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  • American Academy of Ophthalmology Receives $5 Million Gift for VR-Powered Clinical Education, Its Largest Ever

    Knights Templar Eye Foundation funds groundbreaking program to improve quality care for children with vision-threatening eye conditions  

    CHICAGO, Ill. – The American Academy of Ophthalmology today announced a $5 million gift from the Knights Templar Eye Foundation (KTEF) to develop a first-of-its-kind educational initiative: free, open, cutting-edge simulation training for ophthalmologists worldwide using virtual reality (VR) headsets and standard web browsers. This is the largest single donation in the Academy Foundation’s history. The program was announced at the opening session of AAO 2022, the 126th annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology 

    The KTEF Pediatric Ophthalmology VR Simulation Program will build on the highly successful KTEF Pediatric Ophthalmology Education Center on the ONE Network, which has reached more than 2 million people since launching in 2015. The new VR program will create a simulated environment that actively engages the learner's sensory perceptions to teach children’s eye care, including but not limited to the diagnosis of retinopathy of prematurity and strabismus surgery. Key features include: 

    • A three-dimensional teaching tool with primary instruction on clinical concepts and eye anatomy 
    • Simulated patient encounters to better diagnose and manage childhood eye disease 
    • Simulated surgical procedures for optimized teaching of strabismus and muscle surgery techniques 

    The VR program is aimed at residents, trainees, and practicing ophthalmologists, providing a simulated and safe learning environment that targets childhood diseases and skills critical to pediatric eye care. 

    The Academy expects the new program will become available in about two years, with a full pediatric curriculum completed within five years. While focusing first on a selection of pediatric eye diseases, the Academy intends to include additional conditions and patient groups over time. VR approaches are gaining traction in medical school curricula worldwide as they allow not only practice but also self-assessment, ensuring the concepts are learned, retained, and applied.  

    “We share with the Knights Templar Eye Foundation the belief that protecting sight on a global level takes passion, philanthropy and a sense of urgency,” said Stephen D. McLeod, MD, Academy CEO. “We thank the Sir Knights for this generous donation and for their unwavering commitment to supporting innovative, vision-saving initiatives that have changed and will continue to change the way ophthalmologists serve patients.” 

    The Knights Templar Eye Foundation is a charity sponsored by the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar, a Masonic fraternal organization. Their mission is "to improve vision through research, education, and supporting access to care." For the last 23 years, the KTEF has been a key supporter of the Academy Foundation’s public service program EyeCare America, which provides sight-saving services to the medically underserved across the United States.  

    “The Sir Knights have been the Foundation’s valued philanthropic partners over many years, launching a number of groundbreaking initiatives,” said Tina McGovern, executive director of the Academy Foundation. “They believe deeply in our audacious vision for the future.” 


    About the American Academy of Ophthalmology 

    The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. A global community of 32,000 medical doctors, we protect sight and empower lives by setting the standards for ophthalmic education and advocating for our patients and the public. We innovate to advance our profession and to ensure the delivery of the highest-quality eye care. Our EyeSmart® program provides the public with the most trusted information about eye health. For more information, visit 

    Photo credit: FundamentalVR