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  • World’s Largest Meeting of Eye Physicians and Surgeons Kicks Off in New Orleans

    Innovation takes center stage at 121st annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology

    New Orleans — Next week, thousands of eye physicians and surgeons will attend AAO 2017, the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s 121st annual meeting. The meeting delivers opportunities to hear from the greatest minds in medical and surgical eye care discuss the latest scientific breakthroughs in vision treatment and research. This global ophthalmology conference takes place Nov.11-14 at The Ernest N. Morial Convention in New Orleans. 

    More than 25,000 are expected to attend the Academy’s annual meeting, making it one of the largest medical meetings in the United States. It features more than 350 instruction courses, more than 100 hours of lectures and discussions on cutting-edge science and new ideas in practice management, seven subspecialty meetings, and 535 exhibitors showcasing the latest pharmaceuticals, devices, and technologies for improving patient care. 

    Highlights include:

    CMS Administrator to Give Keynote Address
    Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, will give the keynote address at 9 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 12. In one of her first major speeches, Ms. Verma will give attendees a frontline account of federal efforts to improve the U.S. health care system.

    Blind New Orleans Musician Explores the Nature of “Seeing” in Keynote Lecture
    An eight-time W.C. Handy "Best Blues Instrumentalist - Piano" award nominee, Henry Butler knows no limitations. Blinded by glaucoma since birth, and composing and performing since age 12, Butler is also a world-class photographer. Mr. Butler will deliver the Michael F. Marmor Lecture in Ophthalmology and the Arts: One Man’s Vision, at 9:28 a.m., Sunday, Nov. 12. The New Orleans native’s work has been displayed at exhibitions throughout the United States.

    World-Renowned Leader in Inherited Eye Disease to Receive Academy’s Highest Honor
    The Academy will present Irene Maumenee, M.D., with its highest honor, the 2017 Laureate Recognition Award, for her seminal work in the rapidly advancing field of ophthalmic genetics. She has devoted her life work to understanding and teaching of genetic eye diseases. Dr. Maumenee’s insights have contributed significantly to the development of the first effective gene therapy for inherited retinal disease.

    Harnessing the Power of Big Data to Improve Patient Care
    What happens when big data meets ophthalmology’s innovators? Find out at the symposium, The Value of the IRIS Registry: What we can learn from 100 Million Patient Records, at 12:15 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 11. The Academy launched the IRIS® Registry (Intelligent Research in Sight) in New Orleans in 2014. It’s now the largest specialty-based clinical data registry in all of medicine, with more than 41.2 million unique patients in its database, representing 166.2 million patient visits. The IRIS Registry was the source of data for several recently published studies.

    New Details on the Promise of Stem Cell and Gene Therapies to Prevent Blindness
    On Tuesday, Nov. 14, two papers will offer new details on possible treatments for diseases that currently have no treatment options, inherited retinal disease and dry age-related macular degeneration. 

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve within the next two months, a first-of-its-kind gene therapy that could restore vision to people with a rare degenerative condition that leads to blindness. Get an update from the lead researcher at 10:15 a.m., Tuesday, Nov. 14. 

    Macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe, irreversible vision loss in people over age 60. Currently, there is no effective treatment for late-stage or advanced dry AMD. However, some studies show stem-cell therapy is a promising new approach. Attend an update from leading researchers at 10:39 a.m., Tuesday, Nov. 14. 

    Strategies for Preventing Physician Burnout
    Physician suicide has increased to about 400 a year – twice the rate of the general population. Ophthalmologists, who have traditionally been among the happiest medical specialists, are now experiencing burnout rates of 43 percent. A symposium will examine the causes of physician burnout found in major published peer-reviewed literature. Michael Lumpkin, a professor of biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology at Georgetown University, will guide the audience in how to practice mindfulness and other coping strategies. Dr. Lumpkin teaches both medical students and lay audiences about stress and the diseases it can cause. Physician Wellness starts at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 13.

    Ophthalmologists Make Progress in Hurricane Preparedness
    A special session at 12:45 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 12 will feature ophthalmologists discussing what they learned from the recent hurricanes, as well as Hurricane Katrina. These physicians were on the front lines, mobilizing vital eye care services at temporary shelters. Although governments agencies at the local and national level have addressed disaster relief planning, ophthalmology resources are less well developed. Amy Coburn, M.D., of Houston Methodist Hospital, will share an ophthalmic disaster response action plan that can be customized for cities across the nation. This press conference starts at 8:30 a.m., Monday, Nov. 13. 

    “The annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology continues to evolve to meet the needs of our global community of eye physicians and surgeons,” said Maria M. Aaron, M.D., Secretary for the Annual Meeting. “There is no other conference in the world that provides the breadth and depth of clinical education, research, and practice management advancements that continue to advance our specialty and help physicians navigate their practice and improve the quality of care they provide to patients each day. The Academy is focused on continuing to innovate to ensure that AAO 2017 is the place where all of ophthalmology meets.”

    Registration remains open to credentialed members of the media. Learn more at For more information about the meeting, visit                                                                                 

    A searchable program is available at Selected hours of educational content will be streamed live Nov.11-4. Learn more and sign up at


    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