The 2005 SECO International meeting drew thousands of optometrists, opticians, certified ophthalmic technicians, paraoptometric professionals and related industry personnel to Atlanta, Ga. in late February for continuing education, fun and business. The 82nd SECO International Meeting delivered on its promise to be one of the best meetings ever, delivering a really impressive, innovative continuing education program designed for the entire professional eye care team, said Paul C. Ajamian, O.D., SECOs CE General Chairman.

More than 122 optometrists and other experts presented continuing education courses and lectures for more than 400 total hours of continuing education.

The conference opened with a general session on Managing Your Patients Throughout Their Life Cycle, sponsored by Vistakon. Panelists Glen Steele, O.D., Gary Gerber, O.D., Christian Guier, O.D., and Dewaine Rice, Ed.D, covered patient attitudes and needs from pediatric patients to young adults, retirees and elderly patients. 

Other general sessions, many featuring interactive audience response systems, included Innovations in Cataract and Refractive Surgery and Eye Opening Trends in Ophthalmic Care. In the SECO Clinical Challenge Cup, described in more detail below, Team Army (Jason Hales, O.D., and Andrew Gregory, O.D.) defeated Team Navy, and the Veteran Affairs team (Fred Barja, O.D., and Mark McGuire, O.D.) edged out the Air Force competitors. The ever-popular SECO Live! general session was patterned after the Tonight Show and featured Dr. Ajamian and Montgomery Vickers, O.D., as co-hosts, along with a live band and an impressive roster of expert guests.

For AOP attendees, key courses included Office Assisting 101 for new or entry-level employees, a popular joint session called Putting Profit Back into Frames and Lenses, and Ocular Jeopardy.

Theres no question SECO 2005 upheld its tradition of providing the most entertaining, innovative and cutting edge continuing education possible, Dr. Ajamian says.

Several SECO awards were presented. Jerald Combs, O.D., of Kentucky, was named 2005 Optometrist of the South, SECOs highest honor. Susan Henry, patient-care manager for Richard Katz, O.D., of Virginia, was named 2005 Paraoptometric of the South. Tennessee State Representative Gary Odom, O.D., was presented with the Legislator of the Year award. Finally, the SECO Presidents Award was presented posthumously to W. David Sullins Jr., O.D.

In addition, 73 optometrists were recognized for completion of the two-year Southern Diplomate Program, which involved 16 hours of continuing education focusing on the retina. Since the Southern Diplomate Programs inception in 1996, only 235 professionals have earned the designation.
Exhibit Hall
Although education was the main goal of attendees, many also came to check out the wares in the exhibit hall. With exhibit space sold out weeks before the conference began, there was ample reason to make a stop in the hall. Participants could visit 285 exhibits by 222 companies. Attendance in the exhibit hall was more than double the figure for last year, according to SECO officials. 

Part of the draw may have been the extensive educational opportunities in the exhibit hall itself. In addition to the industry booths, the hall featured an Ask the Experts panel of professional financial, human resources, legal, marketing, and Medicare experts, New Products Network broadcasts, as well as special talks in the always-popular X-Labs.

New Combo Drug Introduced
Bausch & Lomb announced the launch of Zylet, its new corticosteroid/antibiotic combination drug (loteprednol etabonate 0.5% and tobramycin 0.3% ophthalmic suspension). The corticosteroid component is a site-specific ester steroid that has been shown to minimize the potential for cataract formation and elevation of IOP.  

 "This combination drug is perfect for optometry," said Ron Melton, O.D. He cited inflammatory conditions for which one might also want to prescribe a prophylaxis against infection, as well as infectious conditions with secondary inflammation in which a combination drug is ideal. Zylet also has a major role to play in post-cataract care, he added.

Audience Loves Game-Style Clinical Challenge Cup
The SECO Clinical Challenge Cup, supported by Alcon, opened with a stirring salute to optometrists who are serving or have served in the U.S. military, led by Kurtis Kline, VP and General Manager of Alcons Consumer Products Division. Teams from four branches of the Armed Forces then competed in an interactive game-show format, moderated by Michael DePaolis, O.D., to answer challenging questions on topics such as higher-order aberrations, allergic conjunctivitis and dry eye. A panel of experts interjected pearls and expert advice throughout. 

Two New Toric Lenses Debut
CIBA Vision and Vistakon both rolled out new specialty lenses for patients with astigmatism:

The CibaSoft Progressive Toric lens is designed to help astigmatic contact lens wearers stay in contact lenses even as they become presbyopic. Over half of the 90 million Americans who will be presbyopic by 2014 are astigmats. In a test market study, 81% of wearers achieved 20/25 or better distance acuity and 75% achieved 20/30 or better near acuity with the first lens tried. Made of tefilcon, the lens is available in a 14.5mm diameter with two base curves (8.6 mm and 8.9 mm) and a wide range of refractive powers.

Vistakons new Acuvue Advance for Astigmatism is the first silicone hydrogel toric in the U.S. market. Designers say it offers easy fitting, all-day comfort, and clear, stable acuityvirtually eliminating the compromises that eye care providers have come to expect with most toric lenses, the company says. The lens includes Hydraclear technology for better all-day comfort, and a new Accelerated Stabilization Design to ensure the lens "settles" within just one minute of being placed on the eye and then remains rotationally stable throughout normal activities.

New Initiatives Foster Success
VSP announced that it has enhanced its contact lens coverage and has started covering polycarbonate spectacle lenses for children. Other members of its family of companies also have new initiatives. VSP Optical Labs now guarantees that all orders that qualify will be done right and on time or the order is free. Altair Eyewears new Express Delivery Network allows for lab-direct frame ordering for quicker processing and reduced inventory requirements. Finally, Eyefinity has launched, which makes it possible for patients to order their contact lenses from their doctor online and have them delivered directly to their home.

Phakic IOLs Become Mainstream Option
Optometrists should learn to comanage phakic IOL cases, said Steven J. Ferguson, O.D., because this new technology presents a promising option for moderate to high myopes.

In Dr. Fergusons experience comanaging more than 100 patients with Verisyse phakic IOLs (Advanced Medical Optics), he has found excellent uncorrected acuity of 20/40 or better in most patients, with little regression or fluctuation of vision, and highly predictable results (within +/-1.00D spherical equivalent of the goal). The procedure also preserves or improves contrast sensitivity and has minimal impact on nighttime glare problems, he said.

Therapeutic Treatment for Dry Eye
By some estimates, eight to 12 million Americans suffer from moderate dry eye and another six to eight million have milder symptoms. According to Scot Morris, O.D., its important to treat even those with mild dry eye because a healthy tear film improves quality of life, flushes out allergens, facilitates healing of the corneal surface and prevents contact lens dropout. 

Studies have shown a 191% increase in goblet cell density from baseline in patients on Restasis (cyclosporine A, Allergan), and an 84% reduction in corneal staining, Allergan says. The company also points out that, compared to patients on vehicle-only drops, three times more Restasis patients had an increase in Schirmer scores of 10mm or more. In another recent study, Allergan says 70% of patients perceived an improvement in their dry eye symptoms at just one to three weeks and 94% of patients surveyed at one month said they will or may continue to use the drops.

Vol. No: 142:4Issue: 4/15/05