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Wednesday / July 17.
HomemioptometrySouthern Regional Congress Review

Southern Regional Congress Review

The 2010 Southern Regional Congress (SRC) was held for the first time this year in the modern elegance of the Melbourne Exhibition Centre which is a stone’s throw from the (in) famous Crown Casino.

Melissa Downing, President of the Optometrists Association Australia (OAA) Victorian Division officially welcomed a lecture hall full of delegates from across Australia and New Zealand, as well as a few special guests from Cambodia and East Timor.

Lectures were packed with over 800 delegates attending day one and a total of 1027 by the end of the three days. This year 55 Exhibitors were in attendance displaying not only the latest in instruments and equipment, but also for the first time, optical frames. The new E-Badge express check-in system also ensured that delegates’ entry passes were processed in record speed, avoiding delays at the entrance.

Key note speakers Professor Susan Cotter and Associate Professor Richard Madonna kicked off the workshop sessions. Professor Cotter spoke about Intermittent Exotropia and Ass. Professor Madonna gave a presentation on using Gonioscopy and Binocular indirect Ophthalmoscopy to reveal ocular disease.

Tricks of the Trade

The ODMA Business Session ‘Tricks of the Trade for Success’, was a crowd favourite for day one. Speaker Linda Hailey gave away her secrets for running a successful business, highlighting the importance of the internet and social networking for optometry businesses in the future. Hailey, who is a small business expert and marketing guru, addressed a room full of eager guests willing to take on whatever advice she gave. Her biggest message was the significance in adding ‘e’ to marketing.

“In 2010, if you’re not online you won’t be seen and you won’t be found” Hailey said as she encouraged every listener to look into the internet for business exposure and networking. According to Hailey, social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter alongside podcasting and blogging websites are the way of the future for every business.

Distinguished panellists Genevieve Hastings, Peter and Carolyn Hewett and Ed Kosmac, who each run successful optometry practices around Australia, thereafter demonstrated how they employed Hailey’s advice into their own workplaces.

Hastings believes that it was the renovation of her practice that lifted her business, with some people passing by only now becoming aware of the business’ existence due to the cosmetic makeover. “We have people walking past the shop asking how long we’ve been here. They are shocked to hear us reply 14 years,” she said.

The other panellists also provided examples of improvements to their business, with Peter Hewitt’s Mosman practice in Sydney boasting a 13 per cent increase in turnover in the last 18 months.

SRC Conference Dinner

After a big day of forums, workshops and lectures, the conference dinner gave the guests the chance to mingle and let loose before day two began. Over 500 delegates were treated to delectable food, music and a dance lesson from the Jhoom Bollywood Dance Company.

President of the OAA, Melissa Downing, welcomed guests and introduced Bollywood dancers Jessica Nicholas, Sashee Kotecha and Ashwind Skinnon to the stage. Proving that optometrists can party with the best of them, a huge swarm of delegates set aside their cutlery to get up on the dance floor and bumbled their way through a guided Bollywood routine choreographed by the exotic performers.

Day Two Highlights

The second day of SRC proved as busy as the first as delegates topped up their CPD points with a rich range of lectures.

Some highlights of the day (not counting friendly catch ups over nibbles) included: a lecture from Neil Shuey back again by popular demand – who spoke on the neuro-ophthalmology of multiple-sclerosis; well-known local optometrist and Associate Professor Mark Roth, who presented on oral medications; a lecture from key note speaker Associate Professor Richard Madonna from the State University of New York who attended SRC for the first time this year; and finally, the stimulating clinical rounds in the late afternoon.

We went back home (or for interstate visitors like the mivision team, back to our hotel rooms) with heads full of new knowledge and possibly a little bit ‘happy’ after the Bauch & Lomb trade expo cocktails.

The End in Sight

The 2010 SRC Congress wrapped up on Monday 17 May. The day commenced with an early Breakfast Session in the enormous banquet room. When we first arrived it was hard to imagine such a big room would fill up, but by the start of the session, ‘When I look into your eyes – a day in the life of optometry’, the space was positively buzzing with delegates enjoying their savoury croissants and answering questions in an entertaining quiz from Medicare Optometric Advisor, Steve Zantos and local optometrist Ken Thomas.

Dr. Bang Bui presented on the modern management of glaucoma in Australia in an interesting panel discussion and in the afternoon, Ass. Prof. Richard Madonna and Prof. Susan Cotter spoke on clinical challenges in an interactive grand rounds session.

According to first time President Melissa Downing, the SRC 2010 Congress was a success, with over 1027 delegates in attendance and almost a dozen more exhibitors than 2009 due to the spaciousness of the new venue.

Melissa spoke to mivision as the Congress was wrapping up. She explained that with a large scale event like SRC there are always challenges, especially when you introduce a new element like change of venue.

“The main issues we have experienced have been regarding the logistics of the new venue, the catering and the fact of dealing with new people and a whole new system as well as dealing with members getting a bit lost on the first day.

“On the positive side, it seems that everyone has enjoyed the new space. We have received feedback that the parking has been a lot easier and for the exhibitors, the larger space has been a real benefit as it means they can have a more elaborate display, not to mention the fact that we’ve been able to fit in 10 more exhibitors than last year!”

Melissa has been involved with SRC for six years, but it is her first year as the Victorian OAA President, and so far she says she has “absolutely loved it”.

“I hope I can retain the position for some time – I plan on staying in the role for a few more years at the very least.”

“I am so pleased with how SRC has gone… It has been a lovely chance to catch up with members and hear what’s been happening for them. However as fun as it’s been, I am a little relieved that its all over now as the pressure is off until next year! We’re already thinking towards 2011, and have big parts of next year’s Congress locked in already like the Key Note Speakers. I can’t give anything away yet, but I’m sure SRC 2011 will be even better again with a strong emphasis on evidence based CPD!

Anja Barisic is a talented journalist who is currently completing her last year of a Bachelor of Journalism at Monash University in Melbourne, Vic.