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Residency Profile: VA San Diego Healthcare System, San Diego, CA

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Established: 2006
Positions: Four

La Jolla Medical Center Building

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Program Faculty

Residency Coordinator:

  • Katherine Wang, OD, FAAO

Attending Faculty

  • Catherine Egusa, OD, FAAO
  • Michael A. Huang, OD, FAAO, Chief of Optometry, Low Vision Clinic Coordinator
  • Heather Perryman, OD
  • Christina Lim, OD
  • Susie L. Lim, OD, FAAO
  • Erin Swift, OD, FAAO
  • Kelly Tran, OD, FAAO
  • Denise Wong, OD, FAAO

Mission Statement

The fundamental mission of the San Diego VA program is to provide qualified postdoctoral optometry graduates with advanced clinical experiences in primary care optometry at a hospital-based setting and outpatient clinical setting in a predominantly geriatric population. While working as a member of an interdisciplinary team, the resident will play a significant role in diagnosing and managing ocular disease in patients that have systemic disease manifestations. Additionally, the resident will engage in didactic and scholarly activities to further promote their optometric education.

The vision of the program is to foster a passion for life-long learning that will continue to guide the resident beyond the completion of the program and encourage them to promote high quality patient-centered care throughout their optometric career.

VA San Diego ResidentsVA San Diego Residents 2

Exam RoomResidents in Exam RoomVA San Diego Waiting Room


Program Description

The residency is a one year post-graduate training program from  July 1 through June 30.  There are four resident positions with residents rotating in 3 clinic locations.  Patient care occurs at the Medical Center in La Jolla and at two outpatient clinics in Kearny Mesa and Oceanside.  The Medical Center is adjacent to the University of California at San Diego campus.  While working as part of an interdisciplinary team, the residents’ ability to diagnose and manage ocular diseases and the ophthalmic manifestations of systemic diseases will be enhanced.   The resident will become proficient in performing low vision and traumatic brain injury examinations.  The resident will also become proficient in performing minor surgical procedures.    (The resident performs basically everything except for pediatric and contact lens examinations.)

Program Goals

  1. Ensure that the resident demonstrates advanced primary vision and ocular health management skills. 
  2. Provide advanced optometric clinical training in a hospital based setting.
  3. Stimulate scholarly development in the resident by researching current scientific information and assisting in the integration and application into patient care. 
  4. Stimulate a commitment to service in the resident.

Program Objectives

  1. Resident will effectively manage Veteran patients providing a minimum of 1200 patient encounters.
  2. Resident will be exposed to a high diversity of clinical conditions within ocular disease and primary care.
  3. Resident will demonstrate proficiency in primary care Optometry procedures as defined in the Resident Supervision Policy.
  4. Resident will demonstrate proficiency in performing low vision and traumatic brain injury exams.
  5. Resident will demonstrate proficiency in performing minor surgical procedures.
  6. The resident will complete a thorough and accurate record of examination.
  7. The resident will function effectively within the multidisciplinary health care environment, promoting the resident’s competence in interfacing with providers in other health care disciplines.  The resident will demonstrate skills in providing coordinated care through appropriate communication and collaboration. 
  8. The resident will be exposed to multiple interdisciplinary clinics within the hospital to better understand total patient care. Clinic rotations include but not limited to Dermatology, Podiatry, and Audiology Clinics. 
  9. To expand the resident’s knowledge base by developing the ability to critically evaluate clinical research from ophthalmic literature. 
  10. To instruct and advise the resident in the preparation and presentation of clinical lectures.  
  11. To educate the resident on the process of manuscript preparation and require that the resident meet SCCO’s mandate deadlines.   
  12. The resident will be exposed to a variety of health care and ophthalmic literature.
  13. Enhance the resident’s active involvement in the optometric community by encouraging membership and participation in optometric organizations.

Typical Daily or Weekly Schedule in Clinic








Rotation 1


La Jolla
Imaging/LJ Education


LJ-Low Vision
LJ-Low Vision

La Jolla
La Jolla

Kearny Mesa
Kearny Mesa

Rotation 2


La Jolla
Imaging/LJ Education



La Jolla
La Jolla

Kearny Mesa
Kearny Mesa

Rotation 3


La Jolla
Imaging/LJ Education

La Jolla
La Jolla

Kearny Mesa
Kearny Mesa


La Jolla
La Jolla

Rotation 4


La Jolla
Imaging/LJ Education

La Jolla
La Jolla

Kearny Mesa
Kearny Mesa


La Jolla
La Jolla

Our residency program has 4 permanent resident spots. For the 2023-2024 Academic Year, we have four permanent residents. The following chart shows the typical schedule for four residents with the rotations switching every 12 weeks.

  • Normal VA hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday; the resident is required to remain until all patient care activities are concluded. Evenings, weekends, and on-call duties are not included in the resident’s tour of duty.
  • The resident will provide direct patient care at the main hospital in La Jolla and at outpatient clinics in Kearny Mesa and Oceanside.  Ninety percent of patient care is spent in routine clinics and ten percent in specialty clinics (low vision & TBI).
  • The resident will have half day of education time each week. This time is for scholarly activities such as journal club, reading articles, preparing lectures, and working on the thesis paper.
  • Lectures and workshop at the San Diego VA are routinely scheduled for didactic learning. 
  • Resident to attend Continuing Education meetings of the San Diego County Optometric Society.  Throughout the year, there are six 2-hour Continuing Education meetings on Thursday evenings.
  • Throughout the year there is routine lectures and workshops for didactic learning.

Rotation Through Other Services

The residents will rotate through various VASDHS specialty clinics. These specialties include but are not limited to dermatology, audiology, and podiatry. The rotation duration will be either half a day or up to 2 days dependent upon the time needed to adequately observe that specialty. The date and time of the rotation is dependent upon the availability of the staff in the specialty clinic and will be scheduled several weeks in advance.

Type and Number of Patients

  • The main emphasis of this program is clinical assessment and management of veteran patients in a multidisciplinary, hospital based environment. An emphasis is placed on ocular manifestations of systemic disease, ocular disease, and ocular side effects of systemic medications.
  • Each resident will be examining approximately 1,200 patients at the Eye Clinics in the VASDHS. Approximately 90% of the resident’s time will be spent in direct patient care. The resident will perform full comprehensive primary and secondary eye examinations, consult with various health care practitioners and ophthalmologists in co-management of systemic conditions and ocular manifestations, prescribe oral and topical therapeutic medication, perform non-invasive procedures, and order and interpret ocular imaging, order laboratory and radiology studies as indicated for diagnosis and management.
  • The resident will be taught to perform minor surgical procedures – predominately periorbital papilloma excisions. The resident will perform a minimum of 5 procedures during the residency (depending on COVID restrictions)
  • During the low vision rotation the resident will be responsible for conducting comprehensive examinations for low vision and Traumatic Brain Injury patients.
  • The Veterans Healthcare Administration (VHA) is the largest integrated healthcare delivery system in the nation. On an annual basis, VA provides medical services on a national basis to over six million veterans at over 150 hospitals, 800 outpatient clinics, and 120 nursing homes. VHA’s mission is to ensure that the health care needs of these veterans are met by providing them with primary care, specialized care, and related medical and social support services.
  • The Veteran patient often suffers from multiple medical disorders, each of which might be considered primary in a different setting. The average veteran patient has almost 3 diseases for every one disease that a non-veteran patient has. Approximately 40 percent of the veteran patients suffer from hypertension, 30 percent have cardiac problems, 30 percent have arthritis, 30 percent have pulmonary conditions, 20 percent have diabetes, 15 percent have cancer, and 9 percent have contracted the hepatitis C virus. There are also substantial numbers of veterans who are treated for neuromuscular disorders such as Parkinson's Disease and Multiple Sclerosis as well as renal failure, liver problems, and HIV.

Lecturing Opportunities

Didactic training is emphasized through two required lecture presentations to the VA Optometry Department at quarterly meetings.  Additionally, the resident will be required to present at the SCCO Residency Forum.

Scholarly Activities

  1. Thesis Paper: A publishable quality paper is required.
  2. Grand Rounds Didactic training is emphasized by attendance of the resident at the quarterly VA San Diego Optometry Meetings where faculty will present lectures on various topics. The resident will also be required to present interesting cases at the quarterly meetings.
  3. Workshops: At the beginning of the academic year, the resident will participate in workshops on Monday afternoons. The workshops cover the following topics: injections & minor surgical procedures; suturing; scleral depression; and punctal dilation & irrigation.
  4. Journal Clubs: starting in September, the resident will participate in a weekly journal club. The resident may choose the article(s) or the program coordinator may suggest the reading list. The major clinical studies (such as ANCHOR, MARINA, OHTS, AREDS) will be reviewed.
  5. Lectures: several lectures will be provided by attending faculty throughout the year for didactic learning.
  6. The residents will lecture at  Resident Day at SCCO at MBKU.
  7. The residents will prepare case reports and discuss with faculty and co-residents upon request.

Application Requirements

  1. Applicant must apply through the OR Match and follow the application guidelines. The deadline for application submission is January 31.
  2. Applicant must have earned an OD degree, or will have earned such a degree by the time of graduation, from an accredited school or college of optometry.
  3. Applicant must have taken and passed Parts I and II of the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO) examination.
  4. Except under extenuating circumstances, only candidates with a cumulative grade point average of 2.50 or higher on a 4.00 scale for their optometric education will be eligible for consideration.
  5. Three letters of reference are required from full-time faculty members or Attendings who have been most responsible for the clinical education of the applicant submitted to the OR match website
  6. Applicant must provide CV, letter of intent, official NBEO scores and official optometric transcripts. 
  7. Applications will be evaluated by the San Diego VA Residency Admissions Committee.
    1. Interviews are recommended but not required.;
    2. Interviews may not be offered if the applicant does not meet the application requirements.
    3. Interviews may not be offered if the request to schedule is after the application deadline.
  8. Applicant must be eligible; for licensure as an optometrist in a state, territory, or commonwealth of the United States, or the District of Columbia and attain broad-scope licensure, including full therapeutic privileges, prior to the residency start date of July 1st.
  9. By congressional law, candidates must be citizens of the United States.

The Residency Coordinator will contact each applicant by email to acknowledge receipt of the ORMatch application.  The Residency Coordinator will then assemble the application materials and create a file for each applicant. Interviews this year will be virtual via video, occasionally if necessary by telephone. Interviews are requested of specific candidates based upon the quality of their credentials, their supporting documents, and the quantity and quality of competing candidates.  Viable candidates are directly informed that, if selected, documents in support of their credentials must be submitted for verification as required by facility policy.  Candidates are advised that they must obtain State licensure that includes therapeutic licensure; a California license is not required.

Selection Process

The ranking process is initiated with the Residency Coordinator receiving notification from ORMatch of a resident candidate’s application to the program. The Residency Coordinator must receive the following documentation for a candidate to be considered for a residency position through the OR match website: ORMatch application, Curriculum Vitae, transcripts of NBEO scores, transcripts of optometric education, three (3) letters of recommendation, and a brief statement regarding desire to complete this residency program (letter of intent). An interview will be granted based upon the quality of the credentials, supporting documents, and the quantity and quality of completing candidates. Following interviews and just prior to the deadline date for submission of a ranking list to ORMatch, the residency interview committee ranks candidates in consideration of the combined relative quality of each applicant’s credentials, interview, and other intangible factors such as their professional characteristics.  No candidate will be discriminated against based upon race, color, sex, religion, creed, national origin, age, or non-disqualifying physical impairment.

Each candidate will be ranked based upon the following criteria:





NBEO scores


Letter of Intent


Letters of Recommendation


Special qualities/characteristics(intangibles)




Communication skills
Ability to get along with others

Following the interview and just prior to the deadline date for submission of a ranking list to ORMatch, the residency program faculty ranks candidates in consideration of the combined relative quality of each applicant’s credentials, interview, and other intangible factors such as their professional characteristics.

The Residency Coordinator submit a ranking list of preferred candidates to ORMatch.  Simultaneously, candidates independently submit a ranking list of preferred programs to ORMatch.  Utilizing these ranking lists, ORMatch algorithmically matches residents to programs.  ORMatch subsequently informs the program and the candidates of the outcome.  In the event of not being matched, the Residency Coordinator can pursue interested candidates from the remaining unmatched pool or may consider any other qualified individual.

The SCCO at MBKU Assistant Dean of Residencies is informed by the Residency Coordinators of the name of the matched candidates. The Assistant Dean of Residencies then simultaneously submits the name of the matched candidates to the Associate Dean of Clinical Education and Dean of SCCO at MBKU. The matched candidates’ names are then recommended to the President at MBKU, and the candidate is appointed as a resident affiliated with SCCO at MBKU.

Completion Requirements

  1. Completion and submission of all SCCO at MBKU required paperwork to the Residency Coordinator (Dr.  Wang) and SCCO at MBKU (Diana Dicdican/Dr. Tong).
    1. Quarterly Encounter Activity Report (VA CPRS document) used in place of SCCO at MBKU Quarterly Patient Encounter Log.
    2. Quarterly Patient Diagnosis Log
    3. Quarterly Faculty Evaluations
    4. Quarterly Program Evaluations
    5. Quarterly Resident Referral Log
    6. Quarterly Resident Activity Log
    7. Quarterly Resident Reading Log
    8. End of the Year Evaluation of Program
    9. Certification of Completion of Residency Requirements
    10. Resident Contact Address after Completion
  2. Minimum of 1200 patient encounters.
  3. Be present for complete academic year from July 1 through June 30 for the entire tour of duty except when on approved vacation, sick or authorized absence days.
  4. Provide quality, compassionate, ethical care to all Veterans.
  5. Participate in Journal Club on Monday afternoons.
  6. Attend the San Diego County Optometry Society Continuing Education Meetings.
  7. Develop a case report and/or poster consistent with fellowship requirements for the AAO.
    1. Highly encouraged to submit abstract for AAO Resident's Day or comparable venue.
  8. Prepare a manuscript of publishable quality.
  9. Prepare and present a lecture for SCCO at MBKU Residency Forum.
  10. Highly encouraged to attend a national optometric conference.

Additional Employment Opportunities



The annual residency stipend (2023-2024 is $49,469) is determined by the VA Office of Academic Affiliations.



Optional health insurance coverage is offered to the resident; biweekly premiums will be deducted if the resident elects to enroll in such insurance. Long-term disability insurance is not provided. Each resident accrues 2 hours of sick leave per 2-week pay period.


Residents are provided with twelve paid Federal holidays during the residency year.

Educational Travel

“Authorized absence” leave is granted for attendance at a professional continuing education conference such as the American Academy of Optometry or American Optometric Association annual meetings. No travel or tuition stipend is provided.


Each resident accrues 4 hours of annual leave (vacation) per 2-week pay period.


The VA provides malpractice coverage for VA-related patient care only. The resident must seek other malpractice insurance for any external clinical settings in which the resident chooses to participate.

Continuing Education

The resident is expected to attend the continuing education meetings of the San Diego County Optometric Society. The Society offers quality education and provides an invaluable networking opportunity. Additionally, the resident may attend SCCO-sponsored continuing education courses at no cost on a space available basis.

Information Resources

Library resources are available to the resident through SCCO as well as the University of California, San Diego.

Program Accreditation

The Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE - - 243 N. Lindbergh Blvd. - St. Louis, MO - 63141) granted the status of “accredited” for the program in 2023. The next currently scheduled site visit will take place in 06 /2031.


The VASDHS is in close proximity to UCSD and multiple apartments are readily available.

Local Activities & Attractions

  • San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park
  • Sea World
  • Balboa Park
  • Gaslamp Quarter
  • Professional football (Chargers) and baseball (Padres) teams

For other local activities and attractions, please visit the website of the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau.

San Diego Beach
Former Residents Testimonials – Contact Info

Prospective residents may contact former VA San Diego Residents regarding their experience.

2022-2023 Residents

Kathia Albanez, OD, Pacific Graduate (

Debbie Lieu, UCB graduate (

Stanley Plucinik, SCCO graduate (

Kresta Tabaranza, UCB graduate (

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2021-2022 Residents

Ricky Luong, OD, NOVA graduate (

Julia Richardson, OD, UCB graduate (

Jessica Tran, OD, Pacific University (

Cathy Zou, OD, Western Univesity (;

2020-2021 Residents

Laura Chen, OD, SCCO graduate (

Herrick Duong, OD, Western graduate (

Lauren Monsanto, OD, Western graduate (

Anjelica Rajo, OD, Western graduate (

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2019-2020 Residents

Hannah DeMarino, OD, Salus graduate (

Courtney Hongo, OD, Western graduate (

Theresa Luong, OD, ICO graduate (

Kristine Park, OD, Western graduate (

19-20 VASD Residents

2018-2019 Residents

Chantelle Davis, OD, NECO graduate (

Andrea Russo, OD, Salus graduate (

Valerie Tran, OD, UCB graduate (

Jenny Truong, OD, UCB graduate (

18-19 VASD Residents

2017-2018 Residents

Mania Asadourian, UCB graduate (

Lyssa Odette, Rosenberg graduate (

Alex Scovill, SCCO graduate (

Avni Shah, Western graduate (

17-18 VASD Residents

2016-2017 Residents
Tina Licina, OD, Western graduate (
Tammy Nguyen, MS, OD, SCCO graduate (
Monica Vu, OD, NECO graduate (
Kelly Tran, OD, UCB graduate (

16-17 VASD Residents

2015-2016 Residents
Dinika Bagga, OD, SCCO graduate (
Nicola Gough, OD, UAB graduate (
Wendy Gross, OD, NOVA graduate (
Jason Tran, OD, Midwestern graduate (
Cathleen Yuen, OD, SCCO graduate (

15-16 VASD Residents

2014-2015 Residents
Ryan Anderson, OD, Midwestern graduate (
Wendy Mora, OD, Western graduate (
Emily Tam, OD, SCCO graduate (
Christina Trinh, OD, UCB graduate (
Kevan Whelan, OD, ICO graduate (

2013-2014 Residents
Jennifer Gee, OD, ICO graduate (
Jennifer Henry, OD, SCO graduate (
Andrew Ngo, OD, SCCO graduate (
Denise Wong, OD, ICO graduate  (
Eva Wu, OD, University of Puerto Rico (

13-14 VASD Residents

2012-2013 Residents
Julia Castronova, OD, SUNY graduate (
Gary Ho, OD, UCB graduate (
Elizabeth Je, OD, UCB graduate (
Chad Stockert, OD, SCCO graduate (

12-13 VASD Residents

2011–12 Residents
Ketan Bakriwala, OD; Salus graduate (
Aileen Chang, OD; UCB graduate (
Tina Chiou, OD; SUNY graduate (
Thu K. T. Nguyen, OD; NECO graduate (

2010–11 Residents
Amanda Dexter, OD; SCCO graduate (
Sophie Soong, OD; UCB graduate (
Jadyn Wilkes, OD; SCCO graduate (

2009–10 Residents
Charlene James, OD; IU graduate
Salimah Pirmohamed, OD; UH graduate
Kristine Zabala, OD; SUNY graduate (

2008–09 Residents
Carrie Haare, OD; UAB graduate (
Erin Swift, OD; NECO graduate (
Alice Whang, OD; SCCO graduate (

2007–08 Residents
Smit Patel, OD; SCCO graduate (
Barbara Smith, OD; ICO graduate (
Catherine Wang, OD; SCCO graduate (

07-08 VASD Residents

2006–07 Residents
Ben Gilsdorf, OD; SCCO graduate (
Stacey Gin, OD; SCCO graduate (
Connie Liu, OD; SCCO graduate (
James Yi, OD; SCCO graduate (

Contact Info

Katherine Wang, OD, FAAO
Residency Coordinator
San Diego VA Healthcare System
3350 La Jolla Villa Dr.
San Diego, CA 92161

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
714.449.7429 • Fax: 714.992.7811• Email: