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Ophthalmology helping Major Leaguer stay on the diamond


Ophthalmologists can learn the latest techniques to help patients like Tommy Pham from the New York Mets during the first annual IKA Keratoconus Symposium: Front to Back and Everything In Between, taking place April 22-23 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

A baseball sitting on the foul line in a baseball diamond. (Image Credit: AdobeStock/33ft)

Diagnosed with keratoconus in 2008, Tommy Pham underwent a procedure to save his baseball career, which continues this season with the New York Mets.(Image Credit: AdobeStock/33ft)

Ophthalmology can make a difference, just ask Tommy Pham, a veteran Major League Baseball outfielder with the New York Mets.

Pham, who was diagnosed with keratoconus in 2008, recently made another visit to the ophthalmologist to regain his form as a hitter as the season kicked off earlier this month.

Pham’s story is well-known in the field of ophthalmology.

In 2019, Pham spoke to about 200 ophthalmologists during an event sponsored by Avellino Lab during the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s annual meeting that year in San Francisco, detailing his journey in overcoming keratoconus to stay on the baseball diamond and thrive as a professional ball player.

During that speech, attended by Ophthalmology Times, Pham focused on the importance of early genetic detection of the condition to maximize the chances for a positive outcome for patients diagnosed with keratoconus.

After being diagnosed in 2008, Pham told the ophthalmologists gathered at the event that surgery in 2011 saved his baseball career.

Today, ophthalmologists continue to make a difference in his career, and Pham told the New York Post it seems he can see the ball better these days when he’s at the plate.

"My eye doctor out here, she kind of fine-tuned my lenses for me and when I got my new lenses … I felt like everything was way different in a good way,” he told the publication. “My other lenses from the spring had a little bit too much astigmatism. A little too much 'residual cylinder' is the term, and she kind of eliminated some of that for me, so now I can see."

A career .260 hitter, Pham split last season between the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Red Sox, hitting .236. He was off to a hot start, getting 4 hits in his first 9 at-bats in the first 4 games of 2023 with the Mets, including 1 home run.

Pham told the Post his previous lenses were good, but he’s seen a definite improvement.

“This is probably the best I have seen on defense in years, but they still needed a little fine-tuning and the doctor here fine-tuned them for me."

With treatment, patients diagnosed with keratoconus can have a positive prognosis, and events like the International Keratoconus Academy of Eye Care Professionals (IKA), established in 2014 to promote ongoing professional and scientific development in keratoconus and other forms of corneal ectasia, can help ophthalmologists provide the best outcomes possible.

The primary mission of IKA is the sharing of professional education and best practices for improved patient care and quality of life. IKA is led by an executive board and a medical advisory board (comprising experts from optometry, ophthalmology, and allied eye health professionals) and has open access to membership.

The first annual IKA Keratoconus Symposium: Front to Back and Everything In Between will take place on April 22 and 23 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Many of the best-known, highly respected experts worldwide will cover topics related to keratoconus diagnosis and management. The symposium will be cochaired by S. Barry Eiden, OD, FAAO, FSLS; Andrew S. Morgenstern, OD, FAAO, FNAP; and Elizabeth Yeu, MD.

This will be a first-of-its-kind meeting involving all eye care professions and entirely dedicated to keratoconus and the individuals with the disease who depend on us for their care.

Learning Objectives

• Create strategies to accurately diagnose patients and classify their severity of keratoconus 

• Explain the safety and efficacy data supporting currently available keratoconus therapies 

• Evaluate clinical trial data for treatments being investigated for the management of keratoconus 

• Describe optimal approaches to patient-centered keratoconus care that incorporate their individual characteristics and goals 

Hot Topics

• New diagnostic technologies 

• Opportunities to maximize keratoconus management in your practice

• Keratoconus best practices

IKA Background

For decades leading up to the beginning of the 21st century, the education, research, and detection of corneal ectasias (including keratoconus) was stagnant. In the early 2000s, a renaissance of significant advancements in technology improved the understanding and detection of keratoconus and corneal ectasias.

These new principles and innovations began to become widely commercially available. However, a group of corneal and contact lens experts identified significant gaps that needed to be addressed within the eye care community; the education and clinical practices were significantly lagging behind the advent and commercialization of new research and technology in the larger medical world. As a result, IKA was born.

Since then, IKA has established itself as the primary source of the most current information on keratoconus and all forms of corneal ectasia.

Through live presentations at eye care meetings (nationally and internationally), virtual education including IKA’s ongoing webinar series, and publications and reports in the professional literature and media, IKA has taught and shared the most current principles of keratoconus care, improving global patient care.

IKA has also positively impacted patient lives via research. IKA has undertaken a large-scale prospective study establishing the pediatric prevalence of keratoconus (based on evaluation of more than 2000 individuals aged 3-18 years).

This research study, which analyzed the corneal tomography of every participant, has led to a clearer and new understanding of keratoconus prevalence in this age group. This study will enable more individuals to be detected as early in the disease process as possible, enabling early intervention and potentially preventing a lifetime of vison loss.

As IKA continued to grow, the next step was to establish a combined live and virtual meeting dedicated exclusively to keratoconus, and that program continues today.

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