March 2021


A year to remember

by Eric Donnenfeld, MD Chief Medical Editor

Eric Donnenfeld, MD
Chief Medical Editor

As the numbers suggest, 2020 was supposed to be the year of the ophthalmologist—the year we highlighted all of the advances in cataract and refractive surgery and the patients who benefited from advanced technology. Then, in March 2020, the world turned upside down with COVID-19, and 2020 became a year many would like to forget. We all had friends and relatives significantly impacted by the virus while we closed our offices, elective surgery was restricted by our states, and multiple safety procedures were placed in our offices and ORs. The most important meeting for the anterior segment surgeon, the ASCRS Annual Meeting, was canceled, becoming the first major ophthalmic meeting to be conducted virtually.
Now it is a year later, and much has changed as we get back to the new normal. Science is prevailing as the COVID-19 vaccine is restoring confidence in the future. The crisis of the past year has resulted in many changes as we ophthalmologists scrutinize our behavior. In a crisis, everything is reassessed, and we are today considering what will stay and what will go. I am hoping that face masks will become history, but there have been many positive changes. For instance, patients spend a lot less time in the office, and they like being seen by the doctor and getting in and out in a reasonable time. Virtual examinations work for the right patients, and I think they are here to stay. Going forward, we’ll try to keep the waiting rooms empty while expediting the work-up and the examination. Interestingly, we’ve seen heightened interest in premium IOLs and LASIK. Patients wearing masks are uncomfortable with persistent fogging of their glasses. In addition, improving their quality of vision is a simple way for patients to exert influence over their environment during a time when they are feeling otherwise powerless.
The interest in premium pathways has been a bit of a surprise to me, and I’m hoping this is something that remains as we navigate the new normal. More importantly, COVID-19 has made many of us understand the things that are really important, like family and friends. I have participated in endless Zoom meetings, and now I just want to spend some time with the people I have not seen in person for more than a year. I look forward to the summer ASCRS Annual Meeting, standing on the convention floor surrounded by my colleagues.
The past year has reinforced the value that patients place on their vision. Our offices were swamped with patients who would not even go to the supermarket and haven’t seen their GP or dentist but will not miss their ophthalmic examination. Vision is too important. We need to continue exploring new ways to make the office examination, surgical experience, and postoperative surgery period easier and safer for patients to navigate, and to fully embrace the advances in technology, such as next generation presbyopia-correcting IOLs, drug delivery, MIGS, and laser vision correction. Eyecare providers have been on the front line in close contact with patients over the past year, and I say job well done during this extraordinary time.

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