This month, the Academy holds its Joint Meeting with the European Society of Ophthalmology. Founded in 1956 as the Societas Ophthalmologica Europea, it aims “to promote ophthalmology in Europe and to stimulate cooperation between European ophthalmologists.” The Latin name was chosen to emphasize its supranational nature, an important issue in postwar Europe.
SOE has grown from a relatively small society into a conglomerate of national ophthalmological societies of all the 36 European countries, representing more than 10,000 European ophthalmologists.
In common with the Academy, SOE’s main activities emphasize education. The SOE Congress is held every two years when numerous symposia and courses are given by leading European and American lecturers. SOE increasingly cooperates with other European professional, research and subspecialty organizations. For example, The European University Professors of Ophthalmology holds a two-day course for residents, which is open to all registered SOE delegates.
SOE is very conscious of the considerable variation in the resources available for education and clinical practice in different parts of Europe, especially in the former communist countries of Eastern Europe. To redress this, SOE provides reduced congress registration fees for most East European ophthalmologists. In addition, each year SOE offers educational travel grants for East European ophthalmologists-in-training to observe at major European ophthalmic centers.
Strong links have existed between European and American ophthalmology for decades, often resulting from reciprocal fellowship training opportunities. Such personal experiences lead to mutual respect and continuing cooperation on a much wider scale. Indeed, many U.S. multicenter trials have as many centers in Europe as they do in the United States.
Hundreds of European ophthalmologists travel to the Academy meeting every year and an increasing number of American colleagues participate in the SOE Congress. Continuing medical education is important on both sides of the Atlantic, and there are moves afoot for the SOE Congress to be accredited by the AGCME starting next year.
The potentially adverse political pressures on our profession are being felt both in the United States and in Europe. In response, SOE participates in the Academy’s Leadership Development Program and is adapting it to suit the multinational nature of Europe.
With such strong links between European and U.S. ophthalmology, the idea of a Joint Meeting between the Academy and SOE seemed like a logical extension. Many discussions between the Academy’s board of trustees (represented by H. Dunbar Hoskins Jr., MD) and the council of the SOE (under the presidency of Bo T. Philipson, MD, PhD) followed. These discussions culminated in this year’s meeting in New Orleans, with an exciting program of symposia and courses organized jointly by American subspecialty groups and their European counterparts. It is precisely this type of a meeting that sows the seeds of future cooperative ventures in education and research and, ultimately, results in improved clinical practice.