The United States (US) supply of surgical specialty practitioners in 2025 is projected to fall short by 24,340 physician full-time equivalents. The greatest deficit is projected for ophthalmology with the most affected region noted to be the southern US.


To better understand the distribution of our ophthalmology workforce in the southern US and to identify cities with less access to subspecialty-specific vision care.


To determine the prevalence of ophthalmologists as well as rates of ophthalmology subspecialists and practice types in the three largest cities of each state within the southern US.


The American Academy of Ophthalmology’s “Find an Ophthalmologist” online listing was queried on a city-by-city basis from December 2020 to April 2021. The number and location of ophthalmologists were determined in the three largest cities, according to population, in the southern US. Data collected on each ophthalmologist included sex, primary subspecialty, practice type, year of first board certification, and academic affiliation.


There were 1,735 total ophthalmologists identified in the three largest cities of each state, 52 cities in total, within the southern US. The majority were male (n= 1,369, 78.90%) and board-certified prior to or during 1997 (n= 913, 52.62%). There were 12,308 persons per ophthalmologist (P/O) in the southern US. Cities with the highest P/O ratio were Rio Rancho, NM (101,475 P/O), Southaven, MS (28,691 P/O), and Houston, TX (27,868 P/O). The lowest P/O ratios included Morgantown, WV (1,587 P/O), Charleston, WV (2,263 P/O), and Wilmington, DE (3,025 P/O). Less populated cities (<300,000 persons) had a significantly higher proportion of comprehensive ophthalmologists in the southern US (p-value=0.007).


A total of 550 ophthalmologists were evaluated in southwestern cities and 1,185 were evaluated in southeastern cities. Our results suggest that less populated cities are driven by comprehensive ophthalmology practices. This data suggests greater vulnerability in certain cities with less access to subspecialty-specific vision care.

Keywords: Ophthalmology demographics, Southern United States, Ophthalmologist prevalence, Gender disparities, Practice type, Geography.
Fulltext HTML PDF ePub