• Dear Fellow Physicians,

    William L. Rich III, MD, FACS

    The opportunity to serve as the 2016 Academy president was the highlight of my 40-year professional career. And what a year it was—from the proposed Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act in April to the tumultuous November presidential election. Let’s take a snapshot of just a few of the accomplishments that you’ll read about in the following pages.

    Federal Affairs

    The Academy had a remarkable year that included scaling back a dramatic 34 percent cut in certain glaucoma and retinal detachment payments. Another key accomplishment was our halting of the misguided Part B Drug Demonstration that would have underpaid many of our retina surgeons. In addition, we were able to get the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to drop the onerous G code requirement and limit a mandated data collection initiative on postoperative visits related to global surgical payments.

    The Academy also joined medicine’s successful year-long effort to build flexibility into the first year of Medicare’s new physician payment system. This helped ensure that no ophthalmologist will receive a financial penalty in 2019. Finally, as a result of a major campaign to educate Congress on the benefits of clinical data registries, the Academy helped prohibit data blocking by EHR vendors. 

    State Affairs

    The Academy partnered with ophthalmic state and subspecialty societies as well as state medical societies to derail state legislative proposals that posed a threat to patient safety and surgical standards. With member support of the Surgical Scope Fund, the Academy and its state partners won victories in Alaska, California, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico.

    The Academy also remains committed to assisting states in the introduction and enactment of proactive patient initiatives. For example, with our help, early refills of prescription eyedrops was enacted in Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Missouri and West Virginia. 

    We owe our thanks to the dedication of those Academy members who took the time out of their busy schedules to ensure that our message of high-quality patient care was heard loud and clear in state capitols throughout the country.


    Clinical education has been and will always be a major focus of the Academy. Under the leadership of Secretary for Clinical Education Louis B. Cantor, MD, and more than 400 volunteer physicians, the Academy continued implementation of its strategic vision. Among the highlights are:

    • A new journal, Ophthalmology® Retina, launched in January 2017;
    • The Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education awarded the Academy with its highest award for excellence, Accreditation with Commendation, for the fifth time;
    • The Ophthalmic News and Education (ONE®) Network continues to be the envy of clinical medicine—especially with the formation of the David E.I. Pyott Glaucoma Education Center; and
    • The Academy’s EyeWiki® achieved more than 6 million page views during the year.

    This only touches on a few of the innumerable accomplishments of the clinical education secretariat.

    William L. Rich III, MD, FACS

    IRIS Registry

    The IRIS Registry® (Intelligent Research in Sight) is now the world’s largest clinical data registry, with more than 32 million patients and 119 million records. Since its launch in 2015, more than 14,000 U.S. Academy members have joined the IRIS Registry to meet the demands of quality reporting under Medicare. With the passage of MACRA, Medicare is increasing its focus on value-based care. Our registry enables Academy members to succeed under this environment. The IRIS Registry is also now supporting clinical research to inform clinical knowledge and support scientific discoveries.

    Annual Meeting

    AAO 2016 was widely attended and favorably viewed by more than 25,000 physicians, health professionals and industry representatives. I had the opportunity to address our colleagues at the opening session, using the occasion to reflect back on our profession’s biggest accomplishments over the last 40 years: 

    • A 70 percent decrease in blindness from diabetic eye disease;
    • Unimaginable innovations in cataract surgery―from inpatient intracapsular and outpatient extracapsular surgeries to small-incision phacoemulsification and foldable intraocular lenses;
    • A 50 percent decrease in the incidence of blindness from glaucoma over the past 15 years; and
    • A 90 percent decrease in short-term blindness from exudative macular degeneration.

    What was the key to this incredible improvement in ophthalmic outcomes that predated quality measurement and value-based care? The time-proven formula of great science, clinical education and professional communication.

    We as a profession continue to deliver on the Academy’s promise to our patients to protect sight and empower lives.


    William L. Rich III, MD, FACS
    American Academy of Ophthalmology