This year’s Residency Match Day was a little different for Bhawan Minhas, OD, FAAO, director of the On-Campus Residency Programs at Salus University’s Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO). All on-campus residents examine and evaluate patients at one of The Eye Institute’s (TEI) clinical facilities. 

Because of the closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March, Dr. Minhas was in the same situation that everybody else was in at the time, quarantined and frantically trying to figure out how to move both classes and clinical cases online for students and residents. “The excitement that we all experience from match results being released is akin to opening presents on Christmas morning, full of anticipation and wonder,” she said. “Frankly, it was refreshing to have been able to deliver some good news for a change during this hectic time to the Salus community and announce our incoming residents!”

Match Day, this year announced on March 16 for the 2020-21 year, is when all residency programs and candidates who applied receive their results on where they ultimately are matched after a season of residency interviews that begins in October and closes at the end of February every year. 

Optometry residencies’ selection process includes applying to programs, interviewing (typically from December through February), and submitting ranks (candidates and programs submit ranks independent and confidentially from each other), into a computer algorithm that spits out results which are released formally on Match Day.

And, although making adjustments for the pandemic has thrown virtually everyone a curveball, it didn’t take away from the excitement level that usually accompanies Match Day.

Fiza Tariq, a 2020 PCO graduate, was at home in her apartment in Baltimore, Md when she received the good news. “I woke up at 8 a.m. that morning and I knew match results would be out that day,” she said. “I saw the email and immediately perked up. Feelings of excitement and nervousness flew within me as I clicked open the email.”

fiza tariqIt was indeed good news for Tariq. She was chosen to complete her residency in Pediatrics/Vision Therapy and Rehabilitation at TEI. “It was my dream. I was immediately overwhelmed with a whirlwind of emotions — ecstatic, happy, grateful for the opportunity,” she said. “I enjoyed my fourth-year rotation with the Pediatrics department at Salus/TEI. The doctors, patients and the quality of service we provided were spectacular. The residency at Salus will allow me to combine my skills and passion together and specialize in an area of optometry I am truly interested in.”

PCO students have been matched to some of the most prestigious residency programs in the nation, and in fact, several are matched to the residency program at their home away from home — The Eye Institute. In addition to Tariq, four other PCO students, Laura Davis, primary care/ocular disease; James Forde, primary care/ocular disease; Ryan Yee, cornea/contact lens; and Dominic Brown, low vision rehabilitation, all matched with TEI.

Brown was just about to leave his house for the commute to his externship site when he received the email informing him that the Match Day results were announced. “Naturally, I woke everyone up in the house,” said Brown, who had originally planned on waiting until he got home after his externship duties to open the emails with his family. “I was both shocked and pleased with the results. It felt like a weight was lifted from my shoulders finally knowing how the next year as an optometrist would look like. I know the doctors at Salus/TEI are full of knowledge and experience and matching at Salus/TEI will allow me to tremendously benefit from all they have to offer.”

dominic brownThere are twelve residents for the incoming 2020-2021 residency class; in addition to the five PCO students matched with TEI, others and their schools include:

Primary care/ocular disease: Preet Dhami, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS); Shaghayegh Mohebbi Hesari, Arizona College of Optometry at Midwestern University; Korey Patrizi, UIW Rosenberg School of Optometry; Milena Stefanovic, Pacific University School of Optometry.

Pediatric/vision therapy: Julia Runco, Illinois College of Optometry (ICO).

First-year (incoming) Neuro-Ophthalmic Disease: Elizabeth Marunde, UIW Rosenberg School of Optometry.

Second-year (continuing) Neuro-Ophthalmic Disease resident: Tina Zeng, University of California Berkeley School of Optometry.

“Again this year, we have a very strong and diverse incoming class that represents seven different schools of Optometry,” said Dr. Minhas. “For students who have chosen to take on this extra rigorous year of training, it is a day to celebrate with their family and friends and for the programs, it means welcoming another class of candidates to an ever growing community of professionals who are dedicated to lifelong learning.”