Ophthalmology: The Perfect Career Option

Dr. Priyal Taribagil, MBBS BSc Academic Foundation Doctor Year 2, Royal Free London Foundation Trust, NHS


There comes a daunting time in every foundation doctor’s life when they are expected to make a life-changing decision about applying to a specialty training programme. A simple click of a button can open doors, paving the way for a whole new journey of self-learning and clinical challenges. Choosing a specialty requires careful consideration and is a task that many struggle with. A number of foundation trainees are uncertain about their career choice between medical and surgical sub-specialities due to limited exposure, lack of insight into professional satisfaction and sense of career achievement. Additionally, there is fierce competition for entry into most specialist training programmes. Ophthalmology is unique with regards to its immensely intricate practical skills but also provides scope for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases – arousing the “medical” mind.   

Versatility of job

The day-to-day life of an ophthalmologist can be varied and is tailored depending on one’s specific areas of interest. Routine clinical work involves outpatient specialist clinics, eye casualty shifts and theatre sessions.

Most ophthalmologists undertake at least 2 operating sessions per week with a large proportion of the workload comprising of cataract related surgical procedures. Within the speciality there is scope for further subspecialisation into numerous branches, some of which include cornea, glaucoma, medical retina, paediatric ophthalmology, vitreoretinal surgery, neuro-ophthalmology, ocular oncology and oculoplastic surgery. Each speciality comes with a unique opportunity for involvement in specialist surgery and innovative technological advancements.

Eye casualty provides the scope for clinicians to engage in emergency work. The riveting environment of the acute setting helps to consolidate one’s theoretical knowledge and builds resilience. The vast variety of pathology makes the on-calls challenging yet stimulating – with each case presenting itself as a puzzle waiting to be solved.  

The concept of versatility also extends to the patient demographics – as ocular pathology can affect individuals of all ages. This gives ophthalmologists an opportunity to work with both young children and elderly individuals. Multidisciplinary team input is pertinent in the specialty with doctors working alongside specialist ophthalmology nurses, optometrists, orthoptists, in addition to other doctors from medical specialties.

Impact on patients  

Ophthalmology as a specialty is unique in the sense that it not only offers clinical opportunities or complex practical skills, but the transformative impact it has on a patient’s quality of life. The “gift of sight”, as clichéd as it may sound, is unparallel to any other clinical outcome. Whether it is a toddler able to see the world clearly for the first time after corneal transplants, or an elderly patient able to resume a hobby after dense cataract removals, the impact it makes is awe-inspiring. Furthermore, as patients are followed up for years after their diagnosis and treatment, doctors are able to be a part of their patients’ journey and build a life-long rapport with them.  


Ophthalmology is at the forefront of research and innovation. Due to its large practical component, there are always opportunities to improve technology and surgical techniques. This is evident with the introduction of novel genetic, cellular and molecular therapies for a variety of complex retinal diseases. There is always a scope for partaking in clinical trials alongside clinical commitments and this is an excellent way to network and learn from other like-minded clinical academics. Academic ophthalmology provides the tools to deliver more effective, evidence-based  and patient-centred care.   

The revolutionising role of artificial intelligence in diagnosing and treating ophthalmic conditions is ever more upcoming.  Here, artificial neural networks attempt to simulate the human brain. Its application in ophthalmology shortens the detection period of retinal abnormalities such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, age related macular degeneration and retinopathy of prematurity.  

Scope for Volunteering

With more than 2.2 billion people worldwide living with vision impairment or blindness, the need for ophthalmologic input is becoming more pertinent (1). With limited accessibility to health services and eye care, early intervention and diagnosis can be challenging particularly in low and middle income countries. Ophthalmology provides the opportunity to engage in voluntary clinical work and make life-changing differences to individuals all over the world. There are many NGO (Non-Government Organisations) that run eye and health camps that doctors can actively get involved with.


Ophthalmology is unquestionably an extremely coveted and rewarding specialty that not only incorporates rigorous medical methodologies but has an immensely dexterous and intricate practical component. The impact it makes to patient’s health and quality of life is unparalleled. The emergence of novel, ingenious research makes it the perfect speciality to delve into. Moreover, this warm and welcoming community provides immense support and learning opportunities for their trainees. With a good work-life balance and career contentment, it is indeed a very fulfilling career option.

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