WORCESTER, Mass.—On Friday, June 24, the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at UMass held the first Inaugural Residents' Graduation Day. Speakers included Dr. Ajoy Vincent, Dr. Michael Gustafson, and Dr. Terence Flotte. This is the first newly ACGME-approved Ophthalmology Residency Program in the country in nearly two decades, the institution noted. The school sent congratulations to two outstanding physicians who completed this program following three years of very hard work. They are, Soraiya Thura, MD, and Saad Al-Kadhi, MD, MS.

Shlomit Schaal, MD, PhD, MHCM,  president, UMass Memorial Medical Group is also professor and chair, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, UMass Memorial Health and UMass Chan Medical School. She told VMAIL, "There are many ophthalmology residency programs in the country, but there hasn’t been a new program in the last 20 years. I’m not sure why that is, but clearly new and expanding programs will help reduce physician deficits in the U.S."
Dr. Schaal added, "On behalf of the department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at UMass Memorial Health and UMass Chan Medical School, we were the first to apply for a new program almost four years ago in 2016. At the time, the only pending applications were to request the expansion of existing programs.
"Designing a new program from scratch allowed us to focus on things that ophthalmology programs typically don’t focus on, such as wellness programs for residents; diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives; and innovation opportunities driven by the residents. We were able to do this because we planned from scratch.
"Additionally, by planning from the ground up, we were able to expand our program to be a four-year program that includes a one-year internship. Instead of our students experiencing their internships at another institution, they come to UMass Chan Medical School to complete their internship, which allows them to get to know UMass Chan and UMass Memorial Health better before coming to us as second-year residents."
Dr. Schaal also explained, "The UMass Chan Medical School Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences never had an Ophthalmology residency program before I joined, but they had many other exceptional, established programs in other fields of medicine. UMass Chan has been training outstanding residents and fellows for many years. I was hired to transform Ophthalmology into an academic department—that was one of my main priorities when I came on board.
"After I was hired in 2016, I recruited Dr. Misha Faustina to join my team as the residency program director. Together, we developed this program from beginning to end. We applied in 2018 and our program was approved in 2019. Our very first residents started in July 2019, and our first cohort of residents, Dr. Saad Al-Kadhi and Dr. Soraiya Thura, graduated June 24, 2022, at our inaugural graduation ceremony. I’m so proud of Dr. Al-Kadhi and Dr. Thura, who both matched into highly competitive fellowship programs of their choice and will continue their training as fellows next year."
Dr. Schaal added that "the UMass Chan Medical school is committed to our Ophthalmology residency program, and I am committed to its continuous improvement and exposing more students to the field of ophthalmology in the hopes that they will choose it as a career. Additionally, we completed our first ACGME continued accreditation mark."