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

Residency Programs
Residency in Ocular Disease and Low 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 (2-112A)
Tucson, AZ  85723

Program Faculty

Coordinator
Danielle L. Weiler, OD, FAAO

Attending Faculty

  • Amy L. Grimes, OD, FAAO
  • Timothy I. Messer, OD, FAAO
  • Huey-Fen Song, OD, FAAO
  • Alyon J. Wasik, OD, FAAO
  • Carla Engelke, OD, FAAO
  • Amanda Mendez Roberts, OD, FAAO
  • Suzzane Li, 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 programs for legally blind and visually impaired veterans from the Southwestern region of the US.

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 low vision care.
  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 low vision care.
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 and observational rotations through medical subspecialty clinics (e.g., neurology, endocrinology, vascular, and emergency department).
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 poster/paper abstract and will be highly encouraged to submit the abstract to AAO’s 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
SWBRC R4 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, Auditorium (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
    • Corneal Specialist, Glaucoma Specialist, Neuro-Ophthalmologist, Oculoplastics, Retinal Specialist
  • 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: SWBRC

  • 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 attends weekly planning meetings
  • 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, OSU and SUNY
    • Time spent in this capacity is modest
    • Under the supervision of program faculty
  • Weekly education meeting  on Friday afternoon
    • Ophthalmic Lecture Series
    • Monthly Journal Club
    • Quarterly Case Presentations
    • Chart Review
  • Opportunity to attend Medicine-based Education Lectures twice a month
  • Medical sub-specialty rotations including but not limited to neurology, endocrinology, and vascular lab
  • Highly encouraged to attend a national optometric meeting

Scholarly Activities

  • Professional development time
    • On-site Medical Library
    • Online access to VA Library and SCCO M.B. Ketchum Library
  • Thesis Paper – develop a case report or research paper of publishable quality
  • Highly encouraged to submit an abstract for American Academy of Optometry’s Residents Day or comparable venue
    • 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 (Kate Garcia/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 & outpatient low vision and TBI)

  3. Be present for Resident Orientation which may occur the week prior to July 1 start date

  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 as the Chief Eye Clinic Resident for a three-month period

  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. Rotate through pertinent medical sub-specialty services

  11. Attend Medicine-based Education Lectures

  12. Develop an abstract for paper/poster and highly encouraged to submit to AAO Residents Day or comparable venue

  13. Prepare a manuscript of publishable quality

  14. Prepare and present a continuing education lecture (can be developed from #12)

  15. Highly encouraged to attend a national optometric educational conference

Admission Prerequisites

  • OD degree from an accredited school or college of optometry
  • Passage of NBEO part I and II prior to ORMatch date
  • United States citizenship by congressional law

Application Process

  • ORMatch application by January 31
  • Supplemental materials to Dr. Weiler by February 15
    • Letter of Intent
    • Curriculum Vitae
    • Official Transcripts from Optometric Education
    • Unofficial Transcripts of NBEO scores
    • Three (3) Letters of Recommendation
  • ​Interview, typically in person but occasionally via phone contact, 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 who also informs the Residency Director at SCCO/MBKU. ORMatch contacts the program with the results of the match. 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

$35,130 – 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 10 Federal holidays – New Year’s Day, MLK Day, President’s Day, Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas.
Educational Travel The resident is provided authorized absence to attend one national meeting: American Academy of Optometry or American Optometric Association. No funding is provided.
Vacation The resident accrues annual leave at the rate of 4 hours per 2-week pay period for a total of 13 days per year. Unused annual leave is reimbursed at the conclusion of the year.
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.

Program Accreditation

The Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE) continued the status of “accredited” for the program in 2017. The next currently scheduled site visit is June 2025.

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 & golf courses
  • Tucson International Airport: 11 carriers currently offering 65 daily nonstop departures to 14 cities and connections to 121 destinations
  • University of Arizona: 35,000 students
  • Accenture Match Play World Golf Championship, Tucson Gem & Mineral Show, La Fiesta de los Vaqueros Rodeo
  • Attractions: Pima Air & Space Museum, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson Botanical Gardens, Arizona Opera & Theater Company, Biosphere,
  • Kitt Peak Observatory, Saguaro National Park
  • Southern Arizona Attractions: Casa Grande Ruins, Tombstone, Chiricahua National Monument, Kartchner Caverns, Organ Pipe National Park

Contact Info

Danielle L. Weiler, OD, FAAO
Residency Coordinator
3601 S. 6th Ave (2-112A)
Tucson, AZ 85723
520.792.1450 x5419 • .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)