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From Fort Lauderdale to the Future

Keith Barton and Kuldev Singh
Keith Barton

Kuldev and I first met in 1996 during ARVO at a house party hosted by our mutual friend Don Budenz, and his wife Sue. Those parties became an annual institution. I was still a corneal fellow at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute then. Sixteen years later, in 2012, we were on our way to the very last of these parties in Kuldev’s car, and we hatched the concept for what would (four months later to the exact day) become the Ophthalmology Futures European Forum 2012.

Somewhere in between we grew to become friends: we’d frequently meet at TVT study investigator meetings at ARVO and AAO. Kuldev rose to stardom at the forefront of every controversy in glaucoma, challenging mythology and flaky theory. His articles would always gain attention with witty titles such as: “Anti-Metabolite Application: Science or Voodoo?” and “Target Pressure – The Ophthalmologist’s Holey Grail”.

In 2002, Kuldev invited me to speak at the AAO glaucoma subspecialty day. For a European, this was a great honor. Kuldev quickly became an international opinion leader in glaucoma and was often a speaker at European Glaucoma Society congresses. I especially remember his presence at the Berlin meeting in 2008 when he surprised me after I had finished delivering a long-winded monologue on tube implants to a completely packed and pitch-dark room. The usual request for questions was met with absolute silence, disturbed some moments later by a disembodied voice piping up from the very back in the dark with a penetrating question on my technique: Kuldev.

When I got in to the car with Kuldev at Fort Lauderdale to drive to Don and Sue’s house in North Miami yet again in 2012, I didn’t think the ride would end with a long term partnership, but working with Kuldev on the Ophthalmology Futures Forums is a delight. His endless supply of fantastic ideas and enthusiasm, and his fast, clear thinking are a real inspiration.

Kuldev now brings those witty titles, as well as his business acumen, high level connections and keen eye for what is likely to become the next “big thing” in innovation to our annual meeting. The fourth Ophthalmology Futures Forum will be taking place this year in London, and we’re sure it will be our best meeting yet.

Kuldev Singh

Keith and I are both alumni of the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute Fellowship Program in Miami. For the two decades that ARVO was held in Ft. Lauderdale, Don Budenz – my co-fellow at Bascom Palmer in 1991–92 and long-time friend thereafter – hosted reunion parties for former fellows at his North Miami home. Keith and I regularly saw each other at these dinners, as well as at investigator meetings for numerous surgical glaucoma studies that were held at ARVO and AAO, and the annual meetings of the European Glaucoma Society.

Keith and I shared a common view of glaucoma practice and he became my go-to person for glaucoma care in Europe. Keith always took great care of friends and family members that were visiting London or even Europe.

Our relationship became stronger when Keith invited me to be one of the visiting speakers at the Moorfields Glaucoma meeting in January, 2011; he was a great host during my three days in London. Besides being a terrific ophthalmologist, Keith had established a reputation for putting on creative meetings that were enjoyable for both the speakers and the audience.

In May 2012, while attending ARVO, Keith and I decided that there was a need for an innovation meeting in Europe. Regulatory hurdles in the US meant that novel ophthalmic innovations were increasingly coming from Europe, yet there was no European forum that brought together all stakeholders to move the field forward. We believed that ideally, such a meeting should be driven by ophthalmologists, and include innovators, investors, regulators as well as clinicians. And that’s just what we created. The most prominent European ophthalmic congress was ESCRS so we decided that we would hold our first Ophthalmology Futures Forum just before the 2012 ESCRS meeting in Milan, Italy.

Putting together a fully funded new meeting in four months was a daunting task, but Keith and I quickly realized that we complemented each other well in this project. I have to say this meeting would not have been possible without the dedication of Keith’s administrative assistant, Abigail Mackrill, who is now Operations Director for Ophthalmology Futures. Keith, Abigail and I spoke regularly, and our strong virtual working relationship allowed us to host a very successful first Ophthalmology Futures Forum in Milan. The subsequent 2013 meeting in Amsterdam was larger and given the strong interest expressed by all stakeholders, we held a third forum in Tokyo, preceding the World Ophthalmology Congress in April, 2014. The Tokyo forum was particularly special – in addition to our usual showcase of new ophthalmic technology, we had panels that discussed improving eyecare in the developing world as well as the global regulatory issues in device approval.

My partnership with Keith continues to be most enjoyable, and our fourth Ophthalmology Futures meeting in London this September promises to be the best to date.

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