American Academy of Optometry Wrap Up

Read PhD student, Fatima Iqbal's wrap up of the recent virtual conference of the American Academy of Optometry. 

Attending a conference is a professionally rewarding experience. In addition to socializing with colleagues from other institutions and a trip to a possibly exotic locale, the three main reasons to attend a conference is to hear presentations/view posters, converse with other academics and present your research.

Those who pursue a graduate level degree know that attending an academic conference is a worthwhile opportunity. We engage in paper and poster talks, high-quality continuing education sessions, view new products and technologies in the exhibit hall, have the opportunity to network and learn about the latest in vision research that is advancing the profession.

This year, irrespective of time and distance, staff and students from UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science (SOVS) represented remarkably at the annual meeting of American Academy of Optometry 2020 ‘At Home’ held from October 7-22, 2020.

Day one was the busiest for SOVS, whose staff and students presented 10 posters and four papers in anterior segment, public health/health care delivery, optometric practice patterns and service delivery, and paediatric and binocular vision sections.

Of note was Scientia PhD researcher, Rajendra Gyawali’s paper. Raj demonstrated a systematic theory-based and evidence-supported development of a complex behaviour change intervention (including education, audit and feedback, reminders, and peer support) to improve the appropriateness of eyecare delivered by optometrists to people with diabetes.

Zahra Tajbakhsh’s paper on the role of dendritic cells in milder forms of allergy (seasonal and perennial allergic conjunctivitis, SAC/PAC) showed increased density and altered morphology which can be a marker of upregulated immune response.

Ngozi Chidi-Egboka’s poster on adverse impacts of smartphone use on ocular surface symptoms and signs which incidentally is very topical nowadays as the amount of screen time in children has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, isolation and at-home education.

Day two, three and four focused on paper presentations in the areas of Soft Contact Lens, Optics/Refractive Error/Myopia, Retinal and Glaucoma.

Judy Nam from the Centre for Eye Health revealed how pattern recognition can be used to generate multispectral images which are useful for measuring disease progression in patients with age-related macular degeneration.

Karen Lahav-Yacouel, a PhD student from the Brien Holden Vision Institute demonstrated her work based on phase step optics to assess visual performance over a range of pupil sizes, spherical aberrations, and age groups.

Highlights from days five, six and seven included the work by Scientia Professor Fiona Stapleton on post-lens lubrication and subjective responses during Mini-Scleral Contact Lens Wear, systematic approaches to differential diagnosis in Glaucoma by Dr Jack Phu.

The cherry on the top was Day 10 of the conference where new Fellows of American Academy of Optometry 2020 were recognised. Our current HDR students: Gauri Shrestha, Fatima Iqbal, Melinda Toomey and Ngozi Chidi-Egboka were awarded, along with SOVS Research Fellow Dr Ajay Kumar Vijay and UNSW Higher Degree Research Alumni: Dr Waleed Alghamdi and Dr Ananya Datta.

This 15 day long virtual conference was jam packed with continuing education courses,  virtual poster sessions, paper talks and special events. In my opinion, it was the best virtual meeting of 2020 and our students and staff did us proud.

For all the young optometrists and eyecare researchers out there, I must say, an opportunity like this can be inspirational, motivational, and transformational both for how you practice and for how your patients perceive you. I encourage you to attend the meeting next year.

Written by Fatima Iqbal, PhD Student

Raj and Zhara PPT
Ngozi and Judy


Mel and Fatima