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  • Dear Colleagues,

    Russell N. Van Gelder, MD, PHD - President

    It has been the greatest privilege to serve as the Academy president in 2015, the 119th year of our organization. I extend deep and sincere thanks to all of ourcolleagues, staff and friends who made this a most successful year for the Academy.

    One of the Academy Board of Trustees' major 2015 accomplishments was to revisit and revise the mission statement for the organization. The mission of the American Academy of Ophthalmology is “to protect sight and empower lives, by serving as an advocate for patients and the public, leading ophthalmic education, promoting lifelong learning, and advancing the profession of ophthalmology.” This mission informs all we do as an organization and highlights our core function as a profession: to serve our patients and the public.

    The Academy is a global organization, and has a phenomenal membership, in size, diversity and volunteerism. Of our nearly 32,000 members, 28 percent are international, residing in 151 countries around the world. Of U.S. ophthalmologists, 93 percent belong to the Academy. This is slightly more than the percentage of ophthalmologists who own a cell phone! I think this high level of membership reflects the outstanding value proposition the organization offers its members. We greatly appreciate the engagement of our membership as well. More than 1,000 members also volunteer on Academy committees and projects. This outstanding level of engagement touched every part of the Academy in 2015, as you and your peers helped shape several key areas.

    • Education: We launched the completely new AAO.org website, which includes the ONE® Network. It offers expanded content and improved ease of use. On the print side, our two major publications, Ophthalmology®, the official journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and EyeNet®, our monthly magazine, remain the most widely cited and most widely read publications in our field. Our Codequest program also had a great year, equipping members in29 states to successfully transition to ICD-10.
    • Advocacy: The Academy was a major force in achieving the long-sought demise of the SGR, in fighting elimination of postsurgical global payments, and in easing reporting requirements for meaningful use. We also partnered with several state societies to ensure that no state expanded optometric scope in 2015, with a noteworthy success in California. I cannot stress enough how critical your support of the Academy’s Surgical Scope Fund, which finances our state legislative activities, and OPHTHPAC®, our political action committee that supports our Federal advocacy, is to the future of our profession. I urge you to contribute, as I do, annually to both funds.
    • IRIS® Registry: By the end of its second year, we already had more than 70 million patient records from more than 17 million individual patients entered. Collectively, the 10,000 participating ophthalmologists avoided $27 million in penalties by submitting their quality data to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services through the IRIS Registry. As the ophthalmology registry continues to grow, we will soon be able to answer critical clinical questions in days rather than years, and at a fraction of what large clinical trials cost.
    • Team leadership: The Academy partnered with the American Academy of Optometry (an educational and research organization) to pursue opportunities to work together. We in no way changed our commitment to ensuring that only surgeons perform ophthalmic surgery; but preserving sight requires team-based care. To lead that team, we as physicians must provide appropriate education. Thus, we held the first ever joint AAO2AAO symposium -- first at the American Academy of Optometry meeting and again at AA0 2015. Attendees of both symposia gave it very high reviews. We look forward to continuing this program in 2016.
    • Rebranding ophthalmology: As many of you have doubtless noted, the Academy got a new look this year. Rebranding the Academy was the first concerted effort to put all of our products under one consistent brand. I particularly appreciate our new tagline – Protecting Sight. Empowering Lives. As the public face of our profession, it is essential that our Academy’s brand reflects our real commitment to improving the lives of our patients.

    It has been the greatest honor and privilege to serve as Academy president during this remarkable year. I am continually amazed at the diligence and competence of the Academy’s leadership under David W. Parke II, MD, and our phenomenal staff. But most of all, I remain awed by the continual dedication of you, my colleagues.

    I am delighted that my superbly gifted and able colleague William L. Rich III, MD will bring his incomparable knowledge and skill to leading the Academy in 2016. I thank you again for the opportunity to serve this organization as 2015 president.

    Sincerely,
    Russell N. Van Gelder, MD, PhD
    President
    American Academy of
    Ophthalmology