VA Medical Center-Philadelphia

University and Woodland Avenues
Surgery Dept. 112
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Phone: (215) 823-4112
Fax: (215) 823-4139

Externship Supervisor
Mark Shust, OD

Additional Faculty
Arthur Alexander
Connie Chronister, OD
Taras Spivak, OD
Marilyn Verghese, OD
Jill Vivadelli, OD
Denise Wilcox, OD, PhD
Robert Duszak, OD
Chris Rinehart, OD

Program Description
The VA Medical Center is a 500-bed hospital and out patient facility with a teaching affiliation with the University of Pennsylvania. It is located in West Philadelphia on the edge of the university medical complex, which is part of the Penn campus.

The Eye Clinic is located in the main hospital building and is staffed by one full time optometrist, six part time optometrists, five optometry students, one optometry resident, three ophthalmology residents, five part time ophthalmologists, a low vision benefits counselor, a mobility instructor, a vision rehabilitation specialist, three ophthalmic technicians, an optician, a nurse and three clerks. The clinic has seventeen fully equipped exam rooms, two automated field rooms, a laser/short procedure room, a photography/tomography room, an ultrasound/special test room, and an optical. The clinic provides complete ophthalmic care by an integrated staff that works in concert.

Students are expected to work a forty-hour week Monday - Friday. Each student can expect to see eight to ten patients per day. Student on 6 months rotations will do weekly rotations into sub-specialty clinics including, refractive surgery, neuro-eye, cornea, contact lenses, low vision, pediatrics (Children’s Hospital). Students on 3 month rotation will work primarily in general optometry.  In addition to clinical rotations, externs attend lectures at the University of Pennsylvania and Friday AM seminars/fluorescein conferences at the VA. The median patient age is approximately sixty and cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration are common conditions. There is a high prevalence of hypertension, cardiac disease, diabetes, drug abuse, and the ocular conditions that are associated with those aliments.

The Philadelphia VA Optometry Service participates in three nationally funded programs; Tele-retinal Imaging, Advanced Outpatient Vision Rehabilitation and Poly-trauma Rehabilitation.


Not provided

Equipment Required


External Rotations


The Hospital is located in the heart of the University City section of Philadelphia which is a very vibrant part of town with many restaurants, and all the cultural and sporting events that come with a large university. Mass transit is readily available and the city center is a short train ride away. Housing is available a few blocks away at the International House located at 3701 Chestnut Street (215-387-5125). Prices range from $76 to $200 per week depending on the type of accommodation. More housing information is available through the Penn Housing Office or check Craigslist.


  • To become efficient  in performing problem oriented eye examinations.
  • To improve the students' clinical proficiencies, competence, and confidence in the diagnosis and management of complex ocular pathologies and refractive anomalies seen in the geriatric/general population.  These entities include, but are not limited to, anterior segment disease, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and other manifestations of systemic disease, macular disease, retinal vaso-occlusive disease, cataracts, and neuro-ophthalmic  disease.
  • To introduce and make students proficient in the use of the electronic patient data base system. Emphasis will be placed on the correlation of data from other providers in the management of patients, as well as how to use the system to communicate with other providers.
  • To enhance students' diagnostic and management skills through the utilization of specialized tests and procedures including gonioscopy, ocular photography, visual fields, retinal topography, ultrasonography, fluorescein  angiography, and corneal topography.
  • To increase the students ophthalmic knowledge base and enhance the ability to apply it clinically.
  • To seek as well rounded clinic experience as within the resources available.

Directions to Clinic

View Externship Programs in a larger map