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A Global Ophthalmic Community: The Time Has Come
My first ophthalmic-related overseas trip was in 1982 to China to lecture and teach new techniques in corneal transplant and cataract surgery. The experience had an enormous impact on my career and changed the direction of my professional life. Many ophthalmologists have had similar experiences, causing them to dedicate their valuable time and talents to improving the quality of care for patients in the developing world. Mirroring these individual efforts, over the years the Academy has committed financial and material resources to this same goal. A U.S. member might ask, “What is the role of the Academy in the international arena? Why are we involved?”
There are currently more than 8,500 Academy members who reside outside the United States, and this number continues to grow. They are attracted to the Academy’s Annual Meeting, as they have professional and educational needs similar to those of their U.S. colleagues. The meeting is a two-way street, a true exchange of information where everyone benefits.
With the advent of increasing global travel and the Internet, the opportunity to share knowledge and learn from each other has improved diagnostic and therapeutic interventions for all patients . . . those who reside domestically and overseas.
Back in 1990, the Academy established an International Committee, primarily to provide a conduit for distribution of some of our educational print materials, as well as a clearinghouse for ophthalmologist volunteers to match with organizations dedicated to underserved populations outside the United States. This service was highly valued by our members, and our international involvement and commitment has grown exponentially since that time.
Under the direction of the board of trustees, the Global Alliances secretariat was created in 2007. The mission of this relatively new secretariat is to foster the development, dissemination and use of ophthalmic educational and other resources through collaboration primarily with national and supranational ophthalmic organizations, in order to improve the quality of eye care worldwide.
One of the first projects of the new Global Alliances secretariat was to work in coordination with the Clinical Education secretariat to achieve worldwide access to the Ophthalmic News & Education (ONE) Network. Though developed with domestic members in mind, this vast online resource has proved a highly valuable and sought-after educational resource for members outside the United States as well. Through licensing agreements with national ophthalmic societies, the Academy allows members of these groups to access the ONE Network. In the developing world, access is provided regardless of ability to pay, thanks to generous philanthropic donations to the Academy’s Foundation.
Through partnerships with our international colleagues and their local professional societies, the Global Alliances secretariat will provide Academy members with opportunities to more efficiently and effectively communicate and exchange valuable information worldwide. I look forward to your joining me in the Academy’s efforts to enhance global education, knowledge and technical skills by using the ONE and contributing to its content. It is a win-win for all ophthalmologists and their patients.