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October 22nd, 2011

The Eyes Have It — An Inside look at the ophthalmology meeting


Medical society meetings reflect the specialties they are intended to serve. In the case of the 115th annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, we have thousands of people in one building focused on one organ (or two, if you rather). Eye diseases, surgeries, and the fine points of the retina, the cornea, glaucoma, macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa are all session or symposia offerings. The press room is equally focused. For every medical specialty there is a specialty media. For example, one publication not on your newsstand is Retina Today. I've attended national conferences before, but I was not prepared for the size. It is truly international, with eye physicians from an estimated 30 foreign countries. And the exhibit floor is very serious. No silly toys or ancillary vendors here. Again, the focus or better yet, the vision is solely on equipment, clinical furnishings, surgical tools and medical books, journals, and software.

AAO's Dr. David Parke II interviewed by Dr. Jay Erie of Mayo Clinic

All in all, it is very well run and organized, at least to my untrained eye. The man in charge is Dr. David Parke II, the executive vice president and CEO of the AAO. He also edits the Academy's journal EyeNet. In an interview today he emphasized the importance of continuing education for eye specialists -- the Academy's primary mission. Then he mentioned some priorities that sounded pretty familiar to Mayo folk: evidence-based treatments, state-of-the-art medicine, and the need to ensure that new standards and techniques are widely shared. When asked about the role of ophthalmology in a wide-ranging multiple specialty practice, he said: "Mayo Clinic is one of those blessed beasts in that it has fine facilities and specialists, but in that it can also be an 'incubator' for best in class health care and system innovation and care."  He also said the combination of M.D.s and O.D.s (optometrists) work well in some practices. He said the right balance and the right training are what's important in meeting the needs of all patients and their economic needs. Care should be patient-centered (that sounds familiar, too) - and he pointed out that roughly 50 percent of ophthalmologists work in integrated teams.  The AAO meeting continues for three more days.

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