Elite School of Optometry (ESO) has been encouraging optometry research in India for the last few years in many ways. One of the main activities of ESO in this regard is the annual conference on vision science and optometry. Dr. E. Vaithilingam (fondly called Dr. EV) was a pioneer in the field of optometry, who served as the Principal of the Elite School of Optometry from February 1991-March 2001. He was an expert in multiple disciplines – clinical optometry, contact lens and low vision. Dr. E. Vaithilingam was the Head of Low vision services in Sankara Nethralaya and he wrote a book titled “Practice of Low Vision” which helps all the students and practitioners in the field of Low vision till date. He was an ardent researcher and pioneer with more than 100 publications to his credit. He was the first Indian to become a fellow of International Association of Contact Lens Educators (FIACLE) and to be honored as Fellow of American Academy of Optometry (FAAO). In 2002, in memory of Dr. E. Vaithilingam, ESO initiated a national scientific session to encourage optometrists and optometry students from across the country to present their research work. Every year, the quality and quantity of presentations have been increasing exponentially.
This year, ESO conducted the 17th Dr EV Memorial scientific session on the 24th and 25th February, 2018 that received an overwhelming response with participation from twenty optometry academic institutions, seventeen ophthalmic hospitals and 631 eye care practitioners from all over the country. Dr. Mitchell Scheiman, Dean of Research and Director of Graduate studies at Salus University, Pennsylvania was the keynote speaker for the event.
Dr. Mitchell Scheiman who has authored over 200 scientific papers and has served as a chair for the NEI funded clinical trials on Convergence insufficiency is known for his contribution through his book “Clinical management of Binocular vision” that serves as the textbook for Binocular vision across the world. He is a renowned clinician researcher and is a mentor and role model for many in this field. With his enthralling presence, the 2 days of event did receive a humongous response from students and practitioners.
On the 23rd February, the day started with the pre-conference workshop on “Clinical pearls and tips to improve binocular vision diagnosis” conducted by Dr. Mitchell Scheiman at the Jayshree Venkataraman Auditorium, Sivasailam Block , Sankara Nethralaya. With over 100 participants, the workshop inculcated clinical pearls and tips that form the foundation for binocular vision testing and diagnosis. With a simplistic approach to the framework of BV testing, the workshop helped the delegates to take home valuable messages and skills for their clinical practice. The workshop also had a rigorous hands-on training of clinical procedures in BV with 10 facilitators, coordinated by Dr. Mitchell Scheiman & Dr. Jameel Rizwana Hussaindeen.
The second pre-conference workshop on “Empathetic communication for clinicians” was conducted by Dr Sumathi Narayanan – President, Creative Communication & Management Care and faculty of ESO, moderated by Dr. Rashima Asokan. This workshop is initiated since 2015 and continues to inspire the budding clinicians with Dr. Sumathi’s three decades of expertise in the arena of communication.
The evening symposium on the 24th February, had exciting events that would remain as remarkable milestones in the history of ESO. One such event was the launch of a learning application named as “ECSELO – ESO’s Case Scenario-based learning in Optometry”, lead by Ms. Najiya and Ms. Ashwini, Research associates at Sankara Nethralaya and probably the youngest editors in the Optometry world. EcSelO is an interactive mobile application that covers the key points to approach 45 common clinical conditions in optometric practice. This application was conceptualized with the help of Mr. Chandramouli –Head of IT Services, Sankara Nethralaya and executed with the support of Chennai publishing services and Prag IT. This application will serve thousands of optometry students and faculty all over the country and will continue to expand with more chapters and learning content. The second highlight was the launch of a website for color vision deficient individuals and the Dalton’s pseudo-isochromatic plates, a quick screening tool for color vision deficiency. This initiative was led by Mr. Mohan, an alumnus of ESO, mentored by Mr. Maruthachalam Manthiram – Director of Shrusty Global solutions and Dr. Krishna Kumar R – Principal, ESO. These two initiatives did inspire hundreds of young optometrists gathered during the symposium to contribute to the Optometry community in meaningful ways.
Apart from conventional scientific abstracts, to encourage evidence based practice and to motivate the clinicians to build the researcher instinct, the clinician to researcher sessions have been introduced since 2014. This year, 12 clinician to researcher presentations were shortlisted and 7 of these presentations pertinent to binocular vision were presented during the evening symposium. The evening then continued to move on with the Binocular vision potpourri where three interesting cases were presented by Dr. Jameel Rizwana Hussaindeen – Head of Binocular vision clinic, Sankara Nethralaya- moderated by Dr. Mitchell Scheiman and Dr. Meenakshi Swanminathan – Director, Academics, Sankara Nethralaya. The potpourri covered the management aspects of three common clinical case presentations with an evidence based approach moderated by the 2 eminent panel members. The evening on the whole received an overwhelming response and feedback.
The 17th Dr E Vaithilingam memorial scientific session on the 25th February had a poignant start with the divine rendition by Ms. Lohitha Viswanathan, and lighting of Kuthuvilakku by the dignitaries present. Following this, Dr. Krishna Kumar R, Principal, ESO delivered the welcome address on behalf of Dr. Girish Rao, Medical Director and touched upon the highlights of Optometry practice in the institution and welcomed the gathering. Dr. Rajeswari, Assistant Professor, ESO shared about the progress and history of EV Memorial scientific sessions. The event continued with sharing of fond memories of Dr. E Vaithilingam, by Ms. Gomathy Ravi – Daughter of Dr. EV, Dr. Yadav KK, former colleague of Dr. EV at the Banaras Hindu University and Dr. T.S. Surendran- Vice Chairman, Medical Research Foundation.
The inauguration event was followed by the most awaited part of the day, the keynote lecture by Dr. Mitchell Scheiman. Dr. Jameel Rizwana Hussaindeen introduced Dr. Scheiman and recalled her acquaintance and able mentorship under Dr. Scheiman. Dr. Scheiman then presented his keynote lecture on “Convergence Insufficiency treatment trial (CITT) – Past, Present and Future”. The keynote lecture covered the review of research done by the CITT study group over the past decade and how the future holds promise for research in this field. Dr. Scheiman’s expertise in this field was very well appreciated and applauded by the delegates. It must have been a lifetime experience for the delegates listening from the horse’s mouth.
Every year, the quality and quantity of presentations have been increasing exponentially. This year, about 114 scientific presentations in various categories of free paper, e-poster, and clinician to researcher sessions were presented. The Go-Green initiative of e-posters did receive a good feedback from all the delegates as it saved the cost of printing, and reduced the need to carry it.
Scientific conferences happen all over the world year after year but the conversion of the conference presentations to publications are meagerly low. Converting the conference work to publication completes the successful journey and so recognizing this is as well becomes important! At the 17th Dr EV memorial scientific session, 8 optometrists who were successful in this scientific journey were recognized.
As every year, this year witnessed three innovative forums for students and practitioners to showcase their community connect and innovations.
The first was the display of posters by institution to showcase their social accountability. Nine institutions from across the country who were shortlisted proudly presented their community contributions. All the institution representatives were honored with the Optometrist community vision screening kit, sponsored by Orbis, India. The next was “Share your story”. this was again to showcase the community connect, where the institution’s community responsibility changed the life of a person with visual impairment. Two case stories shortlisted from over 40 entries were awarded during the event. The third event was the display of innovative prototypes applicable for binocular vision diagnosis and vision therapy, by undergraduate Optometry students. Eleven entries were shortlisted and two best innovations were awarded. The award list is as below.
Beginning 2013, the EVM scientific session supports students through travel grants and this year, 21 final year Optometry students from outside Chennai received the ESO- Essilor student travel grant awards. As a token of appreciation to maximum participation by students from SRM University school of Optometry and Sri Ramachandra Medical College Optometry school, ESO ‘s internally illuminated pocket vision screener was given to the heads of the schools, to be utilized for their community vision programs.
The Scientific Session came to an end with closing remarks by Mr. Jothi Balaji , Senior Manager, Sankara Nethralaya. The event was ably supported by sponsors Mr. Subashish Choudary, Soham eye care and Silverline Contact lens laboratories. The e-abstract book introduced during 2016 is successfully taken forward this year as well (http://www.eso.sankaranethralaya.org/drev-2018-e-book/index.html).
ESO and SN look forward to a promising future for Optometry and vision science research in this country and forums like this evidently display the same.