Following the Fellows with Dr. Avni Finn at Duke Eye Center

RetinaLink’s Following the Fellows is pleased to highlight Avni Finn, MD, who is a second year vitreoretinal surgical fellow, at Duke Eye Center in Durham, North Carolina. Dr. Finn will be receiving the Ronald G. Michels Fellowship Foundation award at the American Academy of Ophthalmology meeting in New Orleans – Where All of Ophthalmology Meets on Friday, November 10th. Dr. Finn shares her perspective on retina, her fellowship, favorite surgical surgical platform for tractional retinal detachments and how she felt when Dr. Alexander Brucker called with good news about being one of 2017 Ronald G. Michels award winners.

Lejla Vajzovic, MD, Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology – Duke Eye Center, said,  “It has been a true pleasure to work with Avni as her teacher, colleague and a friend.  She is always enthusiastic, compassionate, knowledgeable, a team player and just absolutely a superb fellow. She is also a fun person to be around! I am so proud of her and her accomplishments – she is very deserving of the Ronald G. Michels Fellowship Award!”

RetinaLink (RL): Where did you go to Medical school?
Avni Finn, MD (AF): I went to the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. I then completed my internship in internal medicine at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston followed by Ophthalmology residency at Harvard Medical School/ Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. I’m now a 2nd year vitreoretinal surgical fellow at the Duke University Eye Center.

RL: What was the biggest surprise about Fellowship?

AF: One of the most challenging and exciting things about fellowship is the complexity of vitreoretinal surgery. No surgery is the same, and each one presents its own unique challenges. I’ve learned there are many correct ways to successfully approach different surgical cases and retinal surgery is as much of an art as it is a science.  

RL: You have outstanding attendings at the Duke Eye Center. Do you work with all the faculty? Do you specialize in one area, pediatric retina or adult patients?

AF: I am lucky to have a stellar group of faculty and mentors here at Duke. One of the reasons I was drawn to this fellowship program is the breadth of subspecialties we have here at Duke within the department of retina – including uveitis, oncology, and pediatric retina. We work very closely and equally with each faculty member on the retina service here at Duke and are exposed to the entire range of surgical patients from children to adults.

RL: Why did you choose retina versus another subspecialty?

AF: It’s the best! Seriously though – the medical and surgical diseases of the retina are not only some of the most complex and challenging cases that are encountered within ophthalmology, but I also appreciated the potential large impact I could have on a patient’s quality of life through the treatment of retinal diseases. As a clinician, I was fascinated by how many systemic conditions could manifest with retinal disease and how I could impact not only the patient’s vision but also their overall health. As a scientist, the constant innovation within the field of retina – medical treatments, imaging advances, and surgical instrumentation – has kept me captivated by the field. 

RL: You are receiving the Ronald G. Michels Fellowship Foundation award at the AAO in New Orleans. What did you think when Dr. Brucker contacted you?

AF: I was overwhelmed, excited, and incredibly grateful! It is a huge honor to be receiving the award and I felt immense gratitude towards my mentors in residency and fellowship who have enabled me the opportunities I’ve had thus far in my training.

RL: Do you have a favorite hand-held instrument in the Operating Room?

AF: I think it would have to be the “vitreous cutter“. It is the most versatile instrument we have in the OR and can be used for the simplest maneuvers such as performing vitrectomy or for more complex tasks such as dissecting membranes or creating retinectomies. The pneumatic scissors come in a close second. I find them especially useful in diabetic cases as they provide greater control when segmenting tractional membranes.

RL: Small gauge surgery – What’s your go to… 23, 25 or 27-gauge platform?

AF: During fellowship, I have had the opportunity to work with the ALCON® CONSTELLATION® 23-, 25-, and 27-gauge systems and the Bausch + Lomb STELLARIS® 23- and 25-gauge systems. Both systems are excellent and as a fellow I think it is important to learn multiple systems and get exposed to different instrumentation. I think each gauge of instrumentation has its advantages depending on the case and nuances of each specific surgical challenge. I particularly like the combination of the 23-gauge set up with the 27-gauge vitreous cutter for difficult tractional retinal detachment cases. 

RL: What’s your advice for those starting to interview for fellowship?

AF: My advice would be to find a program where you feel you will be constantly challenged yet supported. It is important to see a breadth of retinal pathology during fellowship but also to feel that you are exposed to the nuances of patient care from the pre-operative evaluation to long term post-operative follow-up. One of the most important things I’ve learned is how to manage the complications – this is not only the most challenging part of surgery but as I’ve learned from my mentors – it is what separates the true experts in our field.

RL: Please describe your perfect vacation destination.

AF: A place with lots of outdoor activities, beautiful scenery, and plenty of good food. During fellowship, my husband and I have taken advantage of visiting local spots around North Carolina and the South including Asheville, Carolina and Wrightsville Beaches, and Nashville, Tennessee to name a few. The South has some beautiful places to visit filled with warm people, beautiful hikes, and great comfort food!

Dr. Avni Finn can be reached via e-mail at


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