During our surgery rotation, we are assigned 3 specialty services to rotate through in addition to our general surgery portion. I just completed my two week rotations in urology and ophthalmology. The two specialties are similar in a number of ways – both mixed medical and surgical specialties, both highly procedural, and both early match for residency. But aside from those characteristics, they are incredibly different, as I found out.
I first began with two weeks on urology. The main thing that surprised me was the amount of open abdominal surgeries I scrubbed into. I had previously thought of urology as the specialty full of minimally invasive surgery, using scopes or robots to do procedures. However, while on rotation, I witnessed a number of open surgeries for metastatic testicular cancer. I also got to observe major procedures such as donor nephrectomy and subsequent renal transplant. Of course, there were the “bread and butter” cases as well, like kidney stones and prostate enlargement. But in my experience, it seemed that urology was very similar to most other surgical specialties, with morning rounds, plenty of OR time, and relatively long hours.
Meanwhile, ophthalmology was much more outpatient focused. There were no morning rounds, and inpatient consults were relatively uncommon. I spent most of the time in the eye clinic, practicing my physical exam skills. There were a number of outpatient procedures too – mostly intravitreal injections or laser iridotomies. I spent about 1 day each week in the OR, but the surgeries were incredibly different – small cataract surgeries that took less than 30 minutes to complete. I had a friend at the time who was practising optometry and when we had time we would have quite a few ophthalmologist vs optometrist debates to see which was better (I won). To me, ophthalmology shared more in common with dermatology or family medicine in terms of the work schedule and hours. However, the fund of knowledge required in the specialty is so different than anything else – much of which I had to learn on the fly because it wasn’t covered in the medical school curriculum.