From 28 October to 1 November 2017, the eye health and vision care sector descended on Perth Convention Exhibition Centre for the 49th Annual Scientific Congress of The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO). An ophthalmologist taking his seat on the 9.00am QANTAS flight out of Melbourne exclaimed ‘it’s the Ophthalmology Express!’ – not an incorrect statement given the number of friends and colleagues calling out hello. It was clear from take-off that Perth was the place to be for the crème de le crème of the eye world.
Co-convened by Associate Professor Angus Turner and Dr Fred Chen of the Lions Eye Institute in Western Australia, Congress offered ophthalmologists, and the rest of the sector, a chance to discuss the changing medical landscape; consider how ophthalmology needs to grow and adapt in its new environment and share innovative methods of delivering eye health services.
Vision 2020 Australia Chief Executive Officer, Carla Northam and I were pleased to be able to attend, and drew inspiration from the many interesting seminars, lectures and side events. As soon as we entered the Exhibition Hall, we were excited to visit the Lions Eye Institute’s Outback Vision Van. The Lions Outback Vision team do amazing work to address the unique challenges of delivering quality specialist eye health care to the Pilbara, Kimberley, Goldfields, Midwest and Great Southern regions of Western Australia with the development and implementation of a truly innovative and sustainable model of service delivery.
Of particular note the Ocular Trauma: Secrets and Lies symposium, hosted by the Diversity & Inclusion Committee and Women in Ophthalmology (International) opened a fascinating conversation about the role of ophthalmology where issues are broader than just eye care. Varying presentations focussed on domestic or intimate-partner violence, child abuse and neglect, as well as considering the different issues that arise when managing trauma in rural and remote Australia. It was clear that with a significant portion of injuries sustained in these settings being eye-related, the need for understanding among ophthalmologists, as well as training in recognising when to be concerned is important.
Similarly, the Closing the Gap in Cataract Surgery for the Long-Term symposium offered an opportunity for a range of players in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health to share their experience and perspective. Inspiringly, all attendees were focussed on the end goal; to Close the Gap. Data shows that students who have experience in delivering eye care in rural and remote communities are more likely to practice in these areas of the country; and increasing these opportunities was an important element of the discussion.
This lead nicely into The Fred Hollows Foundation’s Fellowship get-together, where the opportunities afforded to those who undertake the Foundation’s fellowship program were highlighted.
Finally, we were pleased to be able to attend the launch of the 2017 Annual Update on the Implementation of The Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision, by the Hon. Fred Chaney AO. Associate Professor Mark Daniell, the President of RANZCO also spoke at the launch; and it was fantastic to see so many familiar faces in attendance. The event marked the sixth update of the Roadmap and provided an opportunity to acknowledge the great work being undertaken by all the organisations operating in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health.
Overall, however, the best part of Congress was seeing so many of Vision 2020 Australia’s members and other stakeholders in the same place. The RANZCO team did a wonderful job of ensuring attendees had more than enough time to catch-up, discuss what had been learned and share their experiences – making the trip on the Ophthalmology Express over to Perth well worth the journey.