EnVision Summit 2023: Unique program takes family friendly conference to new heights

Bonnie An Henderson, MD, founder and program director of EnVision Summit, previews what attendees can expect at this year’s meeting - from its diverse faculty to an inclusive Youth Program, while also giving back to the community. The conference will take place February 17 to 20 at the El Conquistador Resort in Fajardo, Puerto Rico.

Bonnie An Henderson, MD, founder and program director of EnVision Summit, previews what attendees can expect at this year’s meeting - from its diverse faculty to an inclusive Youth Program, while also giving back to the community. The conference will take place February 17 to 20 at the El Conquistador Resort in Fajardo, Puerto Rico.

To learn more about or to register for the EnVision Summit, click here.

Editor's note: This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Sheryl Stevenson: We're joined today by Dr. Bonnie An Henderson. Thank you so much for your time today. We're excited to learn more about this year's EnVision Summit. Could you tell us about this year's meeting? And what makes it so unique from other meetings?

Bonnie An Henderson, MD: Great. Well, first of all, thank you so much, Sheryl, and Ophthalmology Times. It's such a thrill to be having this conversation with you, especially about something called EnVision Summit, which is very near and dear to my heart.

It's a CME, multispecialty, ophthalmology meeting that we started 4 years ago now. It's similar to other meetings in that we have a very robust scientific agenda with all the specialties in ophthalmology. So anything from cataract, refractive, to retina, glaucoma, peds, neuro, and uveitis. So, we cover all the subspecialties of ophthalmology, all in one meeting, which is wonderful especially for the general comprehensive ophthalmologist.

But what I think is very unique about this program are two things. Number one, you notice that it's extremely family friendly. People bring their spouses. They bring their kids. And what's unique is that when you bring a family member to a lot of meetings, they have to be isolated, doing something else while the physician is actually attending the meeting. So although you may be bringing family, you don't see them for the meals, you don't see them during the days.

What we wanted to do was we wanted to build a program where the family member felt comfortable attending the meals, the breaks, and even the sessions. We oftentimes have the children in the sessions, the spouses in the sessions, and everyone is welcome. People sit quietly, and they listen to these fabulous lectures. It's been a really nice benefit for the children to see their mom or dad up on the podium and say, 'Oh, you know, that's what they do every day, or that's what a meeting is.' I think it's great role modeling for the kids to be able to see, especially their mom, up there and know that she is a world-renowned physician who's able to give a lecture on something that she's an expert on. I think it's just a great opportunity for the physicians and the family members. I think that's a wonderful, unique aspect.

A second aspect that I think is quite unique is that you'll notice the people on the program committee, the speakers, the people on the podium look a little different than most of the meetings that you've gone to. Most of the meetings that I've been involved with in the last 25 to 30 years, oftentimes, you'll see the same people again and again. And you know, I'm guilty of that as well.

What we really wanted to do in building this program is to invite people that are from different backgrounds. So you see lots of diversity — whether it's women, men; whether it's different races; different ethnicities; different parts of the world. You'll see a lot of different people, and people routinely walk away saying: 'Wow, who was that doctor. I've never heard of this person before and she was fabulous. She gave such a great talk. It was incredibly insightful. What an articulate person.'

I love the ability to give people the opportunity to be on the podium when they don't normally get that chance and get their name out there. It's really great for young, aspiring physicians or older physicians who have always been just in their clinic or maybe in their lab and they really didn't do a lot of speaking. This gives them that opportunity. We really encourage people to contact us and say, 'I'd love to give a talk on X, Y, and Z.' We definitely encourage that.

Stevenson: That's excellent. I understand there also is among the program, there's a special poster presentation or recognition of some of the presenters.

Henderson: There is. One of the nice benefits of this meeting is that we encourage residents, trainees, and medical students to come to our meeting. The registration fee is waived, so it's free for them to attend. We allow submissions for posters and talks. They're able to submit something to be presented, and it helps them build their résumé. What we do is after we receive all the submissions, there is a judging by their peers, and we award the authors the first, second, and third place of the submissions. Those people are awarded with the prize, even a monetary prize.

Not only do they get to network with a lot of physicians — and there are a lot of department chairs and residency directors and fellowship directors that attend. They can network with people, they can present their research, they can have experience on the podium, and they walk away with a financial reward. It's a win-win for everybody involved. We love it when young people come and attend our meeting.

Stevenson: The program itself is pretty comprehensive. There also is an administrative program as well for professionals in that area.

Henderson: There is. We started the administrator program about 3 years ago because there was such a demand. The people who run it — there are 3 women, Eimi Rodriguez Cruz, Sharon Brown, and Pat Morris — and they do a fabulous job of putting together an agenda where the program really is a very interactive discussion. It's very roundtable-discussion based so it's not just a passive PowerPoint conversation. We've heard a lot of feedback from the administrators. They said that what they love in their meetings are ability to have this conversation, this give and take with the presenter. We invite industry partners, as well as the administrators and physicians. We can have a discussion whether it's about a new technology that's come out, how do you implement it in your clinic, how do you code, how do you bill, how do you do it in your surgery center, what is the flow in your office. These are conversations that really impact physicians day to day, but you really need the people in the room that control some of the factors. You need the secretaries, the administrators, the technicians that are important partners in this journey. That way, we know that as physicians we can offer this new technology, we know how to make it seamless for the patients so they are not waiting in the waiting room too long. We know how to build and code properly so that people are paid for their work. We can answer a lot of those questions in these types of roundtable discussions.

Stevenson: Fantastic. One other fun aspect is there's a charitable event or activity at the meeting as well. Tell us a little bit about that.

Henderson: We've done this fantastic thing where we try to partner with an organization or a need that occurs that year. So things that we've done in the past, as you know, the meeting is held in Puerto Rico every year and Puerto Rico is a wonderful island. They have been really hit with some terrible natural disasters in the recent past. We can all remember the hurricane that came through and then there was an earthquake. Each of those years, we would raise funds to help the people of Puerto Rico recover from those natural disasters.

Last year, we did something that was unique to Afghanistan. As you recall, there was a change of leadership in Afghanistan with the Taliban taking over. The people were really harmed by it. But the fraction of the population that was really impacted were women, especially well-educated women. What we tried to do was, we tried to target trying to find aid. What we did was we invited a Afghan female physician to be a guest speaker, and she had just fleed the country a few months ago. She shared her story about what it was like, how did she flee, why did she flee, how did her family get out, and what it means to be an educated female professional in Afghanistan. That was last year.

This year, we heard from our physician-partners in Puerto Rico that there's a dire need for books and toys in a lot of the pediatric hospitals. This year, we're asking everyone to bring a new toy or gently used toy or book that we can donate to the pediatric hospital in Puerto Rico. That's going to be welcomed by all the young patients there. I'm sure they would love to receive those.

Stevenson: Yeah, that's a wonderful idea. So once again, the meeting is held every Presidents' Day weekend. How can attendees register or sign up to attend?

Henderson: Sure, there's a website called EnVisionSummit.org. All the information is right on that website. There's a big 'register' button right on the homepage. You can also look under the 'Program' tab or take a look at the speakers. We have over 100 speakers coming and they're all fabulous speakers.

You could look at the Youth Program, and I want to highlight the youth program as well. It's a very special part of EnVision Summit. We have a concurrent youth program held at the same time as the physician and administrators program. It's usually in the lecture hall right next door so that you can actually open a door, go right into the youth program, and back and forth. The youth program is for anyone from young toddlers to teens. We have fun activities, whether it's a magic trick lesson or whether it's yoga. We have skills like soccer playing. We also have conversations about how to get into college, for example, for the teens. There's lots of different activities run every day. People really seem to love it. We've had lots and lots of people bring their kids. The room is just so fun. You should take a look at it - it's filled with balloons and toys and snacks. We have big things like a big chess board, we have a ping pong table, a basketball hoop, and the kids just love to run in and out. We have lots of arts and crafts.

The physicians can walk in and out of that room. They could leave their children there if they're having fun, or the children could go back and forth between the lecture hall so it's really close. A very unique aspect of the program is that as physicians we see more and more women enter medicine and ophthalmology, and now about 35% of all the ophthalmologists are women. A lot of women have families and children. A lot of men have families and children. It's hard to leave them behind because most of the meetings are always on a weekend and it's usually always in a beautiful location like Puerto Rico or Hawaii or somewhere like that. What a shame to leave your family behind and what a shame not to be able to see your family during the meeting. I really encourage you to take a look at the meeting, look at the youth agenda, bring your family, and come learn some ophthalmology, too.

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