Inherited Retinal Degenerations Fellowship

Inherited Retinal Degenerations Fellowship

Program Director: Eric Pierce, M.D., Ph.D.
Other Faculty: Jason Comander, M.D., Ph.D.; Rachel Huckfeldt, M.D., Ph.D.
Length of Program: 1 year
Note: The fellowship match is administered through the San Francisco Match Program. Applicants must register with SF Match (program #4745).

The Berman-Gund Laboratory for the Study of Retinal Degenerations and the Ocular Genomics Institute of the Department of Ophthalmology of Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Harvard Medical School offer a post-residency fellowship in inherited retinal degenerations with clinical and research activities. The two main goals of this one-year fellowship are to provide the fellow with: 

  1. Advanced clinical training related to the diagnosis and care of patients with inherited retinal degenerations (IRDs) and other ophthalmic genetic disorders; and 
  2. Research training related to improving our understanding of the pathogenesis of IRDs and developing treatments and cures for these disorders. 


All applicants must be eligible for a full medical license per the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine. International medical graduates must also be eligible for an H1B visa (eligibility includes passing all 3 steps of the USMLE, and reporting results to Mass. Eye and Ear prior to the Match deadline). The requirements of full licensure can be viewed on the website.

Clinical Activities

The selected fellow will spend time on the Inherited Retinal Disorders Service at Mass. Eye and Ear seeing adult and pediatric patients with Drs. Eric Pierce, Jason Comander, and Rachel Huckfeldt. Fellows spend 2-3 days per week in clinic with the remainder of time spent on research. Depending on the interests of the fellow, additional clinical time may be spent with Dr. Anne Fulton at Boston Children’s Hospital, if arranged in advance.

Research Activities

The selected fellow will be expected to participate in one, or more, IRD-related research projects. This can include laboratory-based research in the Ocular Genomics Institute or more clinically-focused research. Examples of potential research projects include: 
  • Genetic studies to identify novel IRD disease genes in families whose disease is not caused by mutations in known genes 
  • Investigations of the pathogenesis of disease caused by mutations in identified IRD disease genes such as RP1 and the RNA splicing factor RP genes 
  • Development of improved informatic and empiric methods for assessing the pathogenicity of sequence variants identified by exome and genome sequencing 
  • Investigation of genotype-phenotype correlations and definition of disease course in patients with genetically defined forms of IRD 
  • Participation in clinical trials of potential therapies for retinitis pigmentosa and allied diseases 
The fellows also will participate in regular lab meetings, case conferences, and bioinformatics group meetings. 

Note: Fellows who have strong academic inclinations should be aware that Mass. Eye and Ear holds a National Institutes of Health career development grant allowing the institution to extend a K12 Award to a fellowship-trained ophthalmologist. While competition for this award is typically fierce, Mass. Eye and Ear fellows who demonstrate strong research potential will be given careful consideration for this award. K12 awards give a graduating fellow junior faculty status with 80% protected time for research.

Additional Activities

  1. Supervision of residents and participation in the evaluation and care of patients in the Mass. Eye and Ear Emergency Department for 24 clinical sessions per fellowship year irrespective of extramural or research duty.
  2. Participation in the “Fellows Course,” which entails preparing a publishable manuscript with faculty mentorship.
  3. Attendance at Grand Rounds on a regular basis (60%+) and presentation once during the year.

Fellow Funding and Benefits

  1. Salary: $52,000/year. It is expected that fellows will apply for funding from the Heed Foundation, the Foundation Fighting Blindness, the National Eye Institute, and other sources to support their fellowship year.
  2. Malpractice: Malpractice premiums, through the Harvard CRICO program, are paid for by the IRD Service.
  3. Health Insurance: Family health insurance will be provided through Mass. Eye and Ear Associates. The fellow will need to contribute to this benefit as well, according to the guidelines of Mass. Eye and Ear.
  4. Vacation and Sick Leave: Each fellow is allowed 3 weeks (15 work days) of combined vacation/sick time. Requests for time away from the Service must be pre-approved by the fellowship director. Mass. Eye and Ear's calendar also includes 9 legal holidays per year. 
  5. Professional Meetings: Attendance and participation at appropriate professional meetings is encouraged. Travel expenses not exceeding $1,500 and up to five days per academic year may be taken with the approval of the fellowship director for a major ophthalmology conference or academic meeting at which the fellow is a first author presenting original research (i.e., the fellow has not presented the data before). 

Application Process

The Inherited Retinal Degenerations Fellowship participates in the San Francisco Match Program, #4745. 

Only completed applications will be considered for interview. It is the candidate’s responsibility to make sure that his or her application is complete. Applicant interviews will be conducted in October or November.


For more information about this fellowship, or to request an application, please contact:
Katie Cressman
Department of Ophthalmology
Massachusetts Eye and Ear
243 Charles Street
Boston, MA 02114
Telephone: 617-573-6906

Page Last Updated

August 15, 2016