Center of Excellence for Ophthalmic Surgical Training and Innovation

Wills Eye is firmly committed to our educational mission of providing residents, fellows, and the community of eye health professionals with a range and variety of educational opportunities that include not only the basics of ophthalmic medicine but also maximum access to the most sophisticated tools and technologies in the field.

Indeed, ophthalmologists trained at Wills Eye Hospital are the inheritors of a great tradition in medical education that stems from the creation of the nation’s first ophthalmology residency program at Wills in 1839. For generations, Wills physicians have pioneered new treatments, surgical techniques, and training methods that have defined the field of ophthalmology and propelled Wills as a global leader in ophthalmic medicine and education.

Ophthalmic Surgical Training

The Wills Eye Microsurgical Lab advances ophthalmic microsurgical training by incorporating new approaches to the demands for both precision and efficiency and allows for the the practice and mastery of new surgical skills and techniques. Comprised of nine work stations, including state-of-the art microscopes, phacoemulsification units, and microsurgical instruments as well as video/recording technology and a KITARO Dry/Wet Lab system, the lab also features a “next generation” VRMagic EyeSi simulator system with interactive training modules for complications management.

The surgical training curriculum at Wills is mentor-based, with residents assigned operative mentors who follow them during the surgical portion of their training. There are robust didactic lectures for all levels of skill acquisition on a daily basis, and surgery is taught in a graded responsibility fashion, whereby trainees are expected to complete tasks appropriate for their pre-requisite skill level. For a given grouped set of surgical tasks there are dedicated lectures and practice sessions that include virtual reality simulation and directed time in the microsurgical lab, where residents practice surgical skills on porcine tissue with dedicated microsurgical scopes and instrumentation. We also utilize cognitive simulation to train residents how to think about and approach surgical steps.

A Legacy of Outstanding Eye Care and Medical Training

As a specialty institution from its inception in 1834, Wills Eye developed momentum early on as a pioneer in the prevention and treatment of eye diseases that has made Wills a global leader. Our history is intertwined with the development of modern ophthalmology:

  • Development of the first topical ocular anticholinesterase preparation for glaucoma therapy (Irving Leopold, M.D., 1950s).
  • Implantation of the first intraocular lens in the U.S. (Warren Reese, M.D. and Turgut Hamdi, M.D., 1952)
  • Establishment of the Wills Eye Glaucoma Service in 1970 by George Spaeth, M.D., who has shaped the world’s understanding of this complex disease and developed a grading system, now utilized worldwide, for  the normal vs. glaucomatous optic nerve.
  • Early studies that revolutionized the treatment of ROP (Retinopathy of Prematurity) that dramatically reduced the rate of blindness in premature infants (William Tasman, M.D. and J. Arch McNamara, M.D., 1970s-80s)
  • Pioneering development of first suction infusion tissue extractor (SITE) vitrectomy machines (Jay Federman, M.D., 1972)
  • Establishment of the first full-time Ocular Oncology Service in the U.S. (Jerry Shields, M.D., 1974)
  • First surgical implantation in Philadelphia of the Argus® II retinal prosthesis for end-stage retinitis pigmentosa (Allen Ho, M.D. and Carl Regillo, M.D., 2009)
  • Conception and authorship (through 8 editions) of the Wills Eye Manual, the world’s #1 best-selling book on ophthalmology, written by residents.