AAOMC is focusing on new membership growth, diversity, and how they can continue to move the needle in myopia management.
Cheryl Chapman, OD, FIOMC, caught up with Optometry Times®' assistant managing editor Emily Kaiser Maharjan to talk about the American Academy of Orthokeratology and Myopia Control (AAOMC), and hit on highlights from this year's Vision By Design meeting, which is hosted by the AAOMC.
Editor's note: This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Emily Kaiser Maharjan:
Hi, everyone. I'm Emily Kaiser Maharjan, assistant managing editor of Optometry Times, and I'm sitting down with Dr. Cheryl Chapman, president of the American Academy of Orthokeratology and Myopia Control (AAOMC), to talk about Vision By Design, which is hosted by the AAOMC. Welcome, Dr. Chapman; it's so wonderful to have you.
Cheryl Chapman, OD, FIOMC:
Thank you for having me.
Yeah, we're excited to chat. So first, can you tell us a little bit about Vision By Design? What sets this meeting apart from the crowd?
Always happy to talk about Vision By Design. It is the conference—anybody who wants to do myopia management, whether it's ortho-k, or just to have really comprehensive knowledge, it's definitely the conference to go to.
And it's particularly near and dear to my heart, because it's where I got my start. I recall asking a doctor who had been talking about myopia control, at the time—because that was the trending term—I remember asking him, "Where can I go to learn more about this?" after hearing his passion, and he said to me, "Vision By Design. And I went; it was about a month later, I blocked my schedule off, I booked my tickets, I registered, got the hotel, went to Vision By Design, and it 100% changed my career trajectory. And it's my favorite thing that I do now.
And so I just feel really fortunate that the AAOMC exists. And I feel really fortunate of all the time that was put in by those original founders to create such an amazing education. Because there really, truly is nothing else in the field like it. Vision By Design specifically is intended to be free of bias. So you don't have anybody promoting any particular agenda, which I think is really a catalyst for growth and knowledge and the science behind it.
Gosh, we just learned something new every year. And it's such a changing subspecialty because there are so many new studies that are coming out all the time. And it's very hard to stay abreast of all of that by yourself. So having the support of a network like AAOMC to help bring us that education, and you know, put it into digestible bits and just like feed us in our inboxes and feed us at conferences, in ways that we can absorb all this knowledge and find the clinical relevance, I mean, I just feel so lucky that our profession has this. And so I'm very happy to be a part of it so that I can help bring it to other doctors and help grow the passion.
Absolutely. And myopia control is such a developing topic, and it's such a hot topic across all of eye care, that it's so cool that it has its own meeting.
It is really interesting, because it's caught on. So the history of orthokeratology, if you go back to the late 90s, early 2000s, the doctors who were doing it at that time, were so so obscure. People would look at them and be like, "Really you're doing that? I don't know about that." They were they were the guys who had people kind of side eyeing them. And now they're the pioneers. Like we all look up to them. And we're like, oh my gosh, thank goodness, you stuck to your guns, against all odds against doubt against people maybe wondering if you were doing the right thing. Because look at where it has brought us today.
And I do really feel like this is going to be a legacy of optometry. Something that we do. We're at such a turning point in history, the treatment for myopia I think it's going to be something that we can look back on generations from now and say we did that.
Absolutely. I totally agree. And do you have any favorite presentations from the 2023 Vision by Design meeting?
It's so hard to decide, because really the quality of education, I have never seen anything like it before. And I'm saying that, of course I'm representing the AAOMC right now, but I'm also saying that as somebody who went through it as a new attendee at one point in time—I had never felt so engaged. You're sitting there and you just have all this stuff being thrown at you. I remember, like literally getting writer's cramp, I was taking so many notes. And now people are getting carpal tunnel on screens now. But so engaging.
One that sticks out to me in particular, in the Scientific Session, Dr. Maria Liu from Berkeley's myopia management clinic. She talked about axial length, and she gave an example of how—and I've, for a long time, I've just thought the longer the eye the worse and that makes sense. But she talked about when the eye grows, like at what age that person is when their eye grows, and relative to their overall height and their overall corneal diameter. And she had an example of a patient who had a pretty flat K and a pretty large diameter, cornea, and a 26 millimeter eye and his prescription was Plano. And then she said, who's at higher risk: him with that 26 millimeter eye and Plano prescription, or this short 24 millimeter eye minus three. And the answer in my mind was the 26 millimeter eye, but the answer in reality was the 24 millimeter eye because of the other factors that were involved.
And so that kind of blew my mind. And it's amazing because she's on the forefront of a lot of the research, and I thought that was just really exciting. And it's just one example of learning something new every single time I go, no matter how much I know, there's always something new to be learned.
Yeah, that's absolutely fascinating. That's so interesting. So what's in the plans for 2024?
So I'm very excited for 2024, because we have such an active and engaged Board of Directors and Advisory Board. We've come together, talking a lot about what was most well received, what are ideas that we can implement in the next one.
One thing that we did this time was we had a ball at the end, it was like a banquet, and it was our Ortho-k Pearls Ball and everybody dressed in white. And it was just a super fun way to end the conference. Very well attended, very good vibe, so much fun. And we definitely want to repeat that next year.
We are looking at our agenda, like where's the best time to schedule things. And so I think we're going to do it a little bit earlier in the program so that doctors are able to attend not having to worry about, you know, catching a flight or whatever. And since we're in Dallas, I think we're gonna go with some sort of a cowgirls/cowboys theme. And I think there's already a lot of excitement about that.
We're also looking really strongly at doing some more specialized tracks on fitting ortho-k. I think as an association, we have recognized that we need to be fully encompassing of all of myopia management; we need atropine and we need soft lenses, but the reality is that the roots of our organization really comes from ortho-k. And nobody else can do ortho-k like we can. It's just the the level of intelligence in the room with regards to everything ortho-k is out of this world. And so we don't want to get too far away from that, either.
I think what we're going to do is we're going to have some ortho-k specific tracks that will be part of the conference tracks, and we are planning to have a beginner's ortho-k fitting track, and an advanced like fellowship level ortho-k fitting track, and we have a need for both. And so I personally am extremely excited about that. Because even though I do a lot of ortho-k and I've accomplished some hard fits, there's always more to learn. And so for me, being able to see the way other doctors handle some of that more advanced stuff is going to be a really, really good time.
Absolutely. That sounds so so cool. Is there anything else that AAOMC is working on right now that you want to promote?
Well, yes, Emily, thank you for asking.
So one of the things that we talked about in our membership meeting was an agenda item that our board of directors has been working on in terms of creating these local regional events. And so we have a committee that has been formed, and has been working really hard behind the scenes. But it's also now to the point where they're starting to launch; we've selected some pilot cities, and we're going to have just like a 2 hour evening event. And the goal is to create sort of a protocol, sort of a recipe card, that can be replicated in cities all over throughout our network to just help give doctors some engagement opportunities that are in between the annual conference times.
It's really important for us to make sure that we give those doctors that support to keep the fire alive to keep the excitement. So we have announced that our pilot cities are New York, Miami, and Toronto. But if that's not your city, don't be disappointed, we are definitely working on adding more cities in the very, very near near future.
One of the other initiatives that we've been working on that we were so excited to announce this year, was an educational certification for staff members. This August [we] launched an online boot camp for staff members. Staff members that go through that online boot camp have an opportunity to take certification testing, and when they pass that they have a certification called certified "myopia navigator." So I think the advantage of that is not only that they can show some credibility, it's something that offices can use to help promote their practices. But also when your staff goes through that process and gains that extra knowledge. Having a member on staff that knows that much is so valuable because they can really handle a lot of patient questions and they can help go through the process of insertion, removal, training, and care and handling and phone questions when people are calling to see legible. So we feel like that's an extremely valuable membership benefit that we've been able to roll out for our members.
We also have a new certification for doctors called IACMM. And that stands for "International Academy Certified Myopia Manager." So that's a doctor level certification and the doctors who hold that certification have proven competence in all areas of myopia management, whether it's atropine or soft lenses or kind of basic level ortho-k. You don't have to be fellowship level. And we created that level of certification because we understand that not all doctors are fellowship level ortho-k fitters, and so we see it as a stepping stone. So we we find that to be really valuable membership benefit.
Another thing that our board of directors and advisory board is working on is just our membership drive. So our theme for 2024 is "inclusivity." It was brought to my attention that a lot of newer doctors who have not been a part of the AAOMC, or maybe they are, but they haven't really been very active, they're very intimidated by older members that have been doing it for a long time. Like, they look at them and say, "Oh my gosh, I'm afraid to even ask a question in front of these guys, because I'm afraid that it will be a stupid question," or "I just don't even know what questions to ask." And so the reality is that it's a very welcoming environment. But if you haven't been there in person, you may not understand that.
And so we want to spread that message of inclusivity because we not only want, but we also need the new members, because they're the future of our organization. And I personally believe that the more we can rise up with those younger members, the stronger we can become in terms of our financial health, and our ability to put on even greater conferences with even more interesting tracks and even more interesting speakers. So it's a big push to make sure that we spread that message and give that feeling of inclusivity.
Absolutely. And that's so important to do to make sure everybody feels welcome. And it's the best way to kind of push the science forward, as well. So absolutely. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to chat today, Dr. Chapman, it's been so fun to talk about AAOMC and Vision By Design.
Thank you, Emily. I appreciate your time.