I am both a board certified ophthalmologist (eye doctor) and a retina specialist. Board certification requires periodic testing of knowledge.
To become a retina specialist required additional training following my completion of ophthalmology residency.
The test to become a board certified certified ophthalmologist had nothing to do with my decision to become a retina specialist. Board certification is required to obtain hospital privileges, state licensure and, perhaps, participate in many health insurance plans.
After completion of medical school, all graduates are technically an “M.D.”
Internship: In most cases, the first year after graduating from medical school is spent as an intern where we gain practical experience in various core fields of medicine such as internal medicine, general surgery or some combination of the other specialties. We do not focus on ophthalmology.
Residency: Ophthalmology residency begins after the internship. Most residency programs are 3 years long and for this period, we learn nothing but ophthalmology. Residents are essentially apprentices to the craft of ophthalmology learning from practicing ophthalmology attending physicians.
At the end of residency, many of my colleagues chose to start private practice in general ophthalmology. A general ophthalmologist usually performs cataract surgery, treats various diseases such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, etc.
Fellowship Trained Retina Specialist
The period of training following residency is dedicated to sub-specialty training and is called a fellowship. To become a retina specialist, I completed an additional 2 years of training after completion of residency.
In other words, after I was qualified to become a general ophthalmologist, I took on optional training to allow me to become a retina specialist.
There are about eight or recognized sub-specialties within ophthalmology. Diseases of the retina is one of the these sub-specialty areas.
The sub-specialties in ophthalmology are:
- Ocular pathology
- Retina Specialist
Most fellowship trained doctors eventually practice only their sub-specialty, that is, as a retina specialist, I only take care of patients with problems with the retina.
While I am qualified to perform cataract surgery and diagnose glaucoma, I choose not to.
What does this mean?
Board certification, at least in ophthalmology, is a test or certification of competency in general ophthalmology. It has nothing to do with my being a retina specialist. At this time, there is no sub-specialty board certification.
Though I am a retina specialist, my board certification reflects that I am fluent and knowledgeable in all the various areas of ophthalmology. This is true of all ophthalmologists who practice a sub-specialty.
“Board certified” simply means I know a lot about general ophthalmology.
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