement into top programs, it is important to begin preparing your application early.  In fact, resume-building should begin on your first day of medical school.  Create a document to keep track of every achievement and volunteer activity you have completed during college and medical school (with dates).  This will make it much easier to create a CV when preparing your residency application. 

A successful applicant will have a diverse and well-rounded application.  However, some aspects are weighed more strongly than others by admission committees.  Nallasamy surveyed residency programs to analyze current trends in the residency selection process.  She determined the most significant factors by calculating the percentage of programs rating various aspects as "very important" or "among the most important."  The most significant factors were interview performance (95.4%), clinical course grades (93.9%), recommendation letters (83.1%), and board scores (80.0%) (2).  The least significant factors were musical ability, having a parent as an ophthalmologist, being a leader, being a high achiever in sports, and having a PhD.



last updated: 9/6/2017; originally posted 8/13/2015
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  • Vislisel J. The Iowa Guide to the Ophthalmology Match. August 13, 2015; Available from:
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