Residency Programs Grow
By Amber Hurley, ASCO NL, UAB
Optometry is changing, more now than ever. With the continual talk of the National Board Certification, making the decision to enhance your studies with a residency program is a hot topic among students, especially fourth years. It is a hard decision to make on whether to add another year to school and enhance your studies or to take a job straight after graduation. Although the choice is yours to make, here are a few facts that may help you decide on the right career path for yourself.
The Optometric Residency program is growing. Currently there are 380 residency programs open for students in ten different areas of study--pediatrics, geriatrics, low vision, cornea and contact lenses, disease, primary care, family practice, vision therapy, surgery, and community health. Eventually, a residency program may even become a mandatory part of the optometry curriculum. The Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry are working to increase the number of residency programs and make all of them accredited to better accommodate more students.
Residencies have many benefits; here are just a few. To start with, a residency will increase your knowledge, skills, clinical experience, and self-confidence in your area. On top of that, you are able to build relationships with professors, mentors, other residents and students, optometric legislators, industries, and clinicians, as well as other healthcare professionals. Residencies compensate for vacation, holidays, personal and professional leave-including continual education. Discounted CE registration is also a plus!
As of July 2009, students participating in a residency program are not allowed to defer their loans during their extra year of study. There are several options students have in loan repayment:
- Deferments were replaced by the Income-Based Plan which caps monthly payments based on a percentage of the borrower’s discretionary income (normally < 10% of gross income). Interest rates are still accrued during the time of a residency.
- Extended Repayment Plan.
- Forbearance which lets you suspend or reduce your student loan payments under certain circumstances and for specified periods of up to one year at a time. Unpaid accrued interest will be capitalized.
Also, residents are not recognized as doctors under Medicare nor considered as students. The down side of residencies includes less pay, a slower start on starting your own private practice, and possible personal reasons.
Optometric residencies can be found in many states and in all sub-specialty fields. Apply for a residency in your fourth year and be ready for a wonderful experience. Residents get paid $30,000-$35,000 for the year but the experience and knowledge will last a lifetime. So, the decision is yours to make! For more information on the Optometric Residency program, visit www.opted.org.