President's Calling - Life in the Time of COVID-19

Published April 14, 2020

Life in the Time of COVID-19

Dear Academy Membership,

The pandemic continues. We are living with the unknown. Will I get sick? When will it end? When can I go back to practice? Will I graduate this year? So many fears. Health, the economy, and empty grocery shelves fill our thoughts. What is the worst scenario and what is the best outcome we can envision?
As we are forced into a secluded life, our profession needs to stay informed and connected. We must understand the ocular aspects of COVID-19. What about contact lens wear and conjunctivitis? What about hydroxychloroquine treatments?
We also need to envision practicing again. What will be best practice? How much protective gear will we need? How many patients will be allowed in the waiting room? Can all of the doctors work at the same time? How will we get supplies of PPE? How many times must a mask be changed? Will we need N95 masks? How much time is involved in getting that gear on and off and what is the cost?
We recognize that this is a fluid situation and that every bit of information can change. However, as is true in practice, where current evidence informs our decisions, we will move ahead based on science. Current information is the basis for all health care decisions.
To educate our members on these important matters, the Academy has formed a COVID-19 Task Force chaired by Dr. Jeff Walline. The members of the task force include:
  • Dr. Jeff Weaver (Public Health Section)
  • Dr. Cristina Schnider ( CCLRT Section)
  • Dr. Kathryn Richdale (Research Committee)
  • Dr. Walt Whitley (Anterior Segment Section)
  • Dr. Bisant Labib (Comprehensive Eye Care Section)
These volunteers have the important task of gathering the science related to COVID-19 and the eye and finding the important websites that will inform our members. To this end, they have worked to develop the COVID-Hub on the Academy website. This page provides resources for practitioners and the general public, as well as updates from our Industry Partners. Click here to begin accessing these great resources.
The Academy continues to monitor the pandemic on a daily basis. While the future is unclear, one thing is certain – we will have an annual meeting in 2020. We encourage you to bring your science, papers and posters for presentation at this year's Academy.Please continue to organize your lectures, symposia and workshops as well.
While we remain confident that we will be meeting in-person in Nashville for Academy 2020 from October 7-10, contingency plans are in place to host a virtual meeting or a combination of the two.We continue to work with the Music City Center, our major hotel and industry partners, and other associations who are keeping us apprised of their plans. We are particularly interested in the steps that are being taken to ensure the health and safety of everyone during our annual meeting.
This is a fluid situation and events may occur that positively or adversely impact our current planning. No matter, registration will open on May 12 and we are looking forward to seeing everyone this October in Nashville.
I would like to thank the COVID Task Force members for assembling so quickly and gathering scientific data to share. Additionally, I’d like to extend a HUGE thanks to our Academy volunteers who rallied to support our student education, SOCCEP program. I have listened to many of the presentations and found myself engaged and educated. The students have participated with enthusiasm.
Lastly, these efforts have made me reflect on one of our Strategic Plan Pillars: Leadership and Legacy. Academy Fellows are the embodiment of leadership. We practice at the highest level, we teach with enthusiasm and wisdom, we investigate with integrity. We also step up when times are tough. We selflessly help each other succeed. We share what we know. All of us should be very proud of these efforts.

Our Foundation is our foundation:
The Academy’s new strategic plan identified the need to build a financial bridge for clinician-scientists by collaborating with our Foundation. With fewer OD graduates pursuing PhDs, because of mounting educational debt, the Foundation is creating a training development scholarship program to help optometrists/residents pursue PhDs in vision science or a related biomedical science field. Thanks to your support, the Foundation is pursuing this and five other programs to benefit our profession and patients.

Barbara Caffery, OD, PhD, FAAO