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SECO Southern welcome: Karen Sparrow, head of professional development for the ADP, reports on the annual SECD conference, which took place in the US last month.

THE 92nd annual meeting of SECO International took place in Atlanta, Georgia, last month (March 4-8), attracting over 7,000 optometrists, opticians and optical professionals. Held at the Georgia World Congress Center, SECO 2015 Education Destination 'Where sight meets vision' welcomed more than 100 world-class speakers presenting over 370 hours of education, including a selection of GOC CET approved sessions, thanks to the long standing partnership between SECO and the AOP. The event offered delegates an opportunity to catch up with old friends and colleagues, as well as taking in some great education.

President of SECO International, Dr James Herman, told delegates that he was excited about the educational programme, commenting: "It will provide professionals with continuing education that meets today's needs, while pushing the boundaries of optometric practice" He added: "SECO has always been a visionary in our profession and once again provides cutting-edge optometric education that draws attendees from around the globe and prepares them to deliver the best possible patient care."

A new feature this year was an opportunity to join the International Leadership Forum, made up of representatives from the AOP, the World Council of Optometry, American Optometric Association (AOA), and other organisations from around the world.

The forum was one of the highlights for optometrist Alison McClune, an AOP Board member and co-chair of the Optical Confederation's education committee.

Ms McClune commented: "It was a great addition [to the programme]--it will be interesting to see how this develops in the future."

UK independent prescribing (IP) optometrist and AOP and Local Optical Committee Support Unit Board member, Jane Bell, said: "It is always interesting to mingle with other international delegates as well as having the opportunity for in depth discussions about the similarities and differences in eye health care in the US and UK."

She added: "There are particular issues in the US currently with regard to the introduction of electronic patient records (EPR). Legislation has been passed to say that all health care professionals should be using the same EPR system, yet there are at least four different systems that have been developed by different software companies."

Delegates at the event were spoilt for choice, with more than 120 sessions to choose from. Topics ranged from future technology, such as Google Glass and clinical imaging with a smartphone, to understanding autism and managing patients with multiple sclerosis.


Opening the education programme on Wednesday morning, Dr David Masihdas, of Utah Eye Associates in Salt Lake City, had an unusual approach to diabetes control in Beyond retinopathy: destructive effects of diabetes. Telling delegates, "don't let them get away with it," Dr Masihdas recommended asking diabetic patients who say their lifestyle or health does not allow them to exercise if they can walk from the television to the kitchen and, if so, to do this several times in every television commercial break.

Highlighted 'Special sessions' enabled keynote speakers to cover new and familiar topics, including New angles on glaucoma, with Dr Murray Fingeret, chief of optometry at VA New York Harbor Healthcare System, and Dr David Friedman, from John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Dr Friedman emphasised how patient-centred care allows patients to make the best choices for themselves. As clinicians, we are not good at letting patients tell us they are having problems so we should adjust our communication style, he said.

He also asked "how much visual field loss is 'disabling?'" and recommended that patients should be asked about whether they drive or go out alone. Delegates heard that reading is the most commonly reported visual problem and is more easily detected with silent reading than reading out loud and can be seen even in patients with early glaucoma.

Commenting on the session, one particular pearl of wisdom for Ms Bell was "tipping the OCT/HRT optic disc nerve Analysis you start nasally rather than temporally, as that gives more information about the temporal rim where damage is more likely to occur in early glaucoma."


Dr Terry Kim, from Duke University Hospital in North Carolina, brought cutting-edge presentation style and social media into his session, Cutting edge cornea. He opened with a selfie ("so my children believe I'm here") and told the audience he DJs for the American Cornea Society conference plus he would slip in some YouTube videos to "keep them awake" for his two-hour talk.

Ms McClune spoke for a lot of delegates in saying: "Dr Kim was amazing."

More video clips followed in The future of cataract surgery, featuring Dr Brett Fisher of the Eye Center of North Florida, and Dr Lawrence Woodard of Omni Eye Services in Atlanta. The cataract experts urged delegates not to abdicate post-surgical care and closed with a description of the tiniest surgical body implants now used to micro-stent Schlemm's canal.

Dr Kimberly Reed, a previous AOP/SECO London 2014 therapeutics seminar speaker, moderated the final lecture on the role of Incorporating nutrition in clinical practice, which highlighted the advantages, but also the pitfalls, of supplements for eye health. Ms McClune particularly enjoyed this session and came away with "generally the feeling that the UK is closing the gap a bit on US optometry. The gap seems less [now] than two years ago."

Attending her first SECO, Bristol optometrist, Jenifer Ogidi, said: "Having qualified last year as an IP optometrist, I was keen to gain an insight into therapeutics for American optometrists and how it has expanded the scope of their practice in comparison to optometrists in the UK.

"It was really encouraging to see the broad scope of practice that the therapeutics qualified optometrist in the US could undertake. Their scope has extended from managing basic red eye to managing corneal diseases such as herpes simplex, herpes zoster and keratitis and, in some States, they are also able to carry out most laser treatments for glaucoma management."


It's not just qualified optometrists who attend SECO; the student programme attracts hundreds of optometry students who get complimentary access to the education programme, encouraged by a small travel bursary and, of course, a student party, sponsored this year by Hoya.

SECO wouldn't be SECO without extending its warm Southern welcome and hosting a number of social events. Incoming president, Dr Stan Dickerson, said: "When you come to a SECO meeting, you can network with colleagues from literally all over the United States and numerous foreign countries. You can talk shop, politics, sports, travel, and family. You name it. In some ways it doesn't really matter. At the end of the day, we are a stronger, more cohesive profession because of these interactions. The importance of these collegial relationships should not be under estimated."

After four days of intensive continuing education it was time to relax and enjoy the 'Saturday Night, Under the Lights' party. Sponsored by Essilor, the Tennessee Association of Optometric Physicians and the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, the event was held at Atlanta's newest attraction--the College Football Hall of Fame--with live music to entertain the delegates.

In addition to a comprehensive education programme, SECO has a large exhibition with more than 200 industry-leading companies. The exhibition hall was buzzing throughout the meeting, with delegates visiting the stands and accessing the 'Advanced Media Learning Center' featuring 100 multimedia educational posters. SECO kept on giving this year, with its new online offering--SECO University--to provide education access throughout the year to optometrists around the world.

At SECO's AGM, a long-time friend of the AOP was honoured as 'Optometrist of the South' 2015, SECO's highest honour.

Dr Richard Phillips has been practising optometry for more than 30 years and has served as the president of the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis since 2007, coincidentally where past chair of the AOP Board, David Shannon studied optometry.

Dr Phillips has also published many articles and has lectured internationally on the subject of refractive surgery. Dr Joe Ellis,

AOA past president, said: "Dr Phillips has been an outstanding supporting force in our profession." Dr Ellis added: "He is a great example of an optometrist who is dedicated to advancing our profession."

SECO was once again a valuable education meeting as well as fun too. Ms Ogidi summed it up: "It wasn't all work and I found the networking and social aspects of the conference quite refreshing albeit different with the American touch. I really enjoyed the conference and I would recommend it both from an educational, networking and relaxation perspective."

SECO 2016 will be held in Atlanta, February 24-28. For more information visit
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Author:Sparrow, Karen
Publication:Optometry Today
Article Type:Conference notes
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 4, 2015
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