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International Keratoconus Academy of Eye Care Professionals: A historical perspective

Commentary
Article
Optometry Times JournalApril digital edition 2024
Volume 16
Issue 04

The collective enhances education, research, and quality of life.

Physician with hands around eye graphic in eye doctor's office Image Credit: AdobeStock/amedeoemaja

Image Credit: AdobeStock/amedeoemaja

Approximately 10 years ago, a small group of eye care professionals dedicated to advancing knowledge, information, and awareness pertaining to keratoconus management met at a national eye care meeting to explore how they might be able to achieve their mutual goals. From this informal meeting, the International Keratoconus Academy of Eye Care Professionals (IKA) was created. The ultimate outcome of this effort would be to improve care provided to patients with keratoconus by disseminating the most current information to all eye care providers (ECPs). The stated mission of IKA is to “promote and develop the knowledge base and awareness of the state of the art pertaining to the diagnosis and management of keratoconus and other forms of corneal ectasia.”

The initial IKA executive board was formed and consisted of optometrists and ophthalmologists:S. Barry Eiden, OD, FAAO, FSLS, who is cofounder, first president, and current CEO; Andrew Morgenstern, OD, FAAO, FNAP, who is cofounder and current president; William J. Tullo, OD, FAAO; Clark Chang, OD, MSA, MSc, FAAO; Timothy T. McMahon, OD, FAAO; John Gelles, OD, FIAO, FCLSA, FSLS, FBCLA; Loretta Szczotka-Flynn, OD, PhD; Joseph Barr, OD, MS, FAAO (now emeritus);William Trattler, MD; Vance Thompson, MD; Elizabeth Yeu, MD; and Yaron Rabinowitz, MD. Once established, the IKA executive board reached out to some of the most highly respected individuals involved in keratoconus clinical treatment, education, and research in order to create a comprehensive and interprofessional medical advisory board. Funding for IKA via sponsorship support from related industry was critical in the initial and ongoing success of the organization. Each of the executive board members took personal responsibility to reach out to people they knew in the industry to establish ongoing financial support.

Education

With ECP education as the cornerstone of IKA’s mission, initial efforts were expressed at multiple national eye care conferences (Optometry’s Meeting, American Academy of Optometry, Global Specialty Lens Symposium, etc). IKA board members and medical advisory members presented numerous lectures on the importance of early diagnosis and treatment. Subsequent educational developments grew into the IKA webinar series (led by Gelles, IKA’s educational director), cosponsored educational events such as those done with Woo University (organized by IKA medical advisory board member Stephanie Woo, OD), and industry-supported educational efforts such as the Keratoconus Essentials Program produced with support from Glaukos. In 2022, IKA members were invited to present at the annual AAO 2 AAO joint Optometry/Ophthalmology Symposium on Keratoconus presented at both academy meetings with the same 3 optometrists and ophthalmologists. Ultimately, these highly desired educational efforts grew into a stand-alone keratoconus meeting. The annual IKA Keratoconus Symposium: Front to Back and Everything in Between began with its first event in April 2023 in Scottsdale, Arizona, with great success. Many of the most highly respected clinicians and researchers in the field of keratoconus participated in this global educational forum. Because of the resounding success and outpouring of requests for more, the second annual IKA Keratoconus Symposium will be held on May 18 and 19 in Bethesda, Maryland.

Research

Another key pillar of IKA’s mission includes clinical research aimed at directly improving quality of life for those with keratoconus. As disease detection technology improved, more and more pediatric cases seemed to appear in all our clinics. As evidence from recent case investigations suggested that the prevalence of keratoconus was significantly higher than classically reported, IKA had to intervene. We knew the disease was now quite apparent in the pediatric population, but because there were no existing reliable studies, no one knew how prevalent it was. Additionally, understanding the true prevalence of the condition can help health care providers allocate resources more effectively and develop better screening programs for populations at risk. Based on the understanding that early identification and diagnosis of keratoconus lead to earlier intervention and treatment to preserve best corrected vision, IKA began developing a clinical research study of the prevalence of keratoconus in a pediatric population in 2017. In collaboration with the Illinois College of Optometry and its pediatric eye clinic, both in Chicago, a large-scale, observational, prospective study of keratoconus prevalence based on highly sensitive diagnostic screening using Scheimpflug corneal tomography (OCULUS Pentacam Optikgeräte GmbH) was performed. More than 4000 pediatric participants aged 3 to 18 years from an urban population were screened. Outcomes from the study applying sensitive and specific tomographic data analysis have recently been published by lead author and IKA medical advisory board member Jennifer Harthan, OD, FAAO, FSLS. Results showed that keratoconus prevalence in a pediatric population is also much higher than previously thought. Considering our ability to halt disease progression with corneal cross-linking, findings from this study emphasize the importance of early diagnosis through the application of sensitive advanced technologies. The results and implications of this seminal study will likely have significant impact on standards of care regarding pediatric eye care going forward.

Future educational efforts by IKA will emphasize work with students and residents in both optometry and ophthalmology. IKA currently offers all students and residents complimentary registration to all their educational events, including attendance at the IKA Keratoconus Symposium. Further development of relationships between IKA and these future eye care professionals is considered of utmost importance by IKA leadership. Additionally, in our ongoing support of those who protect us, IKA provides free registration to all events for all active-duty service members, military veterans, and federal service ECPs.

Improved quality of life

IKA was established as a resource of eye care professionals; however, collaboration with patient-centric organizations and groups has also developed over the years. The National Keratoconus Foundation (NKCF) is highly regarded as a patient advocacy resource for individuals who experience keratoconus. IKA has participated in numerous ways with NKCF to bridge the gap between the physician and patient. At the annual IKA Keratoconus Symposium, there is a session called “Keratoconus From the Patient’s Perspective” in which NKCF and IKA connect patients and ECPs. Over the past few years, several social media groups of patients with keratoconus have formed. IKA will often comment on these sites when patients pose clinical questions or concerns. IKA also uses these platforms to invite patients and their families to attend various virtual and life educational events.

IKA invites all eye care professionals to attend the upcoming IKA Keratoconus Symposium either in person or online. Also, those with interest in keratoconus are invited to become members of IKA. Membership is complimentary due to the support of our IKA industry sponsors.

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