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Virtual conferences not filling the gap of in-person meetings


It has been an incredible time for all of us. Besides the social distancing, extra personal protective equipment, Payback Protection Program (PPP) loans, and incredibly light schedules, the psychology of the pandemic has been intense. I needed a mental break from it all, and I got just that recently.

I recently attended the Georgia Optometric Association (GOA) annual conference. Rather than packing up and driving to the beach with the family, my dad and I grabbed a couple of beers and sat down in front of a computer.

Related: Biggest challenges facing optometry schools and students

Virtual meeting

Of course, it wasn’t the same. I will say, however, that the GOA did the best job it could given these unprecedented circumstances. Our longstanding emcee, Bob McCullough, OD, did another terrific job of presiding over the evening while telling some of the worst jokes humankind has ever heard. Mehrdad Saadat, OD, gave an excellent recap of our last 12 months before being elected to the highly coveted position of immediate past president of the GOA. After becoming the newly elected GOA president, Jeanne Perrine, OD, gave an inspiring speech charging us with the task of getting more ODs involved with organized optometry, and we even had none other than American Optometric Association (AOA) President Barbara Horn, OD, on hand for the swearing in of the newly elected officers.

I left the meeting feeling more energized about optometry in general, and I also left feeling a little heartbroken that it has been so long since I have laid in-person eyes on my optometry family—and it is a family. The GOA really is just one big family. We get together whenever we can. We would do anything for one another. We agree on things and get them done. We argue, sometimes at length, as we strive to reach common ground on concerns. Hats off to Bryan and the GOA staff for pulling off a real winner—albeit a virtual one.

Related: Telemedicine in the face of COVID-19

Back together

So, when will our family convene in person again? We have all heard many, many opinions on the matter. I can also tell you that, out of all the chatter I have heard in the media regarding this question, very little of it has come out of the mouths of actual epidemiologists. So, who knows?

I hope it’s soon because I miss you all. I miss seeing you in the hallways between lectures. I miss trading drink tickets at happy hours. I miss catching up. I miss the experience of seeing someone across the room for the first time in a year and the two of us immediately starting to laugh about some funny experience that may have happened years ago. I hope to see colleagues in person soon. However, I will say that Dr. McCullough’s terrible jokes really did help take the edge off.

In the meantime, hang in there, everybody. Continue to follow the science and be confident that every day brings us one day closer to shaking hands.

More by Dr. Casella: Physical and psychological changes of opening post COVID-19

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