Columbia's Department of Ophthalmology is pleased to host observers from outside of Columbia University Irving Medical Center each year between February and December. While observers must refrain from "hands-on" patient contact or research activities, participants are able to observe and shadow our world-renowned clinical and research faculty across the different sub-specialties:

  • Anterior Segment/Refractive Surgery
  • Comprehensive Ophthalmology
  • Genetics
  • Glaucoma
  • Neuro-Ophthalmology
  • Oculoplastic Surgery
  • Ophthalmic Oncology
  • Optometry
  • Pediatric Ophthalmology
  • Retina

Program Application

  • We do not accept observers in the month of January when we host the month-long Basic Science Course in Ophthalmology (BSCO), which is open for all to apply.
  • Applications will only be accepted within 12 months of the requested start date, but please keep in mind that it may take up to 3 months to get final clearance and approval for your observership.
  • There is a non-refundable program fee (see rates below) assessed to accepted observers to cover administrative costs; however, a fee waiver is available on a case-by-case basis.
  • Application is not a guarantee of observership. You will receive a response within 4 weeks of application submission.

Please note that there is an application fee to cover the credentialing and administrative process:

  • $250 - High School, College & Medical School Students
  • $500 - Residents/Trainees
  • $1,500 - Attending Physicians and Other Professionals

Application Instructions

1. Complete Observership Application: Take the first step in the application process to be paired with a preceptor by completing this online form. You will receive a response within 4 weeks of application submission. Upon receipt of conditional acceptance, you will receive specific instructions on further paperwork to complete based on University requirements.

2. Submit Your Observership Application Fee:

3. Complete Forms and Payment: Upon receipt of conditional acceptance, applicants must complete the application process by submitting the program fee payment receipt, with the appropriate completed forms, as described in the Conditional Acceptance notification. There may be restrictions from Paypal in processing payments from certain countries. If you experience any issues with your online payment, please email

4. Confirmation: Once all paperwork has been approved by the University, you will receive an email confirmation with all the details needed for your visit. We look forward to hosting you!


Observers are responsible for their own housing.

If you have questions about the application process or need additional information about our observership program, please email us at