Lions Eye Clinic – the Soul of the Residency

Grateful thanks to Kevin Denny, MD, Department Chair

Independence and excellence have been the hallmark of the CPMC residency program since its beginnings during the California Gold Rush, to its audacious rebirth when it came untethered from Stanford Medical School in the late 1950’s.

During the following 60 plus years, the CPMC Ophthalmology Residency program has survived and flourished without the imprimatur of a medical school, as an academic adventure which is utterly unique in the United States. Excellent leadership has been key to our survival; however, the not-so-secret true ingredient of our considerable success has been the work of our volunteer faculty.

Medical education is largely organized by medical schools and governing bodies that work to standardize curriculums and measures of competence.  Residency programs are administered by medical schools employing physician educators to train each succeeding generation of professionals. In San Francisco however, dating from the mid 1990’s, when the full-time faculty was dismantled due to budget cuts, the CPMC Ophthalmology residency has not only survived, but broadened its scope and influence thanks to the countless physicians giving freely of their precious time and treasure. There is no medical school providing the underlying support to this extraordinarily successful enterprise.

A Chief of Service is responsible for the curriculum in his or her specialty, lecturing at Grand Rounds, mentoring resident research, inviting prominent colleagues to offer lectures, supervising in the Lions Eye Clinic while, moments later, turning to their own private patients, all the while responsible for running the business of a medical office. These gifts of knowledge are given freely, luckily, because there is no pay involved!

Payment of modest stipends for our Chair and Program Director are made by CPMC while the many volunteer community physicians who travel to the Lions Eye Clinic and welcome residents into their private practices receive minimal stipends averaging less than $1000 annually from Pacific Vision Foundation which was created to help provide financial support for the residency.

Why do they do it? Here in their own words are some of our valued teachers.

What an honor and privilege to be part of this esteemed faculty over the past 3 decades.  The support staff, faculty and residents represent the best in healthcare.  Truly one of the highlights in my career.
Jason Bacharach, MD Chief of Glaucoma

Being part of the volunteer clinical faculty is both a gift and a responsibility.  The gift is seeing extraordinarily gifted young physicians as they master the many areas of learning in ophthalmology and in microsurgery – and to receive their heartfelt thanks as they begin to flourish in their professional career choice.  The responsibility is making sure that the patients receive the best of care and that the residents learn both the science and art of the very finest and universally honored of medical specialties.
Bernd Kutzscher, MD
CPMC, Assistant Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology
University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine Associate Clinical Professor, Dept. of Ophthalmology

I have been in the private practice of comprehensive Ophthalmology in Monterey and Salinas since completing my CPMC residency in 1995 where I joined Dr. Roger Husted, a longstanding member of the volunteer clinical faculty at CPMC. We have been in practice together ever since. My other associate in my Salinas office  is Dr Eric Del Piero who was also a member of the clinical faculty many years ago during my training. I am forever indebted to CPMC for making those career connections for me….

Private practice has been very rewarding for me.. While not involved in international ophthalmology care, my Salinas practice is deeply involved in caring for the medically indigent, underinsured, MediCAL and undeserved in the Salinas community. So you could say that rather than volunteering abroad, we do our “charity” work in our own community and have for years. I am also involved in the education of Family Practice residents at Natividad Medical Center in the basics of clinical ophthalmology.
Leland Rosenblum, MD
Monterey County Eye Associates