Inherited Retinal Degenerations Fellowship

Inherited Retinal Degenerations Fellowship

Program Director: Rachel Huckfeldt, M.D., Ph.D.
Other Faculty: Jason Comander, M.D., Ph.D.; Eric Pierce, 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 Inherited Retinal Disease Service offers this post-residency fellowship.

The primary goal of this fellowship is to provide advanced clinical training in the diagnosis and care of patients with inherited retinal degenerations (IRDs), such as retinitis pigmentosa and Stargardt disease. The secondary goals are to provide experience and training in clinical research and clinical trials related to 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 fellow’s primary activity is the clinical care of adult and pediatric patients on the Inherited Retinal Disorders Service at Mass Eye and Ear under the supervision of Drs. Eric Pierce, Jason Comander, and Rachel Huckfeldt. The fellow typically spends 3 to 4 days per week in clinic, with the remainder of time spent on research and clinical trial activities. 

The fellow will obtain extensive experience with retinal electrophysiology, retinal imaging, genetic testing, and visual field patterns associated with retinal degenerative disorders. Clinic sessions typically involve in-depth assessments of each patient and extensive discussion about the testing results and the underlying disorder.  

Additional experience is gained from participation in clinical case conferences, genetic testing group meetings, and weekly laboratory meetings. Depending on the interests of the fellow, there is also potential to spend additional clinical time on the general/medical Retina Service at Mass Eye and Ear or with Dr. Anne Fulton at Children’s Hospital Boston.

Research Activities

The fellow will also participate in and contribute to clinical trials on the IRD Service, which currently include:

  • Gene therapy for choroideremia and juvenile X-linked retinoschisis
  • The first-in-human trial of human retinal progenitor stem cells for advanced retinitis pigmentosa.

The fellow is also encouraged to develop clinical research projects with potential topics, including genotype-phenotype correlations and the definition of disease course in patients with genetically defined inherited retinal disorders.

Fellows who have a strong interest in research should be aware that Mass. Eye and Ear holds an NIH career development grant, which allows the institution to extend a K12 Award to a fellowship-trained ophthalmologist. Participation in our IRD fellowship provides an opportunity to increase their competitiveness for this type of award, which gives graduating fellows 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
  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

Salary: $62,000. It is also expected that fellows will apply for funding from the Heed Foundation and the Foundation Fighting Blindness to support their fellowship year.

Malpractice: Malpractice premiums are fully paid by the service.

Health insurance: Family health insurance will be provided through the benefits program of Massachusetts Eye and Ear Associates.

Vacation/Sick leave: Each fellow is allowed three weeks (15 work days).

Meetings: Attendance and participation at appropriate meetings is encouraged. Fellows get one week (five work days) to attend meetings. Each fellow is reimbursed up to $1,500 for travel costs for a meeting at which he/she is the first-author on a presentation.

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: 
Carol Weigel DiFranco
Department of Ophthalmology
Massachusetts Eye and Ear
243 Charles Street
Boston, MA 02114
Telephone: 617-573-3625

Page Last Updated

July 6, 2018