Spirit of collaboration reaches across Europe

February 15, 2005

Like the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), the main activities of the European Society of Ophthalmology (Societas Ophthalmologica Europea, or SOE) strive to emphasize education.

Like the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), the main activities of the European Society of Ophthalmology (Societas Ophthalmologica Europea, or SOE) strive to emphasize education.

"We increasingly collaborate with other European professional, research, and subspecialty organizations," said Zdenek Gregor, MD, president of the SOE. "For example, the European Professors of Ophthalmology (EUPO) hold a 2-day course for residents at the start of each congress, and subspecialty societies and research organizations put on their symposia and courses."

The SOE council is conscious of the considerable variation in the resources available for education and clinical practice in different parts of Europe, especially in the former communist countries of Eastern Europe, Dr. Gregor said. In an attempt to address this, the SOE offers 40 educational travel grants for Eastern European ophthalmologists in training.

He added that the long tradition of friendship and cooperation between European and American ophthalmologists spans several centuries. In the 19th or early 20th centuries, the training of top American ophthalmologists would not have been complete without a visit to Vienna, Paris, or London.

"While American fellows still train in Europe, this trend is now rather reversed. As a result, many European department chairmen and senior ophthalmologists will have benefited from training and research opportunities in the United States," Dr. Gregor said. "Such personal experiences lead to mutual respect and cooperation on a much wider scale, which is particularly evident in teaching and in research."

Continuing medical education is an important issue on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Plans are under way for the SOE Congress to be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) in 2005. Clinical research relies heavily on multicentered trials and many such trials have just as many centers in Europe as they do in the United States.

"The considerable staff shortages that so many European eye departments experienced during the 2004 ARVO [Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology] attests to the volume of research that European ophthalmologists contribute," he said.

Dr. Gregor added that "the potentially adverse political pressures" on ophthalmology are being felt both in the United States and in Europe.

"In response, the SOE is pleased to participate in the academy leadership development program, and we are in the process of adapting it to suit the rather complex multinational nature of Europe," he said. "I hope that this first joint meeting is not the last. I'm sure that it will foster an even closer cooperation between our two societies.

"After all, it is precisely meetings like these that sow the seeds of future joint adventures in education and in research-which ultimately results in improved care for our patients," Dr. Gregor concluded.