Ocular Disease - Refractive and Ocular Surgery

Sponsors: Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial VAMC, Walla Walla, Washington
Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute (PCLI), Kennewick, Washington

Academic Affiliate: Pacific University College of Optometry, Forest Grove, Oregon


The Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) of Walla Walla, Washington in partnership with Pacific University College of Optometry (PUCO) of Forest Grove, Oregon, and Pacific Cataract & Laser Institute (PCLI) of Kennewick, Washington have jointly developed a one-year residency program in optometry. The fundamental mission of this training program is to provide qualified post-doctoral practitioners with a structured educational experience which will deepen their development into exceptional optometric clinicians in the areas of primary care, ocular disease, geriatrics and surgical co-management.  Upon completion of the residency, the doctor will emerge with enhanced clinical skills, knowledge, and experience which elevate him/her beyond entry-level practice, thus making residents suitable candidates for optometry positions in VHA optometry, co-management and/or multidisciplinary settings.

Residency Program Coordinator

Jennifer Melsness, O.D.

Additional Faculty
Justin Roberts, O.D.
Jonathan Haley, O.D.
Aaron Bronner, O.D.
Kerri Norris, O.D.
Brian Johnson, O.D.
Guest Faculty
Jason W. Leng, MD
James P. Guzek, MD
Ronald K. Sugiyama, MD
Robert Ford, MD

Length of Program: 52 weeks

Number of Positions: 2

Salary: $34,233 – not contingent upon productivity of the resident (determined yearly by the VA Office of Academic Affiliations)

Hours: The VA Eye Clinic is open for patient care from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. As with any clinical position, hours of attendance vary. The resident commutes quarterly at his/her own expense one day each week to Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute's Kennewick Surgicenter.

Leave: Residents earn 13 days of annual leave and 13 days sick leave annually. In addition, there are ten paid federal holidays annually, and the resident can request authorized absence for attendance at continuing education activities.

Professional Liability Protection: Residents are covered for malpractice by the sponsor and clinical affiliate for professional activities undertaken in the fulfillment of official duties.

Health Insurance Benefits: Federal Employee Health Benefits enrollment is provided.

ACMO Examination: The resident is encouraged to sit for the Advanced Competence in Medical Optometry Examination (ACMO) administered annually by the NBEO in June near the completion of the program year. Test expenses are the responsibility of the resident, while the program grants administrative leave.

Certificate of Completion: A certificate of completion is awarded upon satisfactory completion of residency requirements.

Program Goals

Goal 1:  Strengthen the residents’ primary care management skills.

Goal 2:  Enhance the resident’s capacity to provide appropriate care to elderly patients.

Goal 3:  Increase knowledge and skill in co-management of medical-surgical eye conditions.

Goal 4:  Stimulate in the resident an appreciation for scholarly activity and lifelong learning.

Residency Experience

Strengths of the Program

The primary care aspects of the Wainwright program reflect very complex care with approximately 90% of patients having some identifiable ocular condition, such as cataract, diabetic retinopathy, anterior surface disease, glaucoma, or macular degeneration. Optometry is the only eye specialty provider at the Walla Walla location allowing for very broad clinical privileges.

The veteran population allows ample opportunity to develop skills in geriatrics and low vision. VA specialty services in our sister facilities at Portland, Puget Sound and Spokane include cataract, cornea, glaucoma, retina, low vision and blind rehabilitation allowing the resident to gain experience in managing patients across the continuum of care.

The resident gains shoulder-to-shoulder experience with ophthalmic surgeons in refractive and surgical care at PCLI's state of the art Kennewick surgicenter, which has been serving area doctors of optometry as a consulting and secondary care facility since 1990. Flexible scheduling allows ample opportunity for observation experiences in the private sector and for attendance at outside continuing education events.


The Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial VA Medical Center employs 23 primary care providers in six clinic locations across Central & Eastern rural Washington, Northeastern Oregon and North-central Idaho. Laboratory and radiology services along with specialty clinics, mental health and outpatient chemical dependency units are located in Walla Walla.

The Eye Clinic has six fully equipped examination rooms and a low vision room, low vision equipment, automated lensometer/refractor/keratometer, Humphrey II Visual Field Analyzer, Goldmann perimeter, FDT, Topcon anterior and posterior digital imaging, Cirrus and Spectralis OCT, corneal topographer, b-scan ultrasound, VEP/ERG, and an optical dispensary along with administrative offices.

The resident spends the equivalent of one-half day per week at Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute's modern co-management center sixty miles to the west in Kennewick, Washington.

Specialty Areas

VIST/Low Vision Clinic

Vision rehabilitation and VIST services are emphasized, with the resident receiving low vision and blind rehabilitation instruction at the American Lake division of VA Puget Sound early in the program.

Library & Research Resources

The Walla Walla VA Library employs a medical librarian for research assistance. The resident can also remotely access the library facilities at Pacific University, and participate in many VA online learning activities.

On-Site Education

The resident is an active member of the Optometry Team and is involved in continuous quality improvement. The program leads the resident through a structured curriculum designed to broaden and deepen clinical knowledge of ocular disease processes and treatments, and the vision system. Didactic lectures, case reviews, medical records review, and journal club activities offer many opportunities for shared learning.


The resident has the opportunity to provide mentoring and clinical instruction to student externs from Pacific, UMSL, IAUPR, and Western. Teaching opportunities are available via in-service training for VA and PCLI staff, society meetings, and community events.

Scholarly Activities

The residency will present clinical cases and topics every 6-8 weeks at weekly journal club/grand rounds.  The resident is also encouraged to prepare a poster for Academy.


The resident will present a lecture at the Northwest Residents Conference, an annual meeting of programs affiliated with Pacific University College of Optometry, held in June each year.  The residency also presents at the annual CE conference at PCLI in May.

Continuing Education

Resident is entitled to attend continuing education sponsored by the Pacific University College of Optometry or the Department of Veterans Affairs at no charge for credit hours. A nominal fee for printed materials and meals will be required for some Pacific University functions. Continuing education is also offered free of charge by PCLI.  Authorized absence from clinical responsibilities can be granted for attendance of educational conferences. Educational activities include monthly VISN 20 Optometry Grand Rounds, clinical case conferences, VA trainings, and observation in VA primary care and specialty departments.

Clinical Privileges

The resident is required to be supervised as per VA Chapter 26 and Medicare regulations. The Optometry Residency Program Supervisor will maintain a clinical competence record, which determines the resident’s privileges. Full scope therapeutic privileges, including oral and injectable agents, are part of optometry staff privileges at the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial VA Medical Center.

Performance Evaluations

Performance evaluation is the cornerstone of improving performance, and the residency program provides feedback to the resident by monthly oral reviews, and quarterly written evaluations of the resident by supervisors at the VA Medical Center and at PCLI. The resident evaluates the program semi-annually.

Walla Walla Living

The place is so nice, they named it twice. Walla Walla is known for a temperate climate with four seasons, but little snowfall. 38,000 people reside in Walla Walla and neighboring College Place. Three colleges: Whitman College, Walla Walla University and Walla Walla Community College enroll students from throughout the U.S. The valley’s 135 wineries have an international reputation for producing outstanding wines and tourists appreciate downtown Walla Walla’s beautifully restored historic buildings. The city features many first-rate art and cultural opportunities, such as local food and wine events, museums, art galleries, a bronze foundry and a Shakespearean Theatre.

Walla Walla is nestled at the foot of the Blue Mountains in the midst of a vast agricultural area. Within 50 miles of the city one can enjoy big-game hunting, skiing, snowmobiling and camping in the mountains. Numerous parks on the banks of the Snake and Columbia Rivers offer fishing, swimming, boating and water-skiing.

The Medical Center occupies the site of Historic Fort Walla Walla, the birthplace of General Jonathan M. Wainwright of WWII fame. Portland is 235 miles west, Spokane is 170 miles north, Seattle is 260 miles west; all along good highways.

Housing & Cost of Living

Many rental options exist in Walla Walla, ranging in cost from $640-$1,000 monthly rent. With three colleges in the community, rental housing is readily available and shared housing options are common.

Commuting & Parking

Good bus service is available within the city of Walla Walla. Parking is easy. Many employees ride bicycles, as roads and weather are very bike-friendly. The resident provides his/her own transportation to and from the Kennewick PCLI location one day each week, a scenic 60-mile drive west along the Columbia River. Commercial air service is available in Walla Walla and Pasco.

Eligibility Criteria

Candidates must earn the degree of Doctor of Optometry from a school or college of optometry accredited by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education prior to the starting date of the residency program.

Candidates must have passed the NBEO Part I and have taken Part II by the application deadline.  The selected candidate must pass all parts before the start date of the residency. 

Candidates must be citizens of the U.S.

The selected candidate must have a state license and NPI before the start date of the residency.

It is the policy of the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial VAMC to provide equal opportunity in employment for all qualified persons; to prohibit discrimination for all qualified persons; to prohibit discrimination in employment because of race, color, national origin, age, sex or disability; to ensure that the workforce profile will clearly reflect a meaningful distribution and utilization of minority and female employees, and to provide for the prompt, fair and impartial consideration and disposition of complaints involving issues of discrimination on ground of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability, or reprisal.

Application Process

Candidates must apply to this residency program through the Optometry Residency Match (ORMatch) online at natmatch.com/ORMatch

The application deadline is January 31.

Call or email today

For additional information about this residency opportunity, please contact:

Jennifer Melsness, OD

Chief of Optometry Service

Johnathan M. Wainwright Memorial

VAMC 77 Wainwright Drive

Optometry Service (687/123)

Walla Walla, WA 99362

509-525-5200 ext 26308 | 509-526-6202(Fax) | Jennifer.Melsness@va.gov