Founded nearly 80 years ago, the Pan-American Association of Ophthalmology (PAAO) has hosted a congress every other year to exchange scientific information and develop programs to restore sight and protect vision.
But the 2019 PAAO Congress in particular was a hallmark for YOs because of the work the PAAO YO Executive Committee did to create new and exciting activities and an attractive scientific program. Held May 25 to 28 in Cancun, Mexico, the congress also provided YOs the chance to seize international networking opportunities, connect with future leaders and socialize with their peers from more than 35 countries. Here are the highlights of the program:
1. The first PAAO-YO Symposium. The symposium, now an official activity of the PAAO scientific program, gave great visibility for YOs as they presented their most challenging clinical/surgical cases. The symposium was very well attended and consisted of great discussions on different topics, such as new surgical approaches in difficult pediatric operations, post-traumatic retinopathy and lamellar corneal transplantation in eyes without good visual prognosis. They also discussed cases in which the systemic approach was essential for the ocular outcome, including for lupus, tumors and pulmonary hypertension.
2. The first YO Lounge. A new addition this year, the YO Lounge provided a casual space for YOs to take a break, meet their friends, have a snack and listen to six “Power Hour Talks.” These short and interactive talks were delivered by experts in an informal conversational format. Speakers shared pearls with YOs on how to launch your career, deal with ethical and professional challenges, balance your career and your personal life, promote your practice and more.
3. The first PAAO-YO delegates meeting. Fifty-three YOs from Latin America, the United States, Canada, Portugal and Spain were nominated by their country leaders to be delegates of the PAAO-YO. These delegates were invited to join the PAAO-YO Executive Committee meeting to brainstorm and discuss PAAO YOs future actions. During the meeting, delegates brought up some of the challenges faced by YOs, discussed ways of improving the PAAO-YO website to facilitate communication and spread knowledge and created strategies on how to provide more training and meeting opportunities to develop over the next couple of years.
4. The first Fernando Arévalo YO Award. PAAO created the J. Fernando Arévalo Young Ophthalmologist Award to recognize a YO who has contributed to science and is a leader in his or her field. The inaugural award was given during an opening ceremony to Roberto Gallego-Pinazo, MD, PhD, of Spain. He was recognized for his scientific efforts as a medical retina specialist and multimodal imaging expert and has authored more than 185 indexed scientific papers. Dr. Gallego-Pinazo is certainly an inspiration to YOs and an example to be followed.
Dr. Arévalo is the current PAAO president, the Edmund F. and Virginia B. Ball professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute's retina division and chairman of the department of ophthalmology at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.
5. The second Eye Ball. After its first success in Lima, Peru, PAAO-YO decided to organize the second edition of the Eye Ball. The ball was held at the veranda of the Hard Rock Café and was packed to capacity. YOs got to network in a friendly environment with great music, snacks and drinks. There’s no question that the Eye Ball has become a PAAO tradition. We can’t wait to attend the third edition in Buenos Aires.
YOs are gaining more and more space in the PAAO, and I am looking forward to what the next PAAO Congress, scheduled from May 26 to 29, 2021 in Buenos Aires, holds for us!
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About the author:
Natasha Ferreira Santos da Cruz, MD, is an international member-in-training based in São Paulo.