Interview - Dr Judy Ku

I decided very early on as a student that Ophthalmology would be my chosen career pathway for several reasons.  It is a great amalgam between medicine and surgery. The delicate microsurgeries are challenging and the technology is always evolving.  Most of all, being able to restore sight to people is very rewarding.

Prior to focussed Ophthalmology training, most people complete the two-year house officer rotations. It is worthwhile considering rotations closely associated with Ophthalmology such as Neurosurgery, Neurology, Plastic surgery and Paediatrics. Following this period of general training, most people complete another 2 to 3 years of pre-registrar clinical positions in ophthalmology, with a combination of clinical and research components.  Thus, typically one completes 4-5 years of postgraduate training before entering the vocational training scheme in Ophthalmology.

Ophthalmology is a competitive training programme to enter. It has a nationally-based selection process. Registrars are matched to a training centre (Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin) for the 4-year rotation recognised by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO).  To broaden their clinical experience, registrars from Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin rotate to another centre for one of their training years, while Auckland trainees spend 1 year at Waikato Hospital.  During the 4 years, trainees are expected to complete 10 exams (optics, anatomy, physiology, microbiology, epidemiology, clinical ophthalmic pharmacology and emergency medicine (COPEM), genetics, Ophthalmic Basic Competencies and Knowledge (OBCK), pathology and advanced clinical exam. Most trainees then embark on 2 years of clinical fellowship overseas to allow subspecialization in different fields. 

The Auckland training programme has been rated by RANZCO as one of the leading training centres in Australasia.  It is based at Greenlane Clinical Centre, with a team of 6 Registrars, around 28 Consultants, 2 House Officers and 2 Non training registrars. It is a very busy but interesting work environment. A typical week is made up of 2-3 theatre sessions and 4-5 consultant clinics and 1 acute session. The 24 hour on call commitments are between 1 in 4 to 1 in 5. We see around 20-30 acute patients a day on the weekends and 50-60 patients during a normal week day, plus reviewing patients at Auckland, Middlemore or North Shore hospitals who are too ill to travel to Greenlane.  In terms of teaching, we have scheduled 4 hour teaching every Friday afternoon plus didactic teaching 2-3 times per week in the mornings. Overall, trainees receive excellent supervision by consultants and gain a huge exposure to a range of subspecialties as well as case loads.

For further information regarding Ophthalmology training scheme, look up the official RANZCO website

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