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Residency Profile: Southern Arizona VA Health Care System, Tucson, AZ

Residency Programs
Residency in Ocular Disease with an emphasis in Vision Rehabilitation

Southern Arizona VA Health Care System

Southern Arizona VA Health Care System Exterior Building Photo

Established: 1995

Positions: Four

Southern Arizona VA Health Care System
3601 S. 6th Ave (11-112A)
Tucson, AZ  85723

Program Faculty

Coordinator
Danielle L. Weiler, OD, FAAO, Dipl. (CEC)

Attending Faculty

  • Amy L. Grimes, OD, FAAO
  • Huey-Fen Song, OD, FAAO
  • Alyon J. (Wasik) Marion, OD, FAAO
  • Carla B. Engelke, OD, FAAO
  • Amanda Mendez Roberts, OD, FAAO
  • Suzzane Li, OD, FAAO
  • Shaun G. Brennan, OD
  • Sara Hafeez, OD

Virtual Tour

For a virtual tour of the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System facilities, please click here.

Mission Statement

The fundamental mission of this training program is to have post-doctoral optometric practitioners attain the advanced competencies and specialty skills needed to effectively manage the eye, vision, and related health care needs of the population served by SAVAHCS.

Program Description

The residency is a one year post-graduate training program from July 1 - June 30.  Optometry residents provide patient care in two locations within the medical center campus. The eye clinic at SAVAHCS is shared jointly between optometry and ophthalmology, which provides the residents with the opportunity to manage a spectrum of ocular disease.  SAVAHCS hosts the Southwestern Blind Rehabilitation Center (SWBRC), which provides world class interdisciplinary vision rehabilitation to legally blind and visually impaired veterans.

Program Goals

  1. Ensure that each resident develops advanced ocular disease management skills.
  2. Ensure that each resident develops advanced management skills in the specialty of vision rehabilitation.
  3. Educate each resident to optometry’s role as a contributing member of each patient’s health care team.
  4. Educate each resident on his/her potential and the means to serve/advance the profession.
  5. Instill in each resident an appreciation for the importance of ongoing professional development.

Program Objectives

1.1: Each resident will effectively manage patients that are representative of the population provided services in the Eye Clinic totaling at least 1200 patient encounters.
1.2: Each resident will serve as the Chief Resident with the responsibility to triage walk-in/urgent care cases and provide proper follow-up.
1.3: Each resident will demonstrate proficiency in advanced eye/vision care procedures as defined in the Resident Supervision Policy.
2.1: Each resident will become proficient in advanced vision rehabilitation.
2.2: Each resident will manage a spectrum of patients that are representative of the population provided services in the BRC totaling 80 unique patients
2.3: Each resident will observe the integration of low vision devices within blind rehabilitation disciplines.
3.1: Provide each resident an orientation at matriculation regarding optometry’s role in the SAVAHCS health care team model.
3.2: Each resident has the opportunity to provide care in a multidisciplinary setting lending to communication with other clinical services (e.g., primary care, neurology, rheumatology, radiology, laboratory) as indicated by a patient's clinical presentation.
3.3: Each eye clinic resident will attend at least three medical educational presentations quarterly.
4.1: Each resident will be introduced to opportunities for involvement in state and national professional organizations including mentorship towards becoming a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry (AAO).
4.2: Each resident will develop a clinical case report outline and abstract with the resident being encouraged to submit for AAO Residents Day or comparable venue.
4.3: Each resident will prepare a manuscript of publishable quality.
4.4: Each resident will prepare and present a continuing education lecture.
4.5: Each resident will be introduced to future career opportunities.
5.1: Each resident will be highly encouraged to attend one preferably national optometric conference.
5.2: Each resident will participate in weekly didactic activities including but not limited to journal club, case presentations, and chart review.

Typical Daily or Weekly Schedule in Clinic

Normal duty hours are 7:30am-4:00pm Monday through Friday (clinical patient care activities may conclude after 4:00pm on some days). There are no on-call, evening or weekend assignments. The program is 90% direct patient care and 10% didactic in nature. 

    Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
AM EYE CLINIC R1/R2/R3 R1/R2/R3 R1/R2/R3 R1/R2/R3 R1/R2/R3/R4
SWBRC R4 R4 R4 R4  
PM EYE CLINIC R1, R2, R3 R1, R2, R3 R1, R2, R3 R1, R2, R3 R1/R2/R3/R4:
EDUCATION
SWBRC R4 R4 R4 R4
**R1 EYE CLINIC CHIEF RESIDENT (optometry 1)
**R2 EYE CLINIC ASSISTANT CHIEF RESIDENT (optometry 2)
**R3 EYE CLINIC INTAKE RESIDENT (optometry 3)
**R4 SWBRC RESIDENT
Education - Friday Afternoons (all residents)
Medical Management Conference – 2nd & 4th Tuesday 12:00-1:00pm (Eye Clinic Residents: R1, R2, R3)

 

Resident Activities

Clinical Experience: Eye Clinic

  • 3 months as Chief Resident, 3 months as Assistant Chief Resident, 3 months as Intake Resident
  • Schedule dependent upon rotation:
    • At least 12 scheduled patients per day (every half-hour)
    • Flexibility to schedule follow-up appointments
  • Serve as entry point for all eye care
  • Manage walk-in and urgent care cases
  • Large number of patients with diabetes, glaucoma and macular degeneration
  • Manage the majority of glaucoma patients and refer to ophthalmology for surgical intervention
  • Close interaction with ophthalmology residents and direct consultation with attending subspecialty ophthalmologist
  • Perform & interpret auxiliary testing
  • Prescribe wide array of topical and oral therapeutics
  • Order systemic work-up as indicated by patient presentation
  • Easily refer to other health disciplines

Clinical Experience:Vision Rehabilitation

  • SWBRC fosters a unique multidisciplinary team approach to comprehensive inpatient low vision rehabilitation
    • Resident examines all veterans the week of admission of the program
      • Evaluate ocular health
      • Perform low vision device evaluation
      • Make recommendations for training with low vision instructor
    • Resident is a member of the interdisciplinary team and interacts daily with blind rehabilitation team staff
  • Outpatient Low Vision Clinic: provides low vision care to visually impaired veterans in an outpatient setting
  • Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic: provides experience evaluating, diagnosing, and managing TBI-related vision disorders

Didactic Experience

  • Opportunity to precept optometry externs from SCCO/MBKU and OSU.
    • Time spent in this capacity is modest
    • Carried out under the supervision of program faculty
  • Weekly education meeting  on Friday afternoon
    • Ophthalmic Lecture Series
    • Journal Club
    • Case Presentations
    • Grand Rounds
  • Opportunity to attend Medicine-based Education Lectures twice a month
  • Highly encouraged to attend a national optometric meeting (AAO or AOA)

Scholarly Activities

  • Professional development time
    • On-site Medical Library
    • Online access to VA Library and SCCO M.B. Ketchum Library
  • Complete a paper of publishable quality
  • Develop submission for American Academy of Optometry’s Residents Day
    • Poster or Paper presentation if accepted at AAO Annual Meeting
  • Develop and present a continuing education lecture in the spring

Completion Requirements

  1. Completion and submission of all SCCO/MBKU required paperwork to the Residency Coordinator (Dr. Weiler) and SCCO/MBKU (Diana Dicdican/Dr. Tong):
    - Quarterly Patient Encounter & Diagnosis Log (generated from VA electronic medical record system)
    - Quarterly Faculty Evaluations
    - Quarterly Program Evaluations
    - Quarterly Resident Referral Log
    - Quarterly Resident Activity Log
    - Quarterly Resident Reading Log
    - End of the Year Evaluation of Program
    - Certification of Completion of Residency Requirements
    - Resident Contact Address after Completion

  2. Minimum number of patient encounters:
    - 1200 total encounters in Eye Clinic
    - 80 unique encounters in SWBRC (inpatient low vision, outpatient low vision and traumatic brain injury)

  3. Be present for Resident Orientation.

  4. Be present for the complete academic year from July 1 through June 30 for the entire tour of duty except on approved vacation, sick, or authorized absence days.

  5. Provide quality, compassionate, ethical care to all veterans

  6. Obtain state licensure

  7. Serve a rotation as the Chief Eye Clinic Resident

  8. Participate in the Optometry Education Meetings on Friday afternoons

  9. Observe the integration of low vision devices within blind rehabilitation disciplines (orientation mobility, living skills, and manual skills)

  10. Attend Medicine-based Education Lectures

  11. Develop a clinical case report outline and abstract to understand the submission process of an academic meeting

  12. Prepare a manuscript of publishable quality

  13. Prepare and present a continuing education lecture (can be developed from #11)

Admission Prerequisites

  • OD degree from School or College of Optometry accredited by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE)
  • Passage of NBEO part I and II prior to ORMatch date
  • United States citizenship by congressional law
  • COVID-19 Vaccination

Application Process

  • ORMatch application by January 31
    • Letter of Intent
    • Curriculum Vitae
    • Unofficial Transcripts from Optometric Education
    • Three (3) Letters of Recommendation
  • Supplemental materials to Dr. Weiler
    • Unofficial Transcripts of NBEO scores
  • Interview, typically in person but occasionally via phone or videoconference, based upon quality of credentials and supporting documents

Selection Process

The residency coordinator and faculty members decide which candidates to rank for the match and determine the sequential ranking of those candidates based upon the application materials, interview, and letters of recommendation. Final candidate selections are reviewed by the Chief of Optometry and the approved list is submitted to ORMatch by the Residency Coordinator. ORMatch contacts the Residency Coordinator with the results of the match who informs the Residency Director at SCCO/MBKU of the results. Note: all residency applicants will be evaluated without regard to sex, sexual orientation, race, color, religion, creed, age, national origin, disability, marital status, or any other applicable legally protected status.

Stipend

$35,614 – as determined by VA central office, is not contingent upon productivity.

Benefits

Health The resident is offered health insurance options (premiums vary depending on selected coverage).
Holidays There are 11 Federal holidays – New Year’s Day, MLK Day, President’s Day, Memorial Day, Juneteenth, July 4th, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas.
Leave The resident accrues annual and sick leave. Additionally, the resident is provided authorized absence to attend one national meeting.
Liability Professional liability is covered by the VA under the Federal Tort System.
Information Resources There is a small library of books located within the eye clinic as well as a friendly-staffed library on the VA campus. Additionally, the resident has online access to the VA Medical Library and SCCO at MBKU M. B. Ketchum Library.

VA Appointment

Optometry residents are appointed as temporary employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs. As such, they are subject to laws, policies, and guidelines posted for VA staff members.  There are infrequent times in which this guidance can change during a training year which may create new requirements or responsibilities.  If employment requirements change during the course of a training year, the residents will be notified of the change and impact as soon as possible.

The VA is a Drug-Free Workplace, which applies to any substance that may be legalized in some states but are not federally legalized. Optometry residents are subject to random drug testing.

Interested candidates are encouraged to visit the VA’s Office of Academic Affiliations to ensure you meet all eligibility requirements to train at VA Facilities (https://www.va.gov/oaa/hpt-eligibility.asp).

Program Accreditation

The Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE) continued the status of “accredited” for the program in 2017. The next scheduled site visit is September 2026.

Housing

There is no housing provided.

Local Activities and Attractions

  • Population: 1 million, Arizona’s second largest city, Hispanic & Native American influences
  • Year-round warm climate
  • Numerous top-rated resorts, spas and golf courses
  • Multiple outdoor activities: hiking and cycling 
  • Tucson International Airport: 7 carriers currently offering nonstop departures to 22 destinations
  • University of Arizona: 45,000 students
  • Attractions: Pima Air & Space Museum, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson Botanical Gardens, and Biosphere
  • Kitt Peak Observatory, Saguaro National Park, Broadway in Tuscon, Tuscon Symphony Orchestra, Arizona Opera at Tuscon Music Hall
  • Southern Arizona Attractions: Casa Grande Ruins, Tombstone, Chiricahua National Monument, Kartchner Caverns, Organ Pipe National Park

Contact Info

Danielle L. Weiler, OD, FAAO, Dipl. (CEC)
Residency Coordinator
3601 S. 6th Ave (11-112A)
Tucson, AZ 85723
520.792.1450 x 1-5419 • Fax: 520.629.4808 •  Danielle.Weiler@va.gov

Judy W.H. Tong, OD, FAAO
Assistant Dean of Residencies
Southern California College of Optometry at
Marshall B. Ketchum University
2575 Yorba Linda Blvd.
Fullerton, CA 92831-1699
714.463.7568 • Fax: 714.992.7871 • Email: jtong@ketchum.edu