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The light of optometry shines brightly at AAOpt


The 2023 American Academy of Optometry annual meeting showcased excellent science and insightful education.

(Adobe Stock / Kevin Ruck)

(Adobe Stock / Kevin Ruck)

From October 11-14, 2023, the city of New Orleans played host to hordes of optometrists as the convention center filled with bright minds presenting the best research of the year at the American Academy of Optometry (AAOpt) annual meeting.

Editors asked nearly ever presenter about the future of their specialty. “The future of optometry is bright,” was the nearly universal answer. Promising clinical trial results, innovative exam and contact lens fitting techniques, as well as a larger focus on whole-person wellness have shaped optometry into the exciting industry it is today.

Ahead of headlining the meeting Dennis Pardo, OD, MPH, FAAO, LCSW, and Jeffrey Walline, OD, PhD, spoke to Optometry Times on topics covered in the plenary session, “Mental Health in Optometry,” which was presented by keynote speaker Brandon Marshall and supported by Pardo and Walline as well as Bernadette Melnyk.

“Optometry by and large is a very happy profession; we help people see better, but we also deliver bad news,” said Pardo. “We have to give a diagnosis sometimes, unfortunately, of a sight-threatening condition. We’re also mandated reporters if we suspect abuse. And so there are a lot of psychological issues that we just don’t get adequate training on. So I tried to fill that niche. And it’s become really, really successful. I’m very passionate about this topic, and [am] so thrilled that the Academy deems it important enough to make it the plenary.”

Contact lenses and presbyopia correction

Shalu Pal, BSc, OD, FAAO, chats about fitting soft, gas permeable, scleral, and hybrid lenses based on her AAOpt ACE course she presented alongside her ACE course, “Multifocal Fitting Tips for Soft, GP, Scleral and Hybrid Lenses,” which she presented alongside Melissa Barnett, OD, FAAO, FSLS, FBCLA.

“With respect to multifocal I think the future lies in customization,” said Pal. “With every modality that’s available to us, we’re able to do so much right now. But each year that passes, there’s more and more that we’re able to do from new extended ranges, new designs and curvatures. You know the concept of higher order aberrations and correcting for decentered optics. All of these are just going to just continue to elevate and make the multifocal fitting process even easier than it is right now.”

Expanding beyond contact lenses, Jacob R. Lang, OD, FAAO, weighed in on presbyopia-correcting drops. He presented a poster entitled, “Persistence of Near Vision Improvement and Pupil Size: Results of the Pooled (NEAR) Phase 3 Studies of CSF-1 (0.4% pilocarpine HCl) for Presbyopia,” details data on Orasis’s presbyopia-correcting drop (Qlosi), which was approved by the FDA in October. Andrew D. Pucker, OD, PhD, FAAO, FSLS, FBCLA, shared highlights from his poster, “Frequency of Successfully Bringing Contact Lens Dropouts Back into a Modern Daily Disposable Contact Lens at 6-Months.” He reported that 80% of patients fitted in Dailies Total 1 contact lenses (Alcon) were still wearing them after 6 months, despite dropping out of contact lens wear previously.

Karen G. Carrasquillo, OD, PhD, FAAO, FSLS, FBCLA, Senior Vice President of Clinical Professional Affairs at BostonSight, shared brief overviews of her presentation, “Suction-busting scleral lenses: A guide to unsticking your lenses” and “Social determinants of health impacting the Latinx community.”

“Educating the optometric community about cultural competence and ways that we can have a better impact with our Latino patients is very significant to drive better health outcomes and preventive care for the Latino community,” Carrasquillo said.

Dry eye

The offerings on dry eye and anterior segment disease were varied and interesting. Tracy Doll, OD, FAAO, presented, “Anterior Segment Symposium: Drop, Pulse, Cut or Implant? Next Generation Optometry,” alongside Vin Dang, OD, FAAO; Mila Ioussifova, OD, FAAO; and Sophia Leung, OD, FAAO, Dipl ABO. Doll also participated in the weather-themed “Sunny With a Chance of Tears: What’s in the Forecast for Ocular Surface Dryness Therapies?” Dressed as the four seasons, co-presenters Ioussifova; Lisa Hornick, OD, MBA, FAAO; and Pamela E. Theriot, OD, FAAO; discussed what is in the pipeline for dry eye disease.

“There are a lot of big decisions to be made in pharma and there’s a lot of things that are right around the corner, which are going to become available to us,” said Doll. “It’s been a pretty exciting year when it comes to pharma and technology in the realm of dry eye, so we’re super excited to let everyone know what’s happening right now.”

Additionally, Sight Sciences announced successful 6-month, phase 1 results from the SAHARA clinical trial at the American Academy of Optometry annual meeting as well. Marc R. Bloomenstein, OD, FAAO, Director of Optometric Services, Schwartz Laser Eye Center, and a principal investigator for the SAHARA clinical trial, reported the results on behalf of the company.

Glaucoma & lasers

Nate Lighthizer, OD, presented 3 talks on lasers in optometry, all of which hoped to instill confidence in optometrists who wish to use lasers in-office.

“You know, some of us specialize in contact lenses, private practice, the business side, vision therapy, and pediatrics. So not everybody’s going to want to do laser procedures. But for those that do, they’re well qualified to do these laser privileges,” said Lighthizer.

Mitch Ibach, OD, FAAO, with Vance Thompson Vision, talked about some recent glaucoma treatment options. “One of the best and my favorite things about glaucoma treatments is we’re kind of undergoing this renaissance of new treatment options and modalities for our patients,” Ibach said.

The future of eye care seems to be shining as brightly as ever, and it is largely due to optometrists asking the right questions and pushing for answers. The industry, and its patients, are better for it.

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