As society struggles to break out of the COVID-19 pandemic vise-grip, we are all learning to breathe and function again in an open society. While retina clinics worldwide adapted remarkably well to innumerable lockdowns and regulations, our offices continue to adapt to the evolving and regional differences with regard to masking, vaccine and booster documentation, and sick leaves.
What have we learned and what has changed about our profession?
Virtual meetings, infrequent before 2020, are here to stay. The Vit-Buckle Society hosted one of the first 100-percent live virtual meetings in March 2020 and many other societies and conferences adapted to lockdowns by combining prerecorded content with live question-and-answer segments.
Through these two-dimensional meetings, we’ve learned that while it’s possible to maintain established relationships and execute goal-oriented interactions, it’s much more challenging to build new relationships or enjoy the spontaneous interactions that so commonly lead to new collaborations and strengthen friendships that occur naturally at in-person meetings.
As such, hybrid meetings may be our new normal. The American Society of Retina Specialists hosted an excellent 2021 meeting in-person and simultaneously live-streamed most of the content, and is doing the same this year. Similarly, ARVO 2022 had both virtual and in-person options for most presentations. More extreme, some meetings such as Angiogenesis, Exudation and Degeneration, appear to have completely transitioned to virtual, with no indication of returning to an in-person format. Such virtual alternatives certainly broaden the reach of the educational activities.
Consistent with adopting virtual meetings, we’ve more deeply appreciated that portable technology has tremendous potential to impact medical care. Within retina, home-based optical coherence tomography is an obvious evolutionary step forward and is being investigated prospectively.
COVID-19 has changed our practices, too. In this issue, five colleagues share their insights on what we’ve learned from this pandemic that we can carry forward into future waves and outbreaks.
Maybe the most basic lesson we’ve been reminded of is to appreciate the time that we have. We never know what tomorrow, both literally and metaphorically, will bring. Enjoy yourself, your family and those around you today, for our days are numbered. It very well may be later than you think. RS