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Optometry Residency

The KCVA Ocular Disease Residency with an emphasis on Glaucoma and Vision Rehabilitation is seeking enthusiastic individuals who enjoy learning in an exciting medical center environment. Three residents are selected each year. The program is affiliated with the UMSL College of Optometry and was the first ACOE-approved residency program in the United States. As of July 2023, the program has graduated 131 residents. These individuals have gone on to become VA staff, optometry school faculty and deans, department of ophthalmology faculty, and practitioners in OD/MD practices all over the country.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Kansas City VA Optometry Residency is to help highly motivated residents become great doctors who are experts in ocular disease, vision rehabilitation, and medical humanities.  We want residents to develop into doctors who are confident, creative, curious, and intellectually honest; who can think for themselves and learn on their own; who are self-aware and greatly interested in self-improvement; and who are passionate about life-long learning.  Our goal is to help residents develop sound scientific foundations in ocular disease through the learning and application of evidence-based medicine.  The residents will deepen their understanding of compassion and healing in medicine through readings and conversations about the art of doctoring.  We are also passionate about developing the residents into great teachers of both patients and students through readings and conversations about the art of teaching. 

Optometry Residency Program Description

Education in Ocular Disease  

At the Kansas City VA Optometry Residency, we understand there are three steps to learning medicine: learning the facts, organizing the facts, and applying those facts to help your patient.  We believe optometry school does a great job of teaching you the facts.  We think we excel at helping you learn how to organize the facts in a way that makes sense to you, that is easy to remember, and that is clinically relevant and supported by evidence so you can take excellent care of your patients. 

We help you learn eye disease through an exciting mix of didactic education, self-study, and patient care.  We spend one hour every morning and three hours on Friday afternoons talking about eye disease.  We think these conversations are relevant, thought-provoking, and help inspire your curiosity and love for learning.  We understand that the strategy of learning through rote memorization can let us down when trying to find solutions to complicated patient problems in the exam room.  Our conversations are designed to help you build new strategies for learning eye disease by providing a framework that can help you solve any patient problem – even if you’ve never seen it before. 

Your education in eye disease will be most influenced by the patients you examine.  They will provide the experience you need to become an expert in creative problem-solving.  They will also be the source of the questions you’ll ask that will guide your self-study.  You will see a wide range of patients with glaucoma, macular disease, cataracts, and diabetes.  You will also gain plenty of experience managing other eye problems such as corneal disease, uveitis, neuro optic nerve disease, and diplopia.  We want you to develop into a confident decision-maker.  To help you reach this goal, you will be given a considerable amount of decision-making responsibility for your patients.  We will also provide the right amount of guidance to help you grow as a decision-maker. 

One of the fundamental goals of our residency program is to help you develop into a great life-long learner who thinks of yourself as your own best resource.  Great doctors who can rely on themselves as experts in eye disease are great questioners.  They understand the right questions to ask in the exam room so they can take excellent care of patients.  They also understand the right questions to ask an article so they can figure out the relevant information that will help their patients.  We will encourage and nurture your ability to ask great questions through our conversations on eye disease, when teaching you how to read articles, and as we work together seeing patients.  We believe all learning begins with a great question.  When you ask questions here, you will be rewarded with an opportunity to learn. 

Excellent doctors who are their own best resource also understand the value of studying for patient care and are experts at reading articles.  They also love it!  We want you to enjoy learning and to feel the strength of being able to draw your own conclusions about an article.  You will become the director of your education during residency, which means a considerable amount of learning will be done on your own.  We will help guide you along your educational journey by teaching you how to read and interpret medical literature so you can confidently draw your own conclusions and apply your learning to excellent patient care.  You will become an expert in learning challenging eye disease on your own and applying evidence-based medicine. 

Education in Vision Rehabilitation

The Kansas City VA offers a unique education in low vision rehabilitation because we provide care to patients with a wide range of vision loss, and we have so many options for solving their visual needs.  As a resident, you are an important member of our low vision rehabilitation team – spending about a half day per week working on low vision. 

You will be working with veterans with mild to profound vision loss, which will serve as great preparation for providing care for people with a range of visual needs.  Examining these patients will help you overcome any apprehensions about working with patients who are visually disabled, will introduce you to many creative solutions for helping them, and will allow you to play a role as part of a vision rehabilitation team.  You will be working with great staff who are trained in low vision rehabilitation, computer access training, orientation and mobility, and activities of daily living. 

Most residents who begin our program have had limited experience with low vision, so the optometry staff is always available with practical patient-care advice.  We complement the hands-on education with weekly conversations and instruction in low vision care.  The residents learn low vision from their patients, the optometry staff, and the rehabilitation staff. 

The low vision education at the Kansas City VA has inspired many of our residents to practice low vision – some part time, some full time, and a few who are directors of low vision clinics.  Others who are less interested in practicing low vision after residency benefit from studying low vision here because they gain a much deeper understanding of eye disease by participating in the rehabilitation process. 

 The Art of Doctoring and Teaching

We believe great doctors care deeply about both the science and the art of medicine.  We want to broaden your education in eye disease and low vision by nurturing your passion and understanding of the art of doctoring.  We think and talk about this daily as we see patients.  We will also spend an hour every week discussing topics in medical humanities such as communication, the experience of being a patient, critical thinking, self-improvement, and leadership.  We want to help you develop into a healer – someone who understands how to stand by patients’ sides as they live with their eye disease by providing emotional support and giving them hope. 

Your residency year is the right time to explore and clearly define your philosophies on doctoring.  We will guide you broadly by helping you think about the type of person you want to be.  Who you are as a person strongly influences who you are as a doctor.  We will encourage you to think deeply about your purpose and motives, how you view the doctor’s role, and the relationship you want to have with your patients so you can find your voice as a doctor. 

We will also guide you in developing your philosophies more narrowly.  Great residents use this year to clearly define their management philosophies for eye diseases they are likely to see at least occasionally.  You should understand your reasoning behind your philosophies and be able to identify the evidence that supports them.  Having thoughtful and clear philosophies on doctoring will help you make wise decisions in difficult circumstances that keep the patient at the center of your care. 

The Kansas City VA Optometry Residency is a great place to prepare to be a teacher.  We are passionate about great teaching and have graduated some wonderful teachers.  We know that teaching may seem intuitive to many doctors, but we believe there is an art to teaching that is less intuitive.  During your residency year, we will read some of the great books on teaching in medicine.  We believe these readings help you explore the characteristics of a true teacher – a teacher who inspires students to think for themselves and learn on their own.  We will also have several conversations on the art of teaching to help you develop your philosophies and your voice as a teacher.

Goals for Resident Development

Our broadly stated goal is to tap into your talents that will allow you to develop into an excellent doctor who holds yourself to very high standards, who is confident, greatly interested in self-awareness and self-improvement, who thinks for yourself, and who knows how to learn on your own.

We want you to learn how to provide excellent care for your patients and become an excellent decision-maker. 

We want to encourage your interest in self-awareness and help develop your ability to accurately evaluate yourself.  We want to strengthen your love for life-long learning and help you develop a strategy and curriculum for your education.  We want you to develop into a great questioner and see yourself as your own best resource for answering questions and creatively solving problems.

We want to inspire you and help you develop the characteristics that we think make a great doctor – a healer who is compassionate, caring, selfless, empathic, and who has transparent motives.  A doctor who is intellectually honest.  A doctor with intrinsic motivation and the ability to independently learn.  A doctor who can think deeply, critically assess what you read and hear, and apply your knowledge to excellent patient care.  A doctor who sees life as an opportunity to improve the people and the world around you.

A highly motivated resident will leave our program with the savvy to solve a wide range of clinical problems, with the ability to independently interpret medical literature, with a broader and deeper understanding of how the human condition is affected by eye disease, and with an unbridled enthusiasm for optometry.  The Kansas City VA is an exciting place and has been a major influence on many residents.  We encourage you to call them and find out what their experience was like.  For the contact information of current or previous residents, please call Dr. Null.

Program Information

Length of program

12 calendar months

Program Start/End

Last week of June to Last week of June  




Health Insurance

Professional Liability Insurance (Federal Tort Law)

Annual Leave and Paid Sick Leave

Authorized absence and travel allowance to attend professional meetings

Free parking

Expected weekly hours

Approximately 45 hours in the clinic each week (but no call) and time spent on self-study.

Completion Acknowledgement


Requirements for Completion

Completion of the 12 months of residency

Patient care requirements

Participation in discussions and lectures

Presentations and tutorials to fourth year students and faculty

A publishable quality paper or poster or detailed tutorial

Attend a major optometry conference


The KCVAMC Optometry Residency Program provides equal educational opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, veteran status, age, or sex.

Admission Requirements

  • O.D. degree from a school or college of optometry that is accredited by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (prior to the starting date)

  • Successful completion of NBEO examinations

  • 3 letters of recommendation

  • Interview – in person or online

  • Eligible for state optometry license

  • U.S. citizen

  • GPA 3.0 (out of 4.0) or higher

  • Completion of ORMatch application, which includes a CV, letter of intent, 3 letters of recommendation, and transcripts (this material will be forwarded by ORMatch to the program)

Interviews typically start in January and end the third week of February.  Qualified applicants who have applied through ORMatch may call to schedule an interview starting the second week in December.  For additional information, to get phone numbers of current and former residents, and to schedule an interview, contact Dr. Kendra Null at or

Kansas City, Missouri

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Contact Information

Eye/VICTORS Clinic (112G)

Kansas City VA Medical Center

4801 Linwood Blvd

Kansas City, MO 64128

Dr. Kendra Null

Coordinator, Education Program

816-861-4700, ext. 57400

or 1-800-525-1483, ext. 57400

Please call Dr. Null to schedule January interviews starting the second week in December.

Current Residents

2023-2024 KCVA Optometry Residents

Jackie Malish (SCO), Taylor Coons (AZCOPT), Grace Niemeier (UMSL)

Optometry Staff

Kendra Null

Kendra Null OD

Director, Optometry Student and Resident Education Program

VA Kansas City health care



Photo of Director, Optometry student and resident education program, Dr. Tim Harkins

Timothy Harkins OD

VA Kansas City health care

Photo of Dr. Candace Law, Director of Low Vision Services

Candice Law OD, FAAO

Director, Low Vision Services

VA Kansas City health care

Michael Klein, OD

Michael Klein OD

VA Kansas City health care

Janessa Visin, OD

Janessa Visin OD

VA Kansas City health care