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HomemioptometryAustralian Vision Convention 2011

Australian Vision Convention 2011

(Click here to view all the images from this event)

The inaugural Australian Vision Convention (AVC) was held at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre from Friday 29 April to Sunday 1 May. It was a right royal celebration on many levels.

While the official program was three days, prior to AVC a two day Aviation Eye Examiner training course, including a tour of the Gold Coast airport tower, was convened as a new conference. With over 200 registrants, this course aimed to train optometrists in the responsibilities of becoming designated aviation eye examiners (DAEE) and was an interesting initiative. CPR training was also offered on the Thursday prior to the formal program commencement.

Over 800 Delegates

As the new OAA QLD/NT President, I had the pleasure of welcoming over 800 delegates on Friday morning, a 33 per cent increase on the attendance numbers of Queensland Vision in 2010. The new name brought with it delegates from Canada, Malaysia, Germany, Brunei, America and of course New Zealand. In response to the tragedies suffered by Queensland and our New Zealand neighbours over the first few months of this year, I mentioned our special stand in the trade area for donations to the Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal (flood and cyclone) and the NZ Earthquake Appeal.

Along with a new name, changes to AVC included shorter days with more time available for breaks; dual stream Saturday sessions; more presentations from our colleague Optometrists, and the introduction of the Rapid Fire Session, where five outstanding research projects were presented by Australian Masters, PhD and post-Doctoral researchers in vision science. The trade hall was bursting with over 70 exhibitors in a new layout which allowed delegates and trade attendees to move easily through the area for meals and during breaks.

It was standing room only at the Abbott Medical Optics breakfast on Friday morning, and the Alcon Saturday and Carl Zeiss Australia Sunday breakfasts were similarly packed with 200 to 300 Optometrists…

It was standing room only at the Abbott Medical Optics breakfast on Friday morning, and the Alcon Saturday and Carl Zeiss Australia Sunday breakfasts were similarly packed with 200 to 300 optometrists, hungry for information and coffee! Our keynote speaker, U.S. Optometrist Dr. Mile Brujic, inspired younger optometrists when he introduced himself and said he had graduated in 2002 and was only 35 years old. . With over 300 presentations under his belt, Mile was a fascinating speaker, with topics expanding across contact lens science, dry eye, complications and numerous case reports from his practice in Bowling Green, Ohio.

A Royal Event

Our topics on Friday varied from contact lenses to facial nerve palsy to eye banking, and we concluded Friday afternoon with the spectacular Essilor Royal Wedding Cocktail Gala. Greg Johnson, our OAA QLD/NT CEO, and his staff, had organised an amazing evening, which commenced with the distribution of tiaras for the ladies and crowns for the men in the trade hall, as waiters arrived with celebratory drinks. The red carpet was rolled out, the town crier announced her arrival, and with two beaming corgi’s waddling in procession, HRH the Queen graced us with her presence. A screamingly funny speech ensued where the Queen’s opinion of her family, our event and the big wedding event were divulged, in between coughs and belching at the name ‘Camilla’.

Gerry Connelly, acclaimed comedian and impressionist, declared as the Queen that “rarely had the monarch put effort into attending such an insignificant event!” Despite the relative insignificance to the concurrent events in London, the Queen stayed with us long enough to knight Essilor CEO Tony Gray, Prince Gregory Johnson, and QLD Optometrist Andrew Angeli for his services to gaining therapeutics legislation in Queensland. Andrew was bestowed with the title of the ‘Knight of Dexamethasone and Prednisolone’.

I was personally terrified of wearing a puffy dress when Greg first floated the idea of a royal celebration, but our fearless Vice President, Kady Brandon, looked stunning in a ‘princess’ dress that was as wide as she was high, and I happily settled for a tiara and curtseyed in my trouser suit after a photo opportunity with HRH. Princess Kady was accompanied by Princess Katie Johnson, Greg’s daughter (not to be confused with the author!) who ascended the royal podium to cut a wedding cake with the Queen. The chocolate mud cake delicacy was later distributed among delegates and hopefully none found its way on to the expensive instruments on display in the trade hall.

An auction and delegate donations raised almost AUD$24,000 for the Disaster appeals. At the auction, called by Greg Johnson, I was lucky enough to be successful in securing an opal and diamond pendant after being outbid by one of our trade attendees for another piece of opal jewellery! It was a wonderful way to conclude the first day of AVC and to take advantage of sharing the day with the Royal Wedding, which transfixed the world on Friday 29 April.

Eye Care Presentations

The overall program featured presentations from 18 optometrists, including four Professors from QUT, UNSW and the University of Melbourne and six local optometrists in practice here in Queensland; six ophthalmologists; a GP and two vision researchers. The rapid fire session included another five optometrists involved in research from Masters, PhD and post-Doctoral level.

Saturday’s dual stream session offered delegates the choice of 19 lectures spread between two rooms, on topics such as diabetes co-management with GP’s, contact lenses, binocular vision, glaucoma, the latest in retinal research and practical case presentations. Alan Saks, the prominent RGP contact lens specialist from New Zealand, faced off against Professor Nathan Efron, famous RGP cynic, however no punches were thrown. It was a new experience for delegates to change between rooms to attend their desired lecture, but overall the choice afforded was appreciated.

A fleet of coaches arrived at the Gold Coast Convention Centre on Saturday night at 6.30pm, to transport over 800 guests to Dreamworld, where sponsors Ciba Vision had rented the entire park for the night. Several rides were operating, along with the Tiger enclosure, and 90 minutes of ride-time was open for those who were keen to spend the beginning of their evening upside down, falling or flying through the air. At 8.15pm we were ushered to a large buffet dinner and the atmosphere was buzzing with chatter. The night concluded with a laser light show near the entrance to the park, while outside the coaches waited to return guests to their hotels.

Sunday’s session included case reports, ocular surface and anterior segment management, and an interesting session on working ‘in’ or ‘on’ your business by Dr. Tony Hanks. The Rapid Fire Session, chaired by Professor Efron, was received well with topics ranging from the social science of ARMD research, to axial length changes with defocus, to work-related injuries amongst optometrists in practice.. A broad range of topics and 10 minute presentations provided a fascinating novel session that I’m sure will be continued in future AVC programs.

A Full Convention

As the inaugural Australian Vision Convention concluded on Sunday afternoon, I said to delegates that I hoped they were leaving with full brains, full stomachs, full of information from trade and full of ideas to implement in practice when they returned. The OAA QLD/NT Division staff had worked tirelessly to bring the Education Committee’s vision for AVC to fruition, and it was a successful conference by trade, delegate and speaker accounts. It was a sparkling start to the AVC history and with strong delegate feedback, you can be sure that next year’s AVC will again exceed expectations.

The second Australian Vision Convention will be held at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre from Friday 13 to Sunday 15 April, 2012.

Kate Johnson operates a specialty contact lens and binocular vision practice in Brisbane CBD. Kate holds three professional contact lens Fellowships and is a clinical supervisor and visiting lecturer at QUT. She is the President of the Optometrists Association Australia QLD/NT Division and QLD Director on the OAA National Board.