President's Calling - Coming Out of the Fog

Published May 26, 2020

Coming Out of the Fog

Dear Academy Membership,

It is May of 2020, spring has arrived, and the fog is beginning to lift. We have been shrouded in a global human tragedy. We have stumbled through the stages of grief: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, and depression. We have been stunned by the arithmetic of death. But change is afoot and the fog is beginning to lift.
The virus itself will carry on, performing its stealthy dance through summer and fall, the trajectory only known after the fact. We are learning on the fly. But our minds, our activities, and our amazing human ability to adapt are starting to awaken. As Camus said in The Plague, “What we learn in time of pestilence is that there are more things to admire in men than to despise.”
Already we have learned to maneuver a sidewalk, dipping, and crossing to maintain physical space. This we now do on auto-pilot, like driving a car. Our peripheral retinas have rediscovered people-sensors that were unnecessary pre-COVID-19. We are more familiar with suiting up in scrubs, donning masks, washing our hands like surgeons; easily and religiously. It is second nature now, like brushing our teeth.
We’ve learned other lessons. The most shocking to me was to understand the power of our voices. Even a phone call makes a huge difference to a patient’s wellbeing. We are so much more than gatherers of data. We are teachers and counselors, assurers, and soothers. We have learned the value of telehealth.
The pandemic has also taught us that the delivery of healthcare should and must change. Questions need to be answered. Who do we need to see in person and how often?What can we diagnose and treat by video? This analysis is essential to our future. We need not be afraid of it.
As part of the public health community, we have used our scientific minds to understand the facts of this virus. We have recognized our role in protecting ourselves, our patients, and the public. We realize the importance of speaking scientific truths, including what is not known. We are coming out of the fog.
Through all of this, your Academy continues to lead. We are proud of the student education program that our staff and generous members put together instantly. We have posted every bit of COVID-19 eye-related science we can find on our COVID Hub. We created a series of informational lectures, the star of which was the donning and doffing of protective gear.
While maintaining an optimistic view, we march forward, believing that our meeting in Nashville will provide a time to reunite. However, this remains fluid and to complement the on-site meeting, a virtual meeting is being planned and details will be forthcoming.
But of this we are sure… the pandemic does not diminish the Academy's Vision, Mission, and Values. Excellence in eye care does not fade because we are hidden behind masks, scrubs, and gloves. Providing exceptional education, supporting innovative research, and disseminating knowledge that improves patient care will continue; whether we sit in a room together or gather online.

Our Foundation is our foundation:
One of the five pillars of the Academy’s new strategic plan is Research. The Academy recognizes that the road to improved patient care is forged by the translation of new research into optometric practice. Our Foundation is developing a program to stimulate novel exploratory projects in specific areas of optometric interest through pilot funding. We are forming collaborations with our traditional research partners, and now, for the first time, technology firms, to explore areas of mutual interest. Thanks to you, the Foundation will continue to facilitate the bench-to-chairside research that enriches this profession and improves patient care.

Barbara Caffery, OD, PhD, FAAO