Article Date: 3/1/2002

o.d. to o.d.
What's Your Favorite National Meeting?
Attending major conventions boosts your practice in ways you may not even realize.
BY NEIL B. GAILMARD, O.D., M.B.A., F.A.A.O., Chief Optometric Editor

When this column goes to press we'll be between SECO in Atlanta and Vision Expo East in New York. Optometry (actually all 3 Os) has so many meetings that I can tell the time of year by what meeting I've attended.

Too many meetings?

Many people in our profession and our industry believe that we have too many meetings, and that consolidating a few of them would be a positive move. It would certainly help exhibitors and education sponsors who must make budgetary decisions based on meetings in all three professions. But it doesn't seem likely that we'll see consolidation because each organization has it's own history, tradition and interests. And they all seem to do quite well. Attendance is good and innovations are flowing.

Diversity is a good thing

In reality, I think each conference brings unique benefits and I enjoy the strengths of each one. I now attend most of the major meetings as an editor of OM, which some may see as a drawback more than a perk. But the energy I derive from conferences is amazing and it not only benefits this journal, but my private practice as well. The American Optometric Association (AOA) Congress is "Optometry's Meeting" with premier education and wide appeal for families. The American Academy of Optometry (AAO) meeting brings a special flavor of academia and research, but is now much more than that. The Vision Expos have great exhibit halls. SECO is a must-attend and the Southwest Council of Optometry (SWCO), EyeQuest, North Central, Heart of America, East-West Conference and Great Western Council all offer excellent programs of education and exhibits. I could mention others, but space prohibits me from doing so.

There's much to learn at ophthalmology conferences. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) meeting is the big one, and O.D.s are welcome to attend, but there's also the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS), the Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists (CLAO) and optical meetings such as the Optical Laboratories Association (OLA).

What meetings do you attend?

So how should you decide which meetings to go to? Narrow down the list of options to reflect your interests and needs. Pick a couple each year and sample new ones until you've found your favorites. If you're a member (or fellow) of an organization, you may want to attend that meeting every year. But don't feel like you have to be a member. Go anyway and find out what the convention and the organization have to offer.

State conventions are valuable also. They focus on important local issues, provide camaraderie and they're convenient and have lower travel costs. But lots of doctors obtain all of their continuing education close to home and never go to a national conference.

What do you get out of meetings?

Those of you who attend national meetings know what I mean. There's tremendous energy and synergy at the big meetings. There are opportunities to learn new clinical skills in lectures and workshops.

The exhibit hall is also a great source of education. It's the best way to discover the newest developments in pharmaceuticals, contact lenses, ophthalmic lenses and instrumentation. You can actually see and use the product. Another great learning tool comes from the social interaction with colleagues. Nothing beats running into a former classmate you haven't seen in years and asking, "What's new in your practice?"

I'm always inspired and revitalized at meetings. And that transfers into practice growth.

You may contact Dr. Gailmard at


Optometric Management, Issue: March 2002