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ACO National Conference Uncovers the Issues

A record number of delegates were inspired by a comprehensive educational program when the ninth Australian College of Optometry’s national conference took place at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground from 20–21 October.

The ACO’s national conference is well known for covering current best practices and optometry into the future. This year’s conference didn’t fail to impress.

Opening the program on Saturday morning, was a keynote address by Charles Brass on effectively navigating the uncertainties of the future. Later that day, and continuing on the futures theme, a debate that technology, AI and automation will be detrimental to the optometry profession was resoundingly won by the negative side.

Delegates were treated to a well rounded presentation by Dr. Kwang Cham titled Help! My patient has got nystagmus – what do I do? In this presentation, Dr. Cham adroitly demystified nystagmus and provided much needed refresher information on the current best practice clinical techniques for systematically testing the cranial nerves during an optometrist’s examination.

In covering an area that has not been traditionally well served in undergraduate programs, and one in which optometrists can easily become rusty, Dr. Cham encouraged us to attempt a more comprehensive neuro-optometric screening examination including smooth pursuits and saccades, ptosis evaluation and cranial nerves, mental, cerebellar, sensory and reflex testing, and to be more informative when writing referral letters – this helps build trust and confidence in multidisciplinary networking and relationships.

Other presentations on the first day of the conference included therapeuticallychallenging glaucoma case studies presented by Roman Serebrianik, interpretation of optical coherence tomography scans for brain tumours vs glaucoma by Dr. Adrian Bruce, a presentation on paediatrics by Dr. Ann Webber, and a talk by Tim Fricke on the challenges and opportunities of a myopic future. At the end of day one, delegates were refreshed with food and drink and a chance to discuss the day’s learnings with colleagues and presenters.


Early risers on Sunday morning breakfasted while being educated on the challenges of providing eye care in remote and rural Australia. This talk, by Dr. Phil Anderton included practical tips on the most effective tools of trade for an optometrist in remote areas. His stories of outback challenges have been made into a children’s book courtesy of his daughter Joanne, who delighted in his tales while growing up.

Sunday’s keynote speaker, Professor David Mackey, provided an enlightening presentation on which ocular diseases are genetically caused or influenced (eg. glaucoma) and which, like myopia, are more a result of environmental factors. A panel of three public health presenters spoke on optometry for indigenous communities, cultural competence, and the EyesforEverest program. Dr. Carla Abbott presented on new technologies for those visually impaired, and Dr. Graham Lakkis championed the ongoing need for visual field testing. Dr. Lakkis openly addressed the issue that neither patients nor practitioners like working with visual fields and offered solutions to make this easier for both patient and optometrist. He suggested in most cases a quicker test time (24-2 test time) over a larger test area (30-2) would suffice and meets the National Health and Medical Research Council Glaucoma Guidelines. Dr. Lakkis quoted from page 75 of the guidelines, “Testing a 24-degree field (24-2 strategy) often represents the best compromise between speed, comfort and amount of reliable information gained”

Additionally, Dr. Lakkis explained that using SITA Fast, which is 50 per cent faster than SITA Standard, would alleviate some of the objections patients and optometrists have to visual fields.

A panel comprising a general practitioner, ophthalmologist and optometrist (Dr. Yota Yoshimitsu, Dr. Janice Thean, and Christa Sipos-Ori respectively) presented a multidisciplinary approach to some interesting and somewhat rare case studies.

Closing up the conference was Dr. Charles Su, whose best practice management of the ocular adnexa addressed treating patients with visible lesions, visible eyelid malpositions and mal-functions, and those with signs of pathology in the orbit.

In 2019, the 10th ACO National Conference will be held in Melbourne from 19–20 October.