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CU Ophthalmology Class of 2022

CU Ophthalmology Residents and Fellows Celebrate 2022 Graduation

Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, ophthalmology graduates thrived, with three staying at CU as fellows and faculty.

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Written by Rachel Wittel on June 19, 2022

Residency and fellowship program directors in the University of Colorado Department of Ophthalmology described the Class of 2022 as incredibly resilient. The graduating class, comprised of six residents and five fellows, has withstood frequent changes in training, hospital protocols, and personal milestones amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One could argue that the greatest impact of the COVID pandemic has been on trainees, no matter their program level,” says Naresh Mandava, MD, chair of the CU Department of Ophthalmology and Sue Anschutz-Rodgers Endowed Chair in Retinal Diseases. “Many of our residents and fellows saw patients during the toughest of times. They were on the frontlines caring for patients that needed to be seen, and there is a particular strength that comes from that.”

“I choose to look at what they went through positively,” he continues. “They can handle the challenges in life and in their careers ahead of them because of what they had to go through; risking their lives, their health, and their family's health to make sure patients were cared for.”

Resilient resident graduates

Jeffrey SooHoo, MD, MBA, associate professor of ophthalmology at the CU School of Medicine and director of the residency program, also recognizes the graduating class for going above and beyond their required curriculum.

“Working through COVID was certainly a challenge,” SooHoo says. “We have four main hospital partners, and the protocols at each one changed daily at the beginning of the pandemic. Keeping track of the changes was no easy feat, and on top of that, our residents were asked to help pitch in other ways, such as staffing our call center or even working clinically in other areas of the hospital.”

“Despite these challenges, this class has responded with grace and never-ending enthusiasm for learning and patient care,” he continues.

Graduates of the residency program include Becca Edwards Mayhew, MD, PhD, Lucy Mudie, MD, MPH, Ashton Kalhorn, MD, Valerie Dawson, MD, Diane Siegel, MD, and Galia Deitz, MD, MPH.

Following graduation, Deitz will remain at CU as a fellow, specializing in glaucoma. Others continuing ophthalmic education include Edwards Mayhew, who will attend the University of Michigan for a fellowship in pediatric ophthalmology and strabismus, and Mudie, who has matched to a two-year ASOPRS fellowship in ophthalmic plastic and reconstructive surgery at Baylor University.

The others will move into private practice. Dawson and Kalhorn will be joining Confluence Health/Wenatchee Valley Medical Group in Washington, while Siegel will join the Eye Care Center of Northern Colorado in Longmont, to practice comprehensive ophthalmology.

Graduating Residents

Resident graduates pose at dinner after presenting at the Department's 26th Annual Research Day.

“This graduating class is incredibly cohesive, and they worked closely together to support one another,” SooHoo says. “It’s incredibly rewarding to see their professional accomplishments – jobs, fellowship matches, poster and paper presentations at national meetings – but it’s equally rewarding to watch them grow as friends and colleagues, spending time together enjoying Colorado, and sharing in major life events such as weddings.”

The future of our fellows

This year’s graduating fellows brought a unique sense of expertise to the Sue Anschutz-Rodgers Eye Center, with each specializing in a different area of the eye.

Allison McAlpine, MD, focused on the cornea, external diseases, and refractive surgery specialty; Dhillon Zaver, MD, on glaucoma, Alexandra Levitt, MD, on oculofacial plastic and orbital surgery, Casey Smith, MD, on pediatric ophthalmology and strabismus, and Talisa Forest (de Carlo), MD, on vitreoretinal diseases and surgery.

“We're very fortunate to graduate five extraordinary fellows this year in five different sub-specialties,” says Mandava, who is also a co-director of the retina fellowship program. “This class has shown throughout their fellowships to be tremendously collaborative and hard working. They collectively have been very busy, and they’ve had excellent surgical experiences that have made a great impact on our patients, as well as our residents.”

All Graduates 2022

Graduating residents and fellows pose at the Department's Class of 2022 dinner celebration.

Two of the five graduating fellows will join the Sue Anschutz-Rodgers Eye Center as faculty members. Forest (de Carlo) will join the department’s vitreoretinal division as an assistant professor, while Smith will become an assistant professor of pediatric ophthalmology and adult strabismus at the CU School of Medicine.

“We do national searches for every faculty position,” Mandava says. “When we stack our own fellows against others around the country, often they rise to the top because of their breadth and depth of experience. We’re very grateful that we have these capable fellows right here in Colorado, and that they chose to continue working with us.”

The rest of the graduating class will move into private practice. Levitt will be joining the Fante Eye & Face Centre in Denver, Zaver will be joining Eye Physicians of Virginia, and McAlpine will be joining Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“We're fortunate that our fellows can choose their next directions, whether it's academia or clinical practice,” Mandava says. “We believe Allison, Alex, and Dhillon will provide exemplary care in their respective communities.”

Featured Experts
Staff Mention

Naresh Mandava, MD

Staff Mention

Jeffrey SooHoo, MD, MBA