What 5 Kaleidoscope Employees Had to Say About AAO 2018

November 23, 2018

AAO, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, is the leading professional society for all things related to the study and treatment of ocular diseases. AAO states their mission as being “to protect sight and empower lives by serving as an advocate for patients and the public, leading ophthalmic education, and advancing the profession of ophthalmology.” (For those not as familiar with the term, ophthalmology is defined as “a branch of medical science dealing with the structure, functions, and diseases of the eye.”)

The association was founded in 1979 out of the split of the AAOO, or the American Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology, into separate professional medical associations. So while AAO was technically founded in 1979, its roots run much farther back in the annals of history, with AAOO’s formation in 1896.

Since that time, the association has grown to more than 32,000 members, largely in the U.S. but also drawing international thought leaders.

Among other events, AAO holds an annual conference. Figures from AAO’s website dating back to 2012 show that the meeting’s attendance numbers fall solidly above 20,000 attendees. Additionally, since 2012 the total attendance for the organization’s subspecialty days – where experts in the study of the retina, cornea, glaucoma and other areas share detailed learnings – has landed between 7,000 and 9,000 people. (Figures from 2018 are yet to be published on the referenced AAO web page as of this blog post’s writing.)

With Kaleidoscope’s investment and experience in ophthalmic medical devices and pharmaceuticals, we could not pass up the opportunity to attend a professional event this large in the ophthalmology space. Kaleidoscope Innovation’s Staff Biomedical Engineer Ben Ko, Staff Industrial Designer Frank Busch, Design Engineer Stephanie Klunk, Senior Design Engineer Tom Meyer and Business Development Manager Matt Suits all attended this year’s AAO congress in Chicago. Here are some of their collective takeaways:

Our Insights into AAO 2018

Ko noted that with five people in attendance this year, our team was able to cover more ground and gain greater perspective from the event. We were able to connect with surgeons and other important players in the ophthalmology field.

In the past we have primarily focused on retinal surgery, but this year we also gained key insights and education within corneal therapies and refractive surgery, which both fall squarely within Kaleidoscope Innovation’s expertise of melding a medical subspecialty with patient-facing technologies.

Ko also added that there was a large emphasis on synthetics and biosimilars produced globally that could be major disruptors to the U.S. pharmaceutical market.

Additionally, Suits felt that there seemed to be a larger international presence at the event this year.

An emphasis on the patient’s experience was evident throughout the industry booths in the exhibition hall. Booth after booth displayed virtual reality simulators allowing the viewer to build empathy with the patient by experiencing debilitating visual pathologies.

Investment in our people was a large part of our reason for attending the conference. These team members donated their time over the weekend to learn more about the field, and that knowledge enhancement in turn allows us to better serve our current and future business partners.

By attending the event, our team gained greater exposure to the front end of ophthalmology and patient care around the ecosystem of ophthalmology. Our team also felt there was a particular emphasis on translational research.

“Ophthalmology as a field is special in that the line between academic research and a sight-saving therapy is so blurred and fast-moving. Seeing where research dollars are going helps us better understand the next breaking trends across ophthalmology,” said Ko.

Our team found the format of the event helpful as well. “Talks are broken up into five-minute lectures and Q&As, so for people coming in with education and learning as a primary goal, we were able to understand the depth of different areas but the breadth of topics was also so wide,” said Busch. “It was a great way to take in a lot in one setting extremely quickly.”

Overall Impressions

Overall, our team appreciated the opportunity to meet with thought leaders throughout ophthalmology and learn more about breaking trends and research. We hope to see you at AAO 2019!

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