This year’s American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) opening session zeroed in on one message: Members need to continue to be involved to ensure the society can meet members’ needs-from education to influence in the federal government.
New Orleans-This year’s American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) opening session zeroed in on one message: Members need to continue to be involved to ensure the society can meet members’ needs-from education to influence in the federal government.
Ed Holland, MD, this year’s conference program chairman, noted there were more than 6,000 attendees from 100 countries, and the conference itself hosted more than 1,500 papers, courses, and symposia.
Several ophthalmic luminaries passed away during the past year (including Henry Edelhauser, MD, Jan Worst, MD, Robert Sinskey, MD, Lee Nordan, MD, and Rob Rivera, MD), and Dr. Holland said they all helped “work toward the elimination of treatable blindness.”
Dr. Sinskey’s eye hospital in Ethiopia “provides thousands of cataract surgeries and hundreds of hours of training every year.”
Outgoing ASCRS President Robert Cionni, MD, said the association is financially stable and over the past year has “significantly increased the number of educational offerings we provide. We’ve introduced more webinars and regional meetings” in the hopes that physicians who cannot travel to the annual meeting still get an opportunity to have in-person interactions with other surgeons.
In the past year, ASCRS approved 77 educational grants and received $4.5 million in funding from industry to support those educational endeavors.
By far, the “single most valuable on-demand service we provide is the online IOL calculator,” Dr. Cionni said. “The year 2015 saw more than 145,000 uses.”
In regulatory affairs, ASCRS played a role in the repeal and replacement of the SGR, helped to prevent the transition of the 10- and 90-day global codes to a 0-day code.
“We met with the leading companies to discuss their Directions for Use (DFU) that mandate enzymatic detergents that may lead to toxic anterior segment syndrome, or TASS,” he said. “We are now calling on the ophthalmic instrument industry to eliminate those requirements.”
Incoming ASCRS president Kerry Solomon, MD, promised attendees he would build upon the success of his predecessors.
“We are a diverse membership of almost 9,000 members, with 900 resident and fellow members,” he said. “We provide a venue for members to share clinical experiences and to advocate for our patients.”
But the founding members seemed to be more engaged than members are currently, and Dr. Solomon hopes to change that during his tenure.
“One message became clear to me over the past year as I talked with many of our members. Many of you want to get involved, but don’t know how,” he said. “My first priority this year is to change that by changing the way we communicate with each other.”
To that end, ASCRS has introduced “ASCRS365,” an app that will feature highlights from the annual meetings.
“I want to make communicating between each other as easy as our kids text or use Instagram,” he said.
ASCRS has also created the Center for Learning, a where all types of education will be available on the ASCRS website, including the ability to post clinical images and have colleagues comment, and select free continuing medical education events.
“We need to invest time and money in ASCRS now,” he said. “I’m asking for your voice and participation and financial support. If each of us donated something to EyePAC we will be able to continue the meaningful changes we’re seeing in Washington.”
Dr. Solomon challenged members to “commit to an annual donation when we renew our dues. Let’s not leave our future to others to support.”
He also emphasized the annual July Washington Fly-In, and said this year ASCRS will be fully supporting the travel of five younger ophthalmologists in an effort to continue to engage the “next generation” of leaders.
“My message to you is clear: I want you to get involved in any way possible,” Dr. Solomon said. “I will work to facilitate better communication among us. I promise to be available with any questions or concerns you may have.”
The opening session also featured two honored guests: Paul Ernest, MD; and Hiroko Bissen-Miyajima, MD, PhD.
Dr. Ernest originally began his career believing he would be an engineer, but became involved in ophthalmology and is well known as a leading refractive surgeon.
Dr. Bissen-Miyajima has been involved in ASCRS and is currently the president of the Japanese Society of Refractive and Cataract Surgery.
Lastly, the ASCRS Foundation has been making strides in “Operation Sight,” its newest undertaking to provide cataract surgeon to uninsured Americans.
To date, the program has provided more than 430 charitable surgeries, and Stephen Lane, MD, urged attendees to volunteer and to get “Operation Sight the recognition it deserves,” he said.
Plans are under way to create a National Day of Vision where “we will perform several hundred surgeries in a single day and take our story to the press and the American people.”
David Chang, MD, said in 2015 more than 19,000 cataract surgeries were performed at the Robert M. Sinskey Eye Clinic in Ethiopia. The Himalayan Cataract Project has introduced the first MIGS initiative, and the Foundation is partnering with DigiSight to help deploy smartphone-imaging technology at the Tilganga Eye Centre in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Finally, the “Swim for Sight” initiative has partnered with four-time Olympic medalist Missy Franklin to raise awareness and contributions for the cause of humanitarian cataract surgery.
“The need is enormous, and the infrastructure is in place. Please consider helping,” he said.