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Saturday / April 13.
HomemioptometryConnecting Eyes to Life

Connecting Eyes to Life

The 15th International Cornea and Contact Lens Congress held over two and a half days at the beautiful QT hotel on the Gold Coast brought together 36 speakers packaged into eight themes. It was a fantastic success.

The International Cornea and Contact lens Congress represents over 30 years of bringing some of the leading minds in the field of cornea and contact lens together under one roof to share and further our knowledge and experience.

The theme of the conference was ‘Connecting Eyes to Life.’ The conference committee, chaired by David Stephensen, Margaret Lam and myself, meticulously pieced together a conference which covered everything from the latest research and advances in contact lens technology and corneal surgery, dry eye management, myopia control, the state of contact lens practice, practice building and more…!


The official opening was preceded by three one hour master classes on Friday afternoon and a welcome reception/cocktail party which were all very well-attended. Johnson and Johnson sponsored a breakfast session with international expert Noel Brennan who is famed for his work on oxygen flux amongst other research. He began his thought provocative session by taking an audience poll, asking what the contact lens of first choice was. The audience response was almost unanimously ‘silicone hydrogel.’ He then presented his case that silicone hydrogels were not all they were cracked up to be and that perhaps oxygen is not the ‘answer.’ Noel repeated the same poll at the end of the session, and obviously his session had had an impact on half the audience who now responded ‘unsure.’

The official preceding kicked off with the presentation of the Kenneth W. Bell Award to Professor Nathan Efron. The Kenneth W. Bell award is in recognition of decades of work that Ken Bell dedicated to the CCLSA as its treasurer, and is awarded biannually to a CCLSA member for distinguished contributions to the cornea and contact lens field. Nathan delivered a brilliant address questioning why we recommend annual contact lens after-care. He presented his review of the literature of the risk factors associated with each lens modality, and gave his evidence-based argument for his recommended contact lens after-care.

At the end of his speech, a humbled and gracious Nathan thanked the CCLSA for giving him his start, and said he was very grateful as a PhD student for a $3,500 research grant awarded to him in his early days.

Such a brilliant start to the conference, with two of the most internationally acclaimed Australian researchers in the contact lens field challenging our beliefs, and we had not even reached the first morning tea! This set the tone for the fast paced, thought-provoking sessions over the next two days.

Dry Eye… so Dry!

Dry eye is a topic which has always been considered… well… dry. Historically it has been poorly understood and poorly managed. Professor Jennifer Craig of the University of Auckland, who is also the vice chair of the Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society (TFOS), the conglomerate of the leading experts in this field worldwide headed the session on dry eye.

In a whirlwind 40 minutes, she managed to summarise the different techniques of diagnosis and management of dry eye. Our population is ageing, our patient’s eyes’ are drying, however their future (and ours) is anything but dry with so many advances in our understanding as well as in technology to manage this condition.

The Myopia Epidemic

Professor Pauline Cho, hailing from Hong Kong Polytechnic University delivered an equally succinct and definitive lecture on the myopia epidemic, and methods to control it. She showed us that we need to stop thinking of myopia as a refractive condition, but as the disease that it is. Myopia is a huge burden on our society, and with increasing prevalence and severity, is one of the leading causes of vision loss throughout the world. Thankfully, with the help of researchers like Pauline, we can help patients maintain normal vision.


We had a fantastic contingency from our corneal ophthalmological friends, with Dr. Jonathon Shaw nutting out when to flap, zap, or implant, with the help of SMILE, FLEX or ReLex in his great update on refractive surgery. Dr. Peter Beckingsale gave a fantastic lecture on the good, the bad, and the ugly of the surgical management of keratoconus.

PK, LK, EK, SALK, DALK, DSEK, DSAEK, DMEK, whaaaaaaaat?? What’s the difference and what does it all mean? Thankfully the CCLSA employed Dr. Brendan Cronin to explain all these abbreviations in a straightforward manner like only a Queenslander could.

Defunct Corneas

Other highlights were the corneal limbal stem cell transplantation lecture from Dr. Stephanie Watson, which shows brilliant promise for patients with defunct corneas, and Gen X-er David Stephensen giving us his perspective on Gen X and presbyopic contact lenses, which was especially fascinating as it came from both the perspective of practitioner and patient i.e. David himself.

Of course my word count won’t allow me to write of all the lectures and I thank all the wonderful speakers who had me captive the entire weekend, however, I will say the overall ‘vibe’ I witnessed from the speakers was the genuine excitement and passion in their fields. Our speakers really engaged with the theme, “Connecting Eyes to Life,” all relating their presentations to the end goal – the patient.

The Industry Exhibition

The Industry Exhibition was well represented by Diamond sponsors Alcon, Johnson and Johnson and Cooper Vision and Gold sponsor Abbott Medical Optical as well as many other exhibitors.


It wasn’t just all work and no play, with the CCLSA – definitely no way. The CCLSA culminated with the ‘I’-themed Gala dinner. It was incredible fun, with impressive dancing, the highlight being an intense battle of boys versus girls with NSW CCLSA president Margaret Lam taking down Alan Saks in a near unanimous defeat of David versus
Goliath proportions.

I’ve attended many conferences in my time as an optometrist, and this one is hands down my favourite. I may be a little biased; however, this group to me represents some of the most passionate optometrists and researchers in our industry, where the focus is entirely on learning and sharing, and where CPD points are not a drawcard but merely a bonus. What I love most about this group is how generous they are with their experience, their knowledge and their time. There is an overwhelming sense of camaraderie, passion, and belief in what we do. I feel very fortunate to have spent the weekend rubbing shoulders with some of the heroes in our industry such as Noel Brennan, Nathan Efron, Pauline Cho, Jennifer Craig, Alan Saks, as well as many of the up and coming stars who will go on to carry our profession into greatness.

The conference was the culmination of over a year of the hard work of the committee, headed by Dorothy Carlborg, David Stephensen, Margaret Lam and myself. The two and a half days went by in a flash, and at the end of it all, we were spent.

Was it worth it? Absolutely.

See you all at the 16th International Cornea and Contact Lens Congress.

Jessica Chi obtained her Bachelor of Optometry Degree from the University of Melbourne. She is the director of Eyetech Optometrists, an independant speciality contact lens practice in Melbourne. She is the current Victorian and National president of the Cornea and Contact Lens Society, and an invited speaker at meetings throughout Australia and beyond. She has been heavily involved in professional development and is a clinical supervisor at the University of Melbourne, and has served on the continuing education committee for the Australian College of Optometry and the Therapeutics Advisory Board for the Optometry Association of Australia.