• From the Global to the Personal: Notes From 2020


    During Friday’s Opening Session of AAO 2020 Virtual, Academy President Anne L. Coleman, MD, PhD, acknowledged the many changes that the pandemic has wrought.

    An overview of the year. “The year 2020 was supposed to be the Academy’s ‘Year of the Eye,’ with public health initiatives on eye health and the opening of the Truhlsen-Marmor Museum of the Eye,” Dr. Coleman said.

    But, as she noted, paraphrasing the Scottish poet Robert Burns, “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” In response to the pandemic and to other challenges faced during the year, the Academy issued statements on COVID-19, the death of George Floyd, and the numerous cases of ocular trauma that took place during demonstrations.

    Other steps taken during Dr. Coleman’s tenure as president include the formation of two new task forces—one on organizational diversity and inclusion, the other on reducing disparities in eyecare—and the completion of a white paper on the global health crisis of myopia.

    On the value of friendships. In a more personal segment of the session, Dr. Coleman engaged Michael V. Drake, MD, president of the University of California system, in a conversation about their long-standing friendship. “I am still seeing a lot of the patients you referred to me,” she told him.

    “Such enduring friendships are the things that sustain us throughout our lives,” Dr. Drake said. “All of us have friends we might have met [at different times in our lives]—and those are the people who form our closest worlds as we go forward and are more precious every day.” As he noted, the COVID-19 pandemic has repeatedly driven this point home, as the inability to see family and friends has proved to be one of the toughest challenges of this year.

    On becoming a role model. When asked about the point at which he came to see himself as a role model, Dr. Drake replied, “I don’t know that there’s a time when that happens.”

    He added, “You try to be a good role model for yourself; you try to be a good role model for your children; you try to be a good person in your community. I think we try to be the best version of ourselves that we can be . . . I’ve always tried to make every day be a good day.”

    On what he would have told his 30-year-old self. “When I was 30, I was here at UCSF, where I am now—so things haven’t changed much other than [the passage of] 30 years,” Dr. Drake said. “I think we need to keep our eyes and ears open to the beauty that surrounds us and the opportunities that we have, to be present in our lives, and, again, to be that person we’d like to be—that’s what I tell graduating students. It’s what I tried to tell myself [at age 30] and what I tell myself today.”

    On the privilege of clinical practice. Dr. Drake concluded by acknowledging “the great privilege that we have to be able to help other people” and the need to remember this in the midst of an extraordinarily challenging time. “It’s important to remember that the good work we do on the behalf of other people makes a real difference.” —Jean Shaw

    Watch Friday’s Opening Session in full. If you are registered for AAO 2020 Virtual, you have access to the archived presentations on the virtual meeting platform until Feb. 15, 2021. Log in to the virtual meeting platform: Next, from the   Lobby screen, select “Sessions” from the top navigation; click “Agenda” from the drop-down menu; and click on the “Friday” tab.  

    Don’t miss the Saturday and Sunday Opening Sessions. During Saturday’s Opening Session (7:00-7:30 a.m. PST; OS02V), Michael X. Repka, MD, MBA, will present the 2020 Jackson Memorial Lecture: Amblyopia Trials Through Clinical Trials and Practice Management: Room for Improvement.

    During Sunday’s Opening Session (7:00-7:30 a.m. PST; OS03V), the gavel will be passed from the 2020 Academy President Anne L. Coleman, MD, to the 2021 Academy President Tamara R. Fountain, MD. Following that, Academy CEO David W. Parke, MD, will join his counterpart at the American Psychiatric Association, Saul Levin, MD, MPA, FRCP-E, FRCPsych, for a conversation about COVID-19’s impact on physicians and their communities.

    Financial disclosures. Dr. Coleman: None. Dr. Drake: None.

    Read more news from AAO 2020 Virtual.