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Availability of Uveitis Specialists and Fellowships in Top Rated Ophthalmology Departments in the United States

Presenter:

Akhilesh S Pathipati, MD, MBA

Authors:

Akhilesh S Pathipati, MD, MBA

  1. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA

  2. Signature Healthcare Brockton Hospital, Brockton, MA

Affiliation:

Purpose: Uveitis accounts for an estimated 10-15% of legal blindness in the United States and creates considerable socioeconomic costs. Patients often have complex presentations and systemic comorbidities. As a result, uveitis work-up and management can be challenging and frequently requires referral to specialists. However, there are few centers of excellence for treating ocular inflammatory conditions. This study evaluates the availability of uveitis specialists and fellowship programs in US departments of ophthalmology.


Methods: 40 highly rated departments of ophthalmology were identified based on rankings from US News and World Report. We searched each department’s website to determine how many staff physicians specialized in uveitis or ocular immunology, what percent of ophthalmology staff those specialists constituted, and whether the department offered a uveitis fellowship.

 

Results: Departments listed an average of 2.1 uveitis specialists on their websites, which constituted an average of 4.8% of the physician staff in those departments. Four departments had more than five specialists, while seven departments had one and nine departments had none. Uveitis specialists comprised more than 10% of staff in three departments. 12 departments (30%) offered a dedicated uveitis or ocular immunology fellowship. Higher ranked departments were more likely to offer a fellowship program: 50% of departments in the top 20 of the US News rankings offered a fellowship, while 10% of departments in the remaining 20 offered one.


Conclusions: Although uveitis causes significant ocular morbidity, there are relatively few specialists who treat it. This is true even among the most highly regarded ophthalmology departments in the United States; nearly a quarter had no uveitis specialist on staff. Training programs are also limited. Several factors may contribute including reimbursement and the difficulty of managing ocular inflammatory diseases. Further studies should evaluate accessibility of care and how to ensure appropriate levels of access.


Financial Disclosures: None

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