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Subspecialties Cataract, Other

The ASCRS Experience

For several months, I had been receiving dozens of emails that all sounded surprisingly similar: “Will you be at ASCRS this year?” And it was great when I realized I was able to answer, “Yes!” The annual meeting of the American Society for Cataract and Refractive Surgery is a landmark event in ophthalmology, attracting thousands of doctors, eye care professionals, and industry experts from all around the world – this time, converging on the beautiful city of San Diego.

There’s no way that I could cover everything that happened at this year’s meeting (well, I could, but you don’t have enough time to read about it). Instead, I’ve distilled my ASCRS experience into five bitesize diary entries…

Thursday, May 4

Before the meeting officially started, Eyecelerator has already rolled into town. A partnership between AAO and ASCRS – this is a must-attend event for ophthalmic innovators, with talks covering the latest trends in the ophthalmic market to emerging new technologies that have the potential to revolutionize treatment. Perhaps the most popular feature of the program is “The Winning Pitch.” Imagine “Shark Tank” but with an audience of savvy ophthalmology professionals; you’ve got it. The top prize is taken by OSHERU, the medical company established by Patricia Buehler to develop a minimally invasive method for blepharoplasties. Though the cash prize is certainly nice, it seems that getting your pitch seen by a room full of investors who are hungry for the next big thing in eyecare could result in an even bigger payday…

The evening is made up of two events – LENSAR celebrates the launch of the new ALLY Cataract System with a reception and introduction of the new device. Most notably, the introduction of Cataract Density Imaging looks set to make cataract treatment more specifically tailored to each patient, while allowing greater control of energy settings for the surgeon.

From there, I dash off to see what an invitation to a special fundraising event – the iAware gala – is all about. The charity iAware partners with the Khmer Sight Foundation to bring eye care and cheap 3D-printed glasses to Cambodia – a country with just 32 ophthalmologists serving a population of 15,000,000. The evening, titled “Dining In The Dark,” features a three-course dinner served to a room full of blindfolded people. It’s not just a unique experience but also a great fundraising event because it partners with visually impaired and blind artisans and artists, allowing them to sell their work for a good cause. I am inspired by iAware’s work, leaving behind the gala attendees, who raised over $100,000 to keep tackling preventable blindness.

Friday, May 5

I start the day by catching some of the news from the team at Aurion Biotech, who announce the promising results of the IOTA clinical trial –  building off the innovative work of Power List regular Shigeru Kinoshita on corneal endothelial cells.

It’s subspecialty day at the conference and, for the first time, the Digital Ophthalmic Society has its own subspecialty program. Some highlights include a great talk from Ranya Habash on medicine in the metaverse and David Rhew, CMO of Microsoft, talks about the possibilities of AI and assistive technology. Tommy Korn’s passionate and very funny talk on the utility and importance of mobile technology integrating with electronic medical records really stands out from the crowd. It may not be such a glamorous sounding topic, but it’s a great showcase of how digital ophthalmology is not just a topic for the future but something that directly impacts ophthalmology in the clinic today.

On the glaucoma side of the program, Power Lister Ike Ahmed delivers the Stephen A. Obstaum lecture on the necessity of the move to interventional treatment paradigms – typically rigorous in its evidence and passionate in its delivery, the lecture is a kind of summation of Ahmed’s work over the past decade, which has genuinely shifted how the field thinks of this disease.

Friday also marks the official beginning of the conference with the first session on the Main Stage featuring both the incoming and outgoing presidents of the organization; Douglas Rhee is handing over the reins to Elizabeth Yeu, who is given a standing ovation, describing ASCRS as feeling like home – for her and for so many other refractive surgeons.

The rest of the session includes some of the ASCRS awards. And Yeu gives a moving introduction to Emmett Carpel, who receives the ASCRS Educator Award in recognition for decades of commitment to educating students, fellows, and younger ophthalmologists.

The session also includes the ASCRS Hall of Fame – this year, the two inductees are R. Townley Paton, the father of American eye banking, and Marguerite McDonald, the very first person to perform epi-LASIK in the United States. Finally, the ASCRS Chang-Crandall Humanitarian Award is given to Helena Ndume – one of only six ophthalmologists in Namibia and someone who has helped tens of thousands of people receive life-altering procedures to restore their vision.

Finally, I manage to catch the initial results from the BRIO1 trial from Visus Therapeutics, whose new asset shows some promising results for the treatment of presbyopia.

What a day!

Saturday, May 6

The morning starts a little differently: Alcon takes me and some other members of the media out of this world… Specifically, we’re invited to a demonstration of the new Alcon meta eye verse, which showcases the potential of the new NGENUITY visualization system. We don our headsets and suddenly find ourselves on the moon, where John W Kitchens and Eric Rosenberg are on hand (albeit in virtual avatar form) to demonstrate the utility and importance of this technology not only for education and training but also for sharing and collaboration between surgeons no matter where they might be in the world.

The afternoon on the mainstage sees a very fast paced symposium with the “X Rounds – Refractive Cataract Surgery to the Max” – featuring some of the biggest names in the field: John Hovanesian, Cathleen McCabe, Elizabeth Yeu, Nicole R. Fram, and Kerry D. Solomon,

Sunday, May 7

Much of Sunday is spent filming some hands-on content with companies developing and refining new technologies. But I still have time to catch one of the most well attended talks I saw all weekend. Power List newcomer, Uday Devgan, is known worldwide for his YouTube channel Cataract Coach. It’s standing room only as he runs through some of his most challenging and tricky cases alongside fellow surgeons Rosa Braga-Mele and Deepinder Dhaliwal. The trio often find themselves in lively discussion about treatment options, how to balance surgery risks, and much more. The heaving auditorium is rapt throughout and it’s not hard to see why young residents and newer ophthalmologists adore Devgan’s videos.

Monday, May 8

It’s time to leave but, before I go, I have a chance to stop off and visit Tommy Korn at his clinic in San Diego. There, I am allowed to see what he was talking about on Friday, with him guiding me through the ways in which mobile and digital technology have transformed his experience for the better, while increasing patient satisfaction and compliance with treatment. It’s been a whirlwind of a trip and, as I fly back, there’s one thing on mind: “ASCRS – I’ll see you next year.”

What were your personal highlights at this year’s ASCRS? Please get in touch to share your thoughts:  [email protected]

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About the Author
Jon Greenaway

After almost a decade working in academic writing, I wanted to find a new challenge that would let me keep telling stories, learning new things and experiencing the excitement of scientific innovation. That’s what makes The Ophthalmologist a perfect fit for me.

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