AAO 2021 welcomes participants in person
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) annual meeting is online and will be held November 12-15 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The event will include subspecialty days and will also offer a virtual component.
According to Debra Rosencrance, vice president of meetings and exhibitions at AAO, after going completely virtual in 2020, the biggest thing attendees can expect at this year’s reunion is to be together.
âWe have noticed in our 2 recent in-person board meetings how much people enjoy being together,â she said. âWhile virtual offered the ability to see and hear great content, networking just isn’t the same online as it is in person. This includes the opportunity to walk on the exhibition floor and experience new technology. “
In New Orleans, AAO 2021 attendees can look forward to a new format based on strategic planning completed in early 2020.
âThe meeting was shortened by one day,â explained Rosencrance. âThe schedules of the sessions have been standardized to allow for more and longer breaks. The opening session is now Friday evening from 5 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. This recreated meeting format will provide more opportunities for more networking with colleagues or exhibitors. “
As the meeting will have a busy agenda, Rosencrance added that there will be plenty to pack for those attending in person, including the in-person experience.
âHallway conversations with colleagues, reuniting with friends, discussions about ophthalmic devices with exhibitors and listening to world-renowned experts covering all facets of ophthalmology [are all part of the experience], she stressed. âIt should be noted that this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Cataract Spotlight hosted by David F. Chang, MD, and Nicole Fram, MD. “
This popular and fast-paced symposium will focus on the complications of cataracts and feature many of the world’s leading eye surgeons.
Another popular item on the agenda each year is the Subspecialty Days, and with an array of subspecialties highlighted, Rosencrance noted that there was a lot to choose from.
âIn the retina, Mark Humayun, MD, [PhD,] will be giving the Charles L. Schepens lecture on retinal implants on Friday, and on Saturday there will be a discussion on artificial intelligence, âshe said. âIn glaucoma, there is a discussion about the lens of the eye and glaucoma as well as a MIGS [minimally invasive glaucoma surgery] case-based section. In the cornea, you can hear about the insect battle and therapies on the horizon.
In addition to retina, cornea and glaucoma, subspecialty days include neuro-ophthalmology, ocular oncology and pathology, ocular plastic surgery, pediatric ophthalmology and refractive surgery.
Rosencrance also noted that the American Academy of Ophthalmic Executives’ Practice Management Program will be the one-stop resource for ophthalmologists for their entire practice team.
âThere are classes on coding fundamentals, how to start a private practice, leadership skills, personal and professional finances, contracts and more,â she said.
Another key attraction will be the host city of New Orleans. Rosencrance expects attendees to enjoy all that the Big Easy has to offer.
âNew Orleans is always a hot spot, especially for American ophthalmologists,â she said. âThere is no other city like New Orleans, with its unique blend of southern hospitality, a rich history and world-class dining.â
The area was hit by Hurricane Ida in late August, but New Orleans did not suffer the damage seen in other areas and power was restored within weeks.
âThe central business district and the French quarter did not suffer significant damage from Ida,â Rosencrance noted. “Power has been restored much faster than expected, with 99% of the city already restored on September 13. Restaurants, hotels and attractions are open and ready for visitors.”
While Ida’s impact didn’t rock the boat for attendees, the COVID-19 pandemic will make its presence felt in many ways during the event.
According to Rosencrance, all attendees, including medical professionals, exhibitors and academy staff, will be required to show proof of vaccination to enter the convention center. The AAO will use the Clear Health Pass app.
“Participants will be able to take a picture of their vaccine cards to upload to the app,” she said. “Once [they have been] verified, the app will provide a green check mark which will be used to enter the convention center and to collect your badge. In addition, masks will be mandatory in the convention center. “
Rosencrance added that this year’s boardroom setup will also provide more physical distancing than usual.
As the academy returns to live meetings, Rosencrance said preparation can be a daunting task under normal circumstances. This year, she noted, it is difficult to estimate the number of participants due to various factors.
âA lot of crystal balls are blurry these days, but we’re forecasting a 30-40% drop from a normal year,â she concluded. “Of course we have financial benchmarks that we hope to achieve, but just being able to safely bring the eye community together again will be a huge success.”
Check back for AAO coverage during the conference and catch up on last year’s coverage here!