President's Calling - International Presence Within the Academy

Published December 18, 2017

December 2017

International Presence Within the Academy

Each year, the Academy seems to have a bigger international group of participants. There is growing annual meeting attendance from abroad, international applications for Fellowship increase each year, and participation in the science program and number of journal submissions continue to expand. Outreach from the Academy, spearheaded by my predecessors, in particular our immediate past president Brett Bence, has been instrumental in bringing new members, annual meeting attendees and researchers from abroad into the Academy fold.

As Brett pointed out in one his President’s Calling from January 2015, “The roots of this compelling international growth may be traced back to our Academy international meetings which took place every two years between 1992 and 2004.” This is where many of our close associations and affiliations first took place from countries such as Germany, England, Denmark, Australia, Spain, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, all locations where meetings were held. In addition, the Academy has had a close relationship with the European Academy of Optometry and Optics (EAOO). We hold a reception each year at their meeting. In May 2018, their meeting will be in Croatia.

As we have mentioned in past President’s Callings, our working relationship with the World Council of Optometry (WCO) is quite obvious. Academy board member, Tim McMahon, has served as our liaison and has worked hard to build a close rapport with this international group, and we continue to strive for a close working relationship. A good example of this is the recent agreement between our Academy and the WCO to hold a joint meeting in Orlando of Academy 2019 and the 3rd World Congress. It should be a colossal meeting with incredible international attendance! We look forward to an outstanding shared experience of great education and camaraderie.

Let’s examine some of the highlights of international participation that directly affect us.

  • The number of new international Fellows has grown by 34% the past decade.
  • International attendance at the annual meeting has increased by 49% over the past 10 years. Academy 2017 Chicago had an impressive 648 international attendees.
  • 10% of our new 2017 Fellowship class (28) hailed from abroad.
  • A significant number of exhibitors from international companies were in attendance in Chicago and the number is expected to grow for Academy 2018 San Antonio.

Our journal, Optometry and Vision Science, continues to receive a significant number of international manuscript submissions – many times exceeding 50% per year! I think this speaks volumes for our stature and evolving role in the scientific community. Kudos to our journal editors, Drs. Twa, Mutti and Mick and their predecessors, Drs. Adams and Bullimore, for recognizing the importance of international participation. We also have several journal editorial board members and reviewers from outside the United States. It is not surprising that our journal continues to receive requests for translation into other languages.

Many wonderful changes have taken place over the past few years relative to international participation within the Academy. I especially thank Brett Bence, and all those who served admirably before him who encouraged international participation, for their foresight and desire to expand international presence within the Academy. I am thankful for the many international attendees, Fellows, and researchers who help make the Academy what it is – a strong, vibrant organization representing optometry and vision science.

One of my holiday wishes is to see all of you in San Antonio! Mark your calendar for November 7-10, 2018. San Antonio offers one of the country’s most spectacular convention centers, with convenient hotels within walking distance, with the world-famous River Walk just steps away, and with exceptional restaurants, shopping and entertainment options.

Wishing everyone a happy holiday season and a healthy and prosperous New Year!


Joseph P. Shovlin, OD, FAAO