Cornea Clinical Fellowship

Clinical Exposure and Responsibilities

Call from home for the Corneal Fellowship is divided by the three clinical fellows on a weekly basis. At the same time, the Cornea Fellow is also be on call for the Wills Eye Emergency Department. There, the ophthalmology resident on call will evaluate the patient and call the cornea fellow for advice over the phone or to come in and see the patient. The fellows also assist the residents in the repair of anterior segment trauma. The cornea fellow in turn has a Cornea Service staff member on call if needed. There are occasionally in-patients at any given time, usually with corneal trauma, infection, or post-operative patients. The fellows follow these patients every morning on rounds with the Cornea staff.

Surgical Exposure

The Cornea service specializes in corneal transplantation, external disease and contact lens problems.  There is also a Mucous Membrane Pemphigoid Clinic one afternoon a month staffed by Dr. Marisa Schoen from Cornea and Dr. Robert Penne from Oculoplastics, as well as Dr. James P. Dunn from the Uveitis Department.

The doctors on the Cornea service perform over 450 corneal transplants, including PKs, DSEKs, DMEKs and DALKS, at Wills Eye each year. Wills has an Intralase femtosecond laser in our laser suite for IEKs and Intacs. In addition, many other cornea and anterior segment procedures are performed including secondary intraocular implants, intraocular lens exchanges, anterior segment reconstructions, temporary and permanent keratoprostheses, pterygium/conjunctival tumor excisions and others. Refractive surgery for astigmatism following keratoplasties are also performed. The fellows assist on cases performed at Wills and in the Wills Main Line Surgicenter.

Fellows complete 35-45 DSEKS, 35-45 PKs, 10-20 DMEKs and 5-10 K-pros as primary surgeon and perform parts of 50 to 60 or more other corneal transplants and various other surgical procedures, including some cataract surgery. Interested fellows can also perform refractive surgery, primarily PRK and LASIK, under supervision of the Cornea service doctors in the Wills Eye Laser Suite.

The Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley provides corneal tissue to the Cornea Service at Wills Eye. The fellows get firsthand experience in evaluating corneal tissue and spend some time at the Eye Bank. The Eye Bank also provides the fellows with practice eyes on which to advance their surgical skills and try new techniques.

Research/Educational Opportunities

Clinical research is an important part of the cornea fellowship. Prospective studies involving new medications and therapies are often ongoing. The Cornea Service has a Humphrey corneal topography analyzer, a Pentacam tomographer, a Zeiss Anterior Segment OCT and an ORA unit, and several projects utilize these machines.

The Cornea Service works closely with Dr. Ralph Eagle and the Pathology Department on various projects. Also, the Cornea Service meets with Dr. Eagle to review interesting pathologic specimens every three months. A Cornea Journal Club, run by Dr. Syed and the fellows, meets 6 times a year.

The fellows are expected to present a project at the Wills Eye Annual Alumni Conference in the spring, and are encouraged to present their research at ASCRS, ARVO, AAO, The Cornea Society, EBAA, or CLAO meetings. While the strength of the fellowship lies in the clinical evaluation and management of the large number and diversity of cornea and external disease patients (and consequently a sizable and diverse surgical population), there is also an opportunity for a wide variety of research projects.

Cornea fellows may also give talks to the residents or medical students during the year, and teach Jefferson medical students who rotate through the Wills Eye Cornea Service.

We feel our Cornea and External Disease Fellowship is one of the finest in the country. We are especially happy to be able to offer it in such a friendly, receptive and supportive environment.


Our Cornea Fellowship Program is accredited by the Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology Fellowship Compliance Committee (AUPO FCC) of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

The deadline for completed Clinical Fellowship applications is August 31st of each year. Only completed applications will be considered for interviews.

If you are interested in our Clinical Fellowship Program in Cornea & External Disease, which begins in July, please apply through the San Francisco Match Program.  This application includes your personal statement and three letters of recommendation (one to include your residency program director and/or Chair, Department of Ophthalmology).

For additional information, please contact:
Nick Zambino
Wills Eye Hospital
Cornea Department
840 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Email:  nzambino@willseye.org
Phone:  215-928-4710
Fax 215-928-3854

Last updated January 11, 2023