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Most ophthalmologists provide comprehensive eye care, including cataract surgery. If your ophthalmologist does not perform cataract surgery, he or she can refer you to a qualified surgeon.

If you don't have an ophthalmologist, try these other sources for a referral:

  • Your primary care physician, the medical doctor you usually see for your health care, can provide a referral.
  • Many people have health insurance or managed health care programs. Typically, the health insurance identification card issued by the program has contact information to help you obtain guidance and instruction on acquiring referrals to specialists.
  • Friends or relatives who have been pleased with their own cataract surgery may be able to offer advice.
  • Your local county or state medical societies have lists of member physicians, including ophthalmologists.
  • A hospital or surgical center can often provide referral lists of local medical specialists.
  • The American Medical Directory, published by the American Medical Association, lists every physician's medical school, year of license, and specialization. This directory can be found in many public libraries as well as in hospital and medical school libraries.
  • If you have the name of an ophthalmic surgeon and want to know whether he or she is board certified, contact the American Board of Medical Specialties. Their toll-free number is 1; their online service is at

How Is an Ophthalmologist Trained?

If you are considering eye surgery, learn about the procedure you are considering and about the doctor who will perform it: your ophthalmologist.

To become an ophthalmologist (a medical doctor specializing in treating the eye), one must obtain a 4-year college or university degree and then complete a medical school program for four or more additional years. After completing medical school and a one-year internship, the student becomes a general physician. Next, the physician becomes a specialist by completing an additional postgraduate hospital training program called a residency.

In ophthalmology, residency consists of at least 3 full years devoted to the medical and surgical care of the eye. During that supervised training period, ophthalmology residents learn to perform cataract and other eye surgery.

After successfully completing residency training, ophthalmologists are eligible for certification by the American Board of Ophthalmology (ABO), the only ophthalmology certifying body recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties. Board certification means that an ophthalmologist has passed additional examinations. Although certification examinations test a physician's knowledge and his or her ability to apply that knowledge, they do not test surgical skill.

Throughout their professional lives, ophthalmologists (and other physicians) must earn Continuing Medical Education credits to ensure that their skills and knowledge remain current. The number needed varies from state to state, but requirements of 24 to 50 credits over 2 years are typical. Physicians earn credits by taking courses, attending lectures and courses presented at the scientific meetings of medical societies, attending hospital-based lectures (grand rounds), participating in online education, and going to state and regional medical meetings.



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