Meetings, Meetings, Meetings

Retina specialists’ calendars are filled with meetings. Given your busy schedule as a young retina specialist, which meetings should you attend?

By Allen Ho, MD; Sunir Garg, MD; and Richard Kaiser, MD

Attending meetings occupies weekends that could be spent with family or enjoying hobbies. Travel siphons clinical hours, restricting patients’ access to care. And although racking up those airline miles might seem like fun, jet-setting from city to city starts to take a toll on your bank account.

We are not, as much as we may like to think we are, omnipotent. Young retina specialists must weigh the benefits and costs of major retina meetings to decide which events fit their needs. Below, three retina mentors from Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia—Allen Ho, MD; Sunir Garg, MD; and Richard Kaiser, MD—share their thoughts on some major retina meetings.

—Allen Chiang, MD


Associate Professor of Ophthalmology,Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, PA

Meetings covered:
• The Retina Society
• The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO)

How is this meeting different from other meetings?

The Retina Society

This is a fantastic meeting that has a surgical bent featuring attendees and presenters who have remained academically productive.

Normally, 5 to 7 minutes are allocated for each presentation, but, importantly, there are usually a few minutes dedicated to discussion, which is often as enlightening as the presentation itself. The give-and-take is not only thought-provoking and informative, but can also be a lot of fun.

Another benefit: the wonderful social events held at beautiful museums or famous buildings I would otherwise not have the opportunity to see. When a function is at the museum, I get alone time with magnificent works of art without peering over the shoulders of five other people as I might do during normal business hours.


ARVO is one of the most high-yield meetings I attend in terms of time spent at the meeting and information learned.

During an hour at most meetings, I’m lucky to hear six talks, some of which may cover material with which I’m familiar. One of the great things about ARVO is that there are literally thousands of posters set up in the exhibit hall. I can walk through the poster area at my own pace. If a topic interests me, I stop and spend more time on it. I find it to be extraordinarily time efficient.

One of the other things I like about the meeting is the fact that I spend quality time having in-depth discussions with the presenters. This unique aspect is hard to replicate in other formats.

When did you first decide to attend this meeting, and why did you return?

The Retina Society

When I was a fellow, a number of my faculty mentors suggested I get involved with the Retina Society. Hearing them get excited when they talked about the meeting encouraged me to apply for membership after I had published a few papers as an attending. I am very fortunate to be a member, and I encourage my fellows to apply.


When I was an intern back in the late ‘90s, my research mentor suggested that I present some of our work on retinal pigment epithelial cells at ARVO. It was the first academic meeting I ever attended. I was impressed with the meeting then, and I remain impressed with it today.

A number of my nonretina colleagues attend ARVO. It is a good venue to meet with old friends that you might only see otherwise at the AAO meeting.

What unique opportunities exist at this meeting that aren’t available elsewhere?

The Retina Society

The Retina Society meeting gives me a great chance to see many of the luminaries in our field. At other meetings, a number of the more senior physicians’ schedules are so packed that it is hard to say much more than hello as you pass them riding the opposite direction on the escalator. At the Retina Society meeting, you get a chance to speak with these people about their work, perhaps run interesting cases by them, and develop wonderful friendships.


When I attend ARVO, I may gain exposure to some basic science and translational research ideas that I might not otherwise come across.

Because of the sheer volume of material presented, I develop relationships for collaboration, and exposure to new ideas often gives me ideas for additional projects to work on when I return home.


Director, Clinical Research Unit, Wills Eye Hospital, Philadelphia

Meetings covered:
• The American Society of Retina Specialists (ASRS)
• Vail Vitrectomy

How is this meeting formatted?


In some ways, the ASRS meeting is the AAO meeting of retina: It is big, so you need to focus and plan to get the most out of it. This meeting and society has the strongest practice management component for US retina specialists, which can help guide young doctors away from common snags and offers practical pearls that keep them afloat when navigating practice management waters. If you have never been to an ASRS meeting, you must go.

Vail Vitrectomy

Vail Vitrectomy is a unique meeting. It occurs once every 3 years, attendance is by invitation only, and the content is exclusively surgical. To date, the meeting has been held only in Vail, Colo. Invitees submit topics that are unpublished and have never been presented from the podium. An organizing committee of US and international retina surgeons draws from an increasingly large number of submissions from around the world; no doubt, some worthy surgeons and topics are missed. 

Give us a history lesson.


The ASRS membership comprises physicians with retina fellowship training. It is the broadest and most inclusive retina society. It evolved from the original Vitreous Society founded by Jerald Bovino, MD; Roy Levit, MD; and Allen Verne, MD. This trio wanted a retina democracy representing and including everyone in the field. Thus, the ASRS meeting is inclusive, large, diverse, and international—all qualities that reflect the interests and needs of the majority of retina specialists.

Vail Vitrectomy

More than 40 years ago, Robert Machemer, MD, envisioned a special meeting at which the specialty’s top surgical thought leaders could gather to present to each other for critical review ideas, new therapies, instrument concepts, and hypotheses. The hope was that this think-tank atmosphere would spur even greater advances and ideas for patients. The continued success of this meeting depends greatly on the participation and enthusiasm of all invited faculty, a curated group culled from around the world.

What is the swagger of this meeting?


ASRS meeting programs include podium paper presentations; short, rapid-fire presentations; instructional courses; video submissions; medical and surgical case presentations; expert panels; posters; and lively social events—in other words, just about all that you can ask for in a meeting with a large format and diverse audience. There are special groups for women, fellows, junior retina surgeons, international clinicians, private practitioners, and academics. I first attended as a fellow, and I continue to create new memories with colleagues at the international meeting locations.

Vail Vitrectomy

2016 saw another successful Vail Vitrectomy meeting. I characterize this meeting as having a “work hard and play hard” spirit: Early morning sessions are followed by skiing and other winter activities, which in turn are followed by afternoon sessions that go until 7:00 pm. The evening is reserved for social events. The Vail Vitrectomy meeting is one of my personal favorites because of its unique surgical focus. Also, its triennial schedule lends an Olympic feel to the meeting.

Also, controversy tends to ensue. Junior and senior retina surgeons will speak up, either to tell you that they think you are out to lunch or that they concur!


Co-Director, Retina Fellowship, Wills Eye Hospital, Philadelphia
Co-Chief Medical Editor, New Retina MD

Meetings covered:
• The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO)
• Vit-Buckle Society (VBS)

What is unique about this meeting?


The AAO Annual Meeting is essentially two meetings: the Subspecialty Day meetings and the large convention, with the subspecialty meetings occurring 1 or 2 days before the larger meeting. At the subspecialty meetings, top researchers present fresh science from the podium. At the larger meeting, the chance to meet with peers, industry players, and media members can lead to opportunities for collaboration.


The VBS has done a fine job of harnessing the enthusiasm of youth and tempering it with the patience of experience. Most VBS members are under the age of 50, and the meeting encourages the kind of openness that leads to candid discussions about surgical challenges. The meeting organizers invite senior retina specialists to the meeting to offer wisdom and experience intended to curb the younger doctors’ enthusiasm. Thus, the meeting is a healthy blend of youth and expertise.

What can a young retina doctor find at this meeting?


If I had to choose one meeting to attend each year for continuing medical education credit and a well-rounded view of the state of ophthalmology, I would attend the AAO meeting. There is something for everyone there, and it is difficult to find at other meetings the aforementioned opportunities to interact with industry and research leaders during the larger portion of the meeting.


The VBS meeting is the premier meeting for young retina surgeons. The casual but professional environment the VBS maintains fosters a healthy exchange of surgical tactics, and it is one of the few forums in which young retina doctors can share cases they aren’t exactly proud of. Without meetings like the VBS, young retina surgeons would not have a voice during post-presentation discussions.

Why do you return to this meeting?


Because so many people attend the AAO meeting, you will see many of your colleagues at social events held before and during the meeting. There are a few colleagues with whom I enjoy catching up, and generally the AAO meeting is the only place where we can find time to relax and discuss the latest trends in industry or the details of our personal lives. Remember, it was at these side social events that organizations like the VBS were born.


The VBS meeting should be marked on every young retina doctor’s calendar. Even if you don’t attend the meeting, you need to keep tabs on the cutting-edge presentations showcased there. Each generation of retina specialists creates its own style of meeting—think of the Macula Society, the Retina Society, etc.—and young doctors who attend the VBS meeting will find that they have a community of motivated, like-minded physicians who want to propel retina to the top of medicine. n


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Janet Burk

About New Retina MD

New Retina MD delivers cutting-edge content to retina specialists in their first 15 years of practice. Each issue provides fresh insight from younger physicians plus established mentors on clinical and nonclinical issues affecting ophthalmologists in the earlier stages of their careers. NRMD features surgical pearls, clinical research endeavors, practice management, medical reimbursement and policy, continuing educational requirements, financial planning, innovations, and more.