About the Program

Columbia Ophthalmology Residency Mission Statement

To mentor and train the future leaders of ophthalmology through unparalleled clinical, surgical, research, and leadership education.

History of Impact 

Since Ramon Castroviejo performed the first corneal transplant in 1933, we have been leading the world in ophthalmic research and clinical advances. In 1947, the first ocular tumor clinics in the world were established by Dr. Algernon Reese. Dr. Francis L’Esperance developed the argon laser in 1968, and in 1983, he and Dr. Steven Trokel pioneered the excimer laser for refractive surgery. Dr. Stanley Chang introduced perfluorocarbon liquids and wide-angle retinal surgery in the 1990s, and in 2006, Dr. Rando Allikmets discovered the role of complement factor H in age-related macular degeneration. Today, under the guidance of Dr. Irene Maumenee and Dr. Stephen Tsang, we are leaders in the field of ophthalmic precision medicine. Learn more about the historical milestones of the Harkness Eye Institute here.

The World’s Top Research Institute at a World Class Hospital 

In addition to being ranked a top 5 hospital in the nation by USNews, Columbia University Irving Medical Center was recently declared the top healthcare institute for scientific research in the world by the 2019 Nature Index Annual Tables. 

Educational Leadership

We strive to provide the best clinical, surgical, research and leadership curriculum to our trainees. International leaders in every subspecialty contribute to our educational mission, and with over 50 full-time and voluntary faculty at the Edward S. Harkness Eye Institute, the faculty to resident ratio is over 4:1. Dr. George “Jack” Cioffi is our visionary chairman. Drs. Royce Chen and Lora Glass are our residency Program Director and Associate Program Director. Dr. Jason Horowitz is the bedrock of our residency clinic, and Dr. Noga Harizman leads our site at Harlem Hospital. Our educational leadership team is experienced and deeply committed to the development of our residents, meeting several times a month to discuss and implement improvements in the program. Our residents are intricately involved in these improvement cycles. We firmly believe that striking a balance between formalized instruction and resident autonomy is critical to creating and maintaining a top ophthalmology training program. 


Unique Program Characteristics

Our Patients

The “jewel” of the residency is the diversity in its patient population. Residents are exposed to the whole spectrum of life, from uninsured patients to billionaire leaders of society. Patients are evaluated and treated at several different sites: our state-of-the-art residency clinics at the Harkness Eye Institute and Harlem Hospital, a major New York City public hospital, as well as the private clinics of our attending physicians. Patients come from all over the world to seek care at Columbia, and they reflect the diversity of life in New York City. Our residents take great pride in making a tremendous difference in the lives of their patients by offering equitable and superlative care for all.

Educational Curriculum

  • Didactics – Medical education is not static, and neither are our learners. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have shifted to teleconferencing for lectures, and we have closely re-examined the way we teach. The New York area ophthalmology program directors have come together to develop a core citywide curriculum for education that is based on the AAO BCSC series. This core curriculum features the collective expertise of physicians in New York City and New Jersey with pre-recorded lectures available to residents at all New York area institutions. To interact with these fundamental subspecialty lectures, we have developed a Columbia “Eye-Talks” series that flips the classroom and focuses on case-based discussions with our world-renowned faculty. Our residents’ response to this new educational model has been overwhelmingly positive.  

  • Morning Report – Each morning via teleconferencing, residents review challenging overnight call cases and inpatient consults with a rotating schedule of our outstanding faculty members. Morning report is a fantastic opportunity for learning and is also a critical part of sign-out and continuity of care.


  • Surgical Curriculum and Labs – With Dr. Steve Brooks (aka Tiger  Dad) and our dedicated faculty, we have developed a robust surgical curriculum that begins with suturing skills education in July, followed by a suturing olympics obstacle course in the fall. In addition, we have an annual cataract symposium with all anterior segment faculty each summer, and dedicated specialty-specific dry and wet labs that occur throughout the year. Residents practice microscope centration, tissue handling, wound construction, and specific surgical techniques with a combination of virtual simulation, porcine and model eyes. Each first year resident is paired with a third-year buddy and a faculty mentor to develop fundamental surgical skills before performing the first primary case. Surgical procedures are introduced early in residency training in order to build skills over a longer period of time – for example, residents start performing cataract surgery in the first year of training and typically perform 30-50 primary cases by the end of the second year of training.


  • Columbia Basic Science Course in Ophthalmology – Since 1941, the Columbia BSCO has been educating attendees from around the world on the fundamentals and cutting edge topics of vision science. Each January, the first-year residents are excused from clinical activities to attend this fantastic course.  


  • COACH Ophthalmology – COACH is our web-based educational system featuring surgical videos, lectures, and presentations by our own distinguished faculty. How does the world’s greatest retinal surgeon, Dr. Stanley Chang, repair a complex retinal detachment? How does President of the World Glaucoma Association, Dr. Jeff Liebmann, perform a trabeculectomy? Our trainees access these resources to be better prepared when it is time to operate with our faculty.


  • Boards Preparation – In addition to OKAP review lectures each February and March, our faculty administer Mock Oral examinations annually to better prepare them for the Oral Board examination. Second year residents attend the Wills Eye Review Course each year, and each resident is provided a subscription to an online question bank. Our residents have consistently performed better than the national averages for both the written and oral board examinations. 

  • Upon graduating from the program, our highly skilled residents typically complete ophthalmic subspecialty training at the most prestigious clinical and research fellowships in the country. Many of our graduates have gone on to faculty and leadership positions at top academic institutions, including UCSF, Wills Eye Hospital, Columbia, Wilmer, and UCLA. Others have served as successful leaders of their communities and their private practices. 

Physician Wellness: Columbia Empathy in Ophthalmology Curriculum

Recognizing that burnout is a very real part of the lives of all physicians, we have developed an innovative wellness curriculum to support our trainees and our faculty:

  • Patient Perspectives and the Arts - We have cultivated a partnership with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where our residents, fellows, and faculty participate in drawing sessions and learn different perspectives about sight through the unique lens of talented visually limited artists. 



  • Narrative Medicine – In partnership with the Columbia University Narrative Medicine Department, we have developed a curriculum for residents, fellows, and faculty interested in expressing their thoughts and experiences in narrative form. 
  • Maslach Burnout Inventory Survey – Twice a year, we administer the MBI survey to monitor residents and provide tools to combat burnout.
  • Wellness Stipend – Each resident receives a yearly stipend toward a wellness activity (fitness memberships, music lessons, etc.)
  • Balint Groups – In partnership with the Department of Psychiatry, our trainees meet to discuss complex patient care and healthcare delivery issues in a group setting
  • Leadership – We have developed a robust leadership curriculum, recruiting the expertise of NewYork Presbyterian Leadership, professors from Columbia Business School, and external national experts. Topics in recent years have included negotiation, career development, and public speaking.  
  • Annual Residency Retreat – In January of each year, the entire residency program takes a weekend retreat in upstate New York, where we take a step back, turn off our pagers, look at the program with fresh eyes, and come up with ways to improve upon every aspect of the program. In addition, we also dedicate this time for professional development and wellness, and in the past few years, we have brought in nationally renowned coaches to teach residents about values-based leadership and quality improvement in medicine. 

  • Wellness Corner/Nutrition – A Nespresso machine and snacks/microwave are kept stocked in the Wellness corner (Dr. Horowitz’s office), where residents have a steady supply of snacks to keep nourished during busy days. 

Senior Enrichment Elective (SEE) – Seniors participate in a 1-week elective of their choosing to develop interests and experiences that may not occur during the normal scope of training. Recent electives have ranged from global trips to Guatemala, to an elective with an ocular geneticist at another institution, to an elective mini-internship at the Bausch and Lomb Headquarters.  

Recent Resident Recognition and Awards

AAO Copeland Fellowship
Doximity Med-Ed Fellowship 
Heed Foundation Residents Retreat
Heed Foundation Fellowship
Women in Ophthalmology Humanitarian Award
2nd place Virtual Resident Ophthalmic Trauma Competition

Salary and Benefits

PGY2: $77,048
PGY3: $83,363
PGY4: $85,706

In addition to competitive salaries, our residents receive the following benefits:

  • 4 weeks vacation annually
  • Personal days each year for health appointments
  • Personal Ipad or book fund
  • Hospital-issued Iphone 
  • BCSC Books – electronic or print copy
  • Set of Volk 90D and Pan Retinal 2.2 lenses
  • Travel/Research conference stipend
  • Annual wellness stipend 
  • Annual subscription to Ophthoquestions
  • PGY3 residents attend the Wills Eye review course 
  • Monogrammed white coats
  • Medical/Dental/Vision insurance
  • Hospital meal cards

Set in one of the most dynamic cities in the world, the residency program at the Edward S. Harkness Eye Institute provides the compassionate and motivated resident with the best possible training and experience necessary to become a master clinician and true leader in the field of Ophthalmology.

We invite you to learn more about our outstanding residents and the application process in the “Current Residents,” “Program by Year,” “Life after Residency,” and “Applicant Eligibility, Selection and Application Process,” sections of this website. 



Royce W. S. Chen, MD

Residency Program Director


Lora R. D. Glass, MD

Associate Residency Program Director