Each year, thousands of ophthalmologists, venders, and healthcare professionals attend the annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). Inasmuch as this was my second AAO meeting, I was already prepared for the strangely-sized bags that you wonder if whoever designed them still has their job, the formal dress code, the “everybody’s a winner” mentality of awarding all attendees some sort of ribbon to wear on their name badge, and the vendor exhibits with three-inch padded carpet and beautiful salespeople from pharma and device retailers trying to argue you cannot practice medicine without them. Without further adieu, I present to you my Best of AAO 2013 Awards.
Best Conflict of Interest Disclosure Award
As you know, presenters must disclose financial interests at the beginning of each lecture. It always strikes me as ironic that the presenters must not only display their potential conflicts of interest, but must also verbally disclose such interests. I suppose, however, that it makes sense that such a meeting of ophthalmologists, would provide both auditory and visual financial disclosure. Regardless, the winner of the Best Conflict of Interest Disclosure Award goes to Dr. Keith Carter, chair of ophthalmology at the University of Iowa, who stated, “I unfortunately have no financial disclosures, though I am eager and looking for some if you have any.” Dear Dr. Carter, I would be happy to offer you a shoe deal for next year’s meeting. Stay tuned, folks, at AAO 2014, Dr. Carter may just disclose that his kicks are sponsored by eyesteve.
Best Surgical Teaching Award
AAO 2013 included dozens of lectures, symposia, and skills transfer sessions designed to help improve expertise in surgical techniques. While limited to the courses I attended, the Best Phaco Teaching Award goes to Dr. Agarwal and the Mastering Phaco Nightmares and Worse-Case Scenarios course. Dr. Agarwal masterfully tip-toed the tenuous tightrope of demonstrating surgical expertise while humbly and repentantly confessing surgical mistakes. He managed to awaken the audience from their future surgical nightmares and elegantly taught techniques to resolve such nightmares. While most are familiar with what a successful phaco looks like, watching and listening to Dr. Agarwal and other expert surgeons explain their errors and strategies to fix such errors provided an invaluable teaching experience for the rest of us. This and other “nightmares of ocular surgery” courses should definitely be continued in future AAO meeting curricula.
Best Young Ophthalmology (YO) Tweet Award
Throughout the annual meeting, the YO’s were encouraged to tweet comments and questions to the YO twitter feed (#yoprogram). This year’s Best Young Ophthalmology (YO) Tweet Award, given in response to the Ron Burgundy-esque (see link here) mustache worn proudly by Dr. Jeff Pettey (see link here which does not do justice to his ‘stache), goes to @DrC_Hester whose tweet was displayed for all present to see: “Dr. Pettey, Can you offer me any tips on growing an awesome mustache like yours?” Similarly, I think it is only fair to award the Best YO Tweet Honorable Mention to the ‘stache Dr. himself, Jeff Pettey, for his response, “@DrC_Hester Be willing to look foolish and not receive affection from your wife.” Dr. Pettey, while things may suffer at home, we give you our collective affection for having the guts to rock the mustache. Maybe the YO committee should begin an annual Movember Mustache contest? After all, the AAO annual meeting is in November – seems perfectly appropriate that we as physicians increase awareness for men’s and women’s health issues by supporting Movember.
Best Innovative Teaching Award
Taking a big step forward into the future, this year’s AAO annual meeting added a whole new dimension to ocular surgery education, literally. By using 3-D video technology from Sony Medical, presenters provided attendees with groovy 3-D glasses, enabling users to imagine their own hands performing the surgery as the 3-D technology miraculously increased audience engagement, and gave viewer’s the ability to see on the screen what they are accustomed to seeing through the microscope. At a steep pricetag of greater than $50,000 for the whole system, this new technology may still be years away from finding itself to your surgical or office suite, but until then we can expect to see more fantastic 3-D courses in future meetings.
Best AAO Annual Meeting Improvement Award
This year marked the first ever “AAO Virtual Meeting,” a new online component to the AAO Annual Meeting, providing members with exciting new content and resources available online and accessible during and after the meeting. While not advertised or marketed quite as aggressively as its features deserve, the efforts made to provide an online meeting resource to attendees and non-attendees alike earns the Virtual Meeting the Best AAO Annual Meeting Improvement Award. Here are just a few highlights of this new feature:
– Online access to PDFs of all 511 posters and 67 videos from AAO 2013 (not those used in courses but submitted separately as videos).
– Access to free video replay of seven of the most popular and entertaining sessions, including the Opening Session, the My Coolest Surgical Video Session, The Great Debate: Glaucoma, and Corneal Surgery Update.
– Search tool for all venders and exhibitors at the Annual Meeting, with the ability to search by category (e.g. EMR, Cross Linking, Laser Suite), by company name, and even by exhibit booth location!
Have you ever wanted to grow a mustache? Have you ever done it? Did it give you super powers?
Did you attend any of the 3D or surgical nightmares courses?
What other awards should be included in the Best of AAO Awards?