Kansas City VA Medical Center
Kansas City VA Optometry Residency Program
Education in Ocular Disease
Education in Low Vision
The Art of Doctoring and Teaching
Goals for Resident Development
Kansas City, Missouri
Optometry Residency Program Contact Information
Kansas City VA Optometry Residency Program
The Kansas City VA Ocular Disease Residency with an emphasis on Glaucoma and Low Vision is looking for enthusiastic, self-starting individuals who enjoy learning in an exciting medical center environment. Three residents are selected each year. The program is affiliated with the UMSL College of Optometry and was the first COE approved residency program in the United States. As of July 2021, the program has graduated 115 residents. These individuals have gone on to become VA staff, optometry school faculty and deans, department of ophthalmology faculty, and practitioners in joint OD/MD practices all over the country.
The mission of the Kansas City VA Optometry Residency is to help highly motivated residents become excellent doctors with expertise in ocular disease and low vision care. We want residents to develop into doctors who are confident, independent, keenly interested in self-awareness and self-improvement, and who know how to learn on their own. The residents will expand their abilities as doctors scientifically through the learning and application of evidence based medicine. It is our goal to broaden their understanding of compassion in medicine through readings and conversations about the art of doctoring. We further want to develop great teachers – teachers of patients and of students – through readings and conversations about the art of teaching.
Optometry Residency Program Description
Learning eye disease in the Kansas City VA Optometry Residency is an exciting mix of didactic education, self-study, and patient care. We understand that there are three steps to learning the medicine of optometry: learning the facts, organizing the facts, and applying the organization to help your patients. Our experience is that optometry school does a nice job of teaching the facts. We think we excel at helping you to organize the material so it makes sense to you, so you can recall it, and so you can take excellent care of your patients. (This would be a great topic to discuss with our former residents when you contact them.)
The third step (applying the organization to patients) is, of course, the most important and you will do it better when you have mastered the organization. Residents will see a wide range of glaucoma, macular disease, cataract, and diabetic patients. You will be given a lot of decision making responsibility for these patients. We want to provide just the right amount of guidance to help you grow as a decision maker. You’ll see many other eye problems, but in less frequency than those four.
Each day begins with an hour-long discussion of eye disease (we also do this for 2 hours on Friday afternoons). We think the discussions are relevant, stimulating, and thought provoking (another statement to verify with our former residents). They are designed to help you to understand eye disease in a way that doesn’t require rote memorization. Instead, they give you a framework to figure out a solution to any patient problem – even if you haven’t seen it before.
Your education in eye disease will be most influenced by the patients you examine. They will provide the experience you need and be the source of the questions you ask. The best students of any kind are the best questioners. We want to encourage your interest in, and nurture your ability to become, a great questioner. All learning begins with a question – when you ask great questions here, you will be rewarded with an opportunity to learn.
A fundamental goal of our program is to develop great lifelong learners - doctors who see the value in studying about patient care and doctors who excel at reading an article. So, much of your learning will be done on your own, but we want to guide you through this as well. We will teach you how to read and interpret medical literature, so you can draw your own conclusions and apply your learning to excellent patient care. You will become an expert at reading and applying evidence based medicine.
The Kansas City VA offers a unique education in low vision because we provide care to patients with a wide range of vision loss and because we have so many options for solving their visual needs. As a resident, you are an important member of our low vision rehabilitation team - spending about a half day a week working on low vision.
You will be working with veterans with mild to profound vision loss – great preparation for providing care for people with a range of visual needs. Examining these patients will help you to overcome any apprehensions about working with the visually disabled, will introduce you to many creative solutions for helping them, and will allow you to play a role as part of a vision rehabilitation team. You will be working with a great staff - trained in low vision rehabilitation, computer access training, orientation and mobility, and activities of daily living.
Most residents who begin our program have had limited experience with low vision, so the optometry staff is always available with practical patient-care advice. We complement the hands-on education with weekly conversations and instruction in low vision care. The residents learn low vision from their patients, the optometry staff, and from the rehabilitation staff.
The low vision education at the Kansas City VA has inspired many of our residents to practice low vision – some part time, some full time, and a few who are directors of low vision clinics. Others, who are less interested in practicing low vision after residency, benefit from studying low vision here because they gain a much deeper understanding of eye disease by participating in the rehabilitation process.
Your experience will be broadened through our efforts to work on the art of doctoring. We think and talk about this daily, but we also have a weekly discussion on a variety of topics with relevance to medicine, but is a step beyond the science of medicine – topics that range from patient communication to self awareness to leadership. Our assigned readings might be about critical thinking, the experience of being a patient, or evidence-based medicine. We think that great doctors have a breadth of abilities and we want to help you work on many of them.
The Kansas City VA is a great place to prepare to be a teacher. We are passionate about great teaching here and we have graduated some wonderful teachers. We are aware that teaching is instinctive to many doctors, but there is also an art that is less intuitive. While here, you will read some of the great books on teaching in medicine (which helps you understand yourself as a learner too) and we will have several discussions helping you to form your philosophies as a teacher.
Your residency year is also the right time to explore and clearly define your philosophies on doctoring.
We will guide you in doing this broadly – deciding what kind of person you want to be will influence the kind of doctor you will be. Your purpose and motives in doctoring, the relationship you want to have with patients, and how you define the doctor's role will also influence the kind of doctor you will be.
We will also guide you in developing your philosophies more narrowly - using the year to define your management philosophies (and reasons behind them) for all eye diseases that you are likely to encounter at least occasionally. You should be able to identify the evidence for your philosophies. Well-considered philosophies can be an excellent guide to making wise decisions in difficult circumstances.
Our broadly stated goal is to tap into your talents that will allow you to develop into an excellent doctor who is confident, independent, keenly interested in self-awareness and self-improvement.
We want you to learn how to provide excellent care for your patients and to become an excellent decision maker.
We want to develop your interest and ability to accurately evaluate yourself, to help you develop a life-long passion, a curriculum, and a strategy for self-education, and to help you to develop into a great questioner - to see yourself as an important resource to answer your own questions.
We want to inspire you and help you to develop the characteristics that we think make a great doctor – a doctor with great compassion, caring, empathy, selflessness, and transparent motives. A doctor with intellectual honesty and self-awareness. A doctor with a self-generated motivation and ability to learn. A doctor with the ability to critically assess what you read and hear. A doctor who sees life as an opportunity to improve the world around you and the people around you.
A highly motivated resident will leave our program with the savvy to solve a wide range of clinical problems, with the ability to understand medical literature, with a deeper and broader awareness of how the human condition is affected by eye disease, and with an unbridled enthusiasm for optometry. It’s an exciting place and has been a major influence on many residents – we encourage you to call them and find out what their experience was like. For the contact information of current or previous residents, please call Dr. Harkins.
We are very proud of our history, but most proud of the 100+ graduates of our program since the 1970s.
It’s likely you will recognize several names:
Alexis Smith (SCO)
Danielle Toms, OD graduated with professional honors and distinction from NOVA Southeastern College of Optometry. She completed her residency in ocular disease and low vision rehabilitation at the Kansas City VAMC in 2015. Prior to joining the staff at the KCVA, she worked at an outpatient VA clinic in Warrensburg, MO. She is currently Clinical Lead of the Low Vision Rehabilitation Program and an Adjunct Instructor for the University of Missouri - St. Louis College of Optometry.
Elizabeth Phillips, OD is a graduate of the University of Missouri, St. Louis- College of Optometry. She completed her residency in Ocular Disease and Low Vision Rehabilitation at Kansas City VA Medical Center in 2017. Prior to joining the staff at KCVAMC eye clinic, she worked at an outpatient VA Eye Clinic in Warrensburg, MO. Dr. Phillips is an Adjunct Instructor for the University of Missouri- St. Louis College of Optometry.
Kendra Null, O.D. graduated summa cum laude from Southern College of Optometry. She completed a residency in ocular disease and low vision rehabilitation at the Kansas City VA Medical Center in 2013. Prior to joining the staff at the Kansas City VA Medical Center, she served as the Externship Program Director at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center and as an Adjunct Instructor for New England College of Optometry and Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University. Dr. Null is currently an Adjunct Instructor for the University of Missouri – St. Louis College of Optometry.
Length of program
12 calendar months
Last week of June to Last week of June
Voluntary participation in Group Health Insurance Plan Professional liability insurance (Federal Tort Law) Sick leave/Annual leave Authorized absence to attend professional meetings Free parking
Expected weekly hours
Approximately 45 hours in the clinic each week (but no call) and time spent on self-study.
Requirements for Completion
Completion of the 12 months of residency
Patient care requirements Participation in discussions and lectures Presentations and tutorials for fourth year students & faculty A publishable quality paper or poster Attend a major optometry conference.
The KCVAMC Optometry Residency Program provides equal educational opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, veteran status, age, or sex.
Optometry Residency Program Admission Requirements
O.D. degree from a school or college of optometry that is accredited by the Accreditation Counsel on Optometric Education
Successful completion of NBEO examinations
3 Letters of recommendation
Interview – In person or on-line
Eligible for state optometry licensure
Must be a US citizen
GPA of 3.0 (out of 4.0) or higher
Completion of ORMatch (https://natmatch.com/ormatch/index.html)
Interviews typically start in January and end the third week of February. Qualified applicants, who have applied through ORMATCH, may call to schedule an interview starting the second week in December. For additional information, to get phone numbers of former residents, and to schedule an interview contact: Dr. Timothy Harkins 816-861-4700 ext 57434 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Kansas City metropolitan area offers an amazing number of attractions. They include wide boulevards, beautiful parks, fantastic architecture, art, jazz clubs, museums, shopping and more than 200 fountains.
Eye/VICTORS Clinic (112G)
Kansas City VA Medical Center
4801 Linwood Blvd
Kansas City, MO 64128
Dr. Timothy Harkins
Coordinator, Education Program
(816) 861-4700 or 1-800-525-1483
Please call Dr. Harkins to schedule January interviews starting the second week in December.