Campus News

Advanced Oculofacial Plastic Surgery Course Expands to Invite Surgeons, Fellows, and More from Around the World

Ophthalmologists, Oculofacial plastic surgeons, Facial Plastic Surgeons, Plastic Surgeons and trainees gather at USC for one of the most popular and unique oculoplastic plastic surgery courses offered in the United States.

Eric Weintraub February 20, 2024
Group photos of ophthalmologists and surgeons at the Cutting Edge 2024.
Surgeons, Fellows and Residents from Around the World Gathered at the Health Sciences Campus for the Two-Day Course (Photo/Eric Weintraub)

On Friday, January 19th and Saturday, January 20th, the USC Roski Eye Institute hosted “The Cutting Edge: The USC Oculofacial Plastic Surgery Surgical Skills Course.” Due to the course’s unique teaching methods and hands-on approach to surgery, The Cutting Edge is attended by surgeons, fellows, and residents from around the world. Held every 18 months and now in its sixth iteration, the course has quickly ascended to being one of the most popular and unique oculoplastic courses in the U.S. (attendance sold out amongst fellowships within a week).

“I strove to develop the ideal hands-on course that I would have liked during my training, and the course that I would continue to take to stay updated on the most cutting-edge procedures and technologies,” said Sandy Zhang-Nunes, MD, founder and course director of The Cutting Edge and associate professor of clinical ophthalmology and chief of oculofacial plastic services at the USC Roski Eye Institute. “We are always learning to do surgeries and procedures better and safer, and this course helps those of us always striving to learn, to stay at the top of field, to have more tools in our toolbelt. I love to bring people together. It’s truly a meeting of the minds and hands.”

This year, the course expanded to the USC Health Sciences Campus Conference Center for the first time. The larger space allows for more surgery stations, participants, and preceptors than ever before.

“Having some of the biggest names in oculoplastics allows us to learn different techniques from their varied approaches,” said Jessica Chang, MD, assistant professor of clinical ophthalmology. “Having all these people in one room makes for really concentrated learning.”

Unlike many surgical skills courses that use videos or devices to simulate surgery, The Cutting Edge allows attendees to hone skills by operating on fresh human tissue. This provides a valuable learning environment and the ability to better understand real tissue planes of the orbit and face.

Though aimed at fellows and physicians, this expansion also allowed the course to be open to more residents and medical students than before.

“This morning I’ve been able to take what I’ve learned in previous years and teach residents,” said Carl Rebhun, MD, Roski’s current oculoplastics fellow. “This allows them to explore without fear of harming a patient, which is the biggest benefit of this experience.”

“I’ve never worked with human tissue at this level before, which makes this course very unique, as we typically use plastic models that, while helpful, don’t compare to real tissue,” said Ava Torjani, MD, an ophthalmology intern. “This experience has given me a better sense of suturing and cutting for when I’m operating on patients.”

Throughout the two-day course, the human tissue is used to its full potential. The course starts with filler injections, blepharoplasty, and orbital surgery on day one and ends with endoscopic tear duct surgery and face lifts on day two. This approach allows attendees to see the progress they’ve made step-by-step, while still maximizing the use of the tissue from a conservational standpoint.

“Working with real human tissue and being taught advanced surgery techniques by people from across the country is a wonderful way for us to learn more about oculoplastics,” said Alomi Parikh, MD, MBA, a senior ophthalmology resident who is also Roski’s incoming oculoplastics fellow. “It gets me even more excited for fellowship.”

Due to the course’s advanced, hands-on approach, most attendees are expected to have fellowship-level experience or higher to get the most out of the two-day workshop. However, this didn’t deter Rasika Sudharshan, a medical student doing research with Dr. Zhang-Nunes, from participating.

“Dr. Zhang-Nunes gives a lot of context – the purpose of the procedures, different techniques, and how we’ll learn,” said Rasika. “It’s nice having people at different levels help me, walking me through steps for procedures I’ve never done before. Things are going over my head but I’m learning tons every second.”

Dr. Zhang-Nunes is already preparing for the next Cutting Edge course, tentatively scheduled for summer 2025.


If you are interested in arranging an advanced anatomical skills event at Keck School of Medicine of USC, please reach out to Angela Martinez at