Looking for Ophthalmology Education or CMEs? Here’s a List of 10 Ophthalmology Conferences in 2019

by Michael B. Rivers, MD |

Ophthalmology meeting calendar: learn, network and get CMEs in 2019

With dozens of ophthalmology conferences happening every year, how do you know which ones to attend? Or whether they’ll be worth the time and money to go? And if you do choose to attend one, how can you make sure you’re getting the most out of your experience? In this article, we’ll take a look at what you can gain from attending a conference, what some of the major conferences are and what each of them offers. We’ll also cover some valuable strategies from conference veterans to help you make the most of your time, really connect with people during networking events and take away knowledge you can actually put into practice.

Benefits of Attending an Ophthalmology Conference

In this digital age, some people are predicting that medical conferences will soon become obsolete, replaced by online courses, webinars and forums. It’s hard to know what the future may hold, but the fact is that right now, ophthalmology conferences offer opportunities to learn, network and stay up to date with the industry that you simply can’t get elsewhere. Besides, online courses just can’t quite recreate the personal connection and friendly atmosphere that can come from a good in-person discussion with peers and thought leaders.

Learning and continuing medical education (CME) opportunities

Group of people wearing lanyards watching a presentationAs you know, keeping your ophthalmology board certification requires 50 hours of continuing medical education (CME) every 2 years, plus your state licensure may have additional CME requirements. Fortunately, many ophthalmology conferences in 2019 offer CME-accredited courses as part of their programs. For many ophthalmologists, it’s easier to knock out CMEs as part of a full weekend of conference activities, rather than traveling somewhere else just for CMEs or trying to squeeze in online training after clinic. But CMEs aren’t the only type of continued learning that helps ophthalmologists succeed. The upcoming ophthalmology conferences in 2019 also offer non-CME educational sessions on about as many topics, and in as many different formats, as you can imagine. Whether you’re hearing a lecture on new ARMD treatments or participating in a group discussion on ophthalmology marketing techniques, you can gain valuable insights that may help you improve both patient care and practice performance.

Professional networking

Why take time to build connections? First of all, you never know what business opportunities it might open up for you. But more importantly, building connections gives you the chance to speak with interesting people who have been in your shoes. Not only can this be fun, but also you can often take away valuable advice. For instance, maybe you thought a certain day-to-day issue was unique to your practice, but it turns out someone else experienced it and came up with a clever solution that you can try as well. Conversely, you may find that your thoughts and knowledge in other areas prove helpful to them. In highly competitive fields, such as oculoplastics, you may be hesitant to share information with other ophthalmologists who live near you because they’re your direct competitors. But if you’re at a conference with ophthalmologists from all around the country, you and your peers can feel a bit more free to share knowledge.

Seeing new innovations in ophthalmic products and services

From diagnostic imaging devices to contact lenses to healthcare IT, technology plays a key role in the field of ophthalmology. And with new innovations emerging constantly, you should be continually evaluating what’s out there to see whether it might be time to upgrade some of the products and services you use at your practice. By putting dozens or even hundreds of vendors in one room together, trade show exhibit halls provide a fantastic opportunity for you to explore a wealth of solutions in a relatively short period of time. You can see products up close and even try them out, plus speak directly with the vendor and ask them your questions. In addition, you may be able to talk with specific vendor representatives like executives and product managers. They can provide insights into the company’s culture, what makes them different from others and what their strategy is for the future. Getting to know the people behind the products can sometimes be as valuable as seeing the products themselves.

Top 10 Ophthalmology Conferences for 2019

Take a look at this ophthalmology meeting calendar for this year and next, and consider which shows best fit your practice’s unique needs and goals. Also, take into account your personal preferences—would you prefer a large or more intimate show, comprehensive or specialized topics, and traditional lectures or interactive discussions?

1. AAO 2019 – Academy of Ophthalmology Annual Meeting

When: 10/12-15/2019 Where: San Francisco, CA Size: 25,000+ attendees As the largest and most well-known ophthalmology conference, AAO 2019 will include a wide variety of ophthalmology meetings, including subspecialty content, skills transfer labs, a grand rounds symposium and CMEs. AAO also features the largest exhibition of ophthalmic technology, products and services in the world.

2. ASCRS•ASOA Annual Meeting

When: 5/4-6/2019 Where: San Diego, CA Size: 6,000+ attendees This program from the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) and American Society of Ophthalmic Administrators (ASOA) caters to anterior segment surgeons and practice management professionals. Attendees have access to interactive educational sessions, CMEs, networking and social events, a large exhibit hall, and additional programs such as pre-conference deep dives.

3. Hawaiian Eye

When: 1/18-24/2020 Where: Waikoloa, HI Size: 1,000+ attendees This ophthalmology meeting’s calendar of events includes interactive learning sessions, educational credits (including CMEs) and an exhibit hall, like many other shows, but what sets it apart is its beautiful tropical setting. Some of the sessions are even held outside, plus they offer fun, family-friendly events including hula lessons and a traditional luau.

4. American Glaucoma Society (AGS) 2019 Annual Meeting

When: 2/27/2020-3/1/2020 Where: San Francisco, CA Size: 1,000 attendees The AGS Annual Meeting features cutting-edge symposia, interactive sessions on hot topics, intimate breakfast roundtables, poster discussions, surgical video sessions, an exhibit hall and unique social events.

5. Retina World Congress

When: 3/21-24/2019 (2020 dates TBA) Where: Fort Lauderdale, FL Size: 1,000 attendees Specifically geared toward retina specialists, this ophthalmology congress provides in-depth educational sessions, CME credits, updates on imaging advances, interactive discussions, peer research presentations, networking opportunities, an exhibit hall and more.

6. ASRS Annual Meeting – American Society of Retina Specialists

When: 7/26-30/2019 Where: Chicago, IL Size: 1,000 attendees Focusing on the most important developments in retina, this ophthalmology meeting’s calendar of events includes expert research presentations, an ophthalmic technology showcase, and opportunities to connect with peers during social events, breaks, and interactive sessions. Other highlights include a live surgery symposium, exhibit hall, frequent Q&A sessions and take-home panels.

7. Combined Ophthalmic Symposium

When: 8/23-25/2019 Where: Austin, TX Size: 450 attendees Hosted by ASCRS and ASOA like the ASCRS•ASOA Annual Meeting, this ophthalmology congress provides practical, specialized education designed for all ophthalmology practice roles. It also offers networking opportunities, CMEs, wet labs and an exhibit hall.

8. OSN New York

When: 11/15-17/2019 Where: New York, NY Size: 400+ attendees This unique ophthalmology congress brings physicians together for a highly personalized experience, with a focus on learning from one another during close interaction with faculty and colleagues. In addition to educational sessions, attendees have access to CMEs, networking events and an exhibit hall.

9. Kiawah Eye

When: 5/30/2019-6/1/2019 Where: Kiawah Island, SC Size: 350 attendees Perfect for networking, this upcoming ophthalmology conference offers a comprehensive program, distinguished faculty, live debates, exhibit hall, and valuable CME and interactive sessions—all at a relaxed golf resort on a beautiful barrier island.

10. Women in Ophthalmology (WIO) Summer Symposium

When: 8/22-25/2019 Where: Coeur d’Alene, ID Size: 340 attendees Focused on spotlighting and empowering women within the male-dominated field of ophthalmology, this event offers dynamic speakers, specialized educational content, an exhibit hall and networking events in a collaborative environment.

A List of Other Ophthalmology Conferences in 2019

Upcoming ophthalmology conferences (as of May 2019):

  • Southern Eye Congress
  • New Jersey Academy of Ophthalmology Annual Meeting (NJAO)
  • Envision: NYS Ophth Society Annual Meeting
  • RGW Retina Symposium

Past ophthalmology conferences to consider for next year:

  • Caribbean Eye
  • Cataract Surgery: Telling It Like It Is
  • New Orleans Academy of Ophthalmology
  • Orange County Society of Ophth (OCSO) Society Dinners
  • Ohio Ophthalmology Society Annual Meeting
  • Utah Ophth Society Annual Meeting (UOS)
  • The Washington Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons (WAEPS) Annual Meeting
  • 21st Annual Business of Retina Meeting
  • Cornea 360
  • US Retina Annual Meeting
  • Kentucky Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons
  • TexMed 2019 Annual Meeting

How to Make the Most of Your Time at the Event

Understand your practice’s needs and plan ahead.

Identify what you’re really looking to get out of an ophthalmology conference in 2019 and which topics you’d like to learn about. Once you’ve set specific goals, pick an ophthalmology congress that aligns with them. Then, look at the ophthalmology meeting calendar and pick which sessions to attend that will help you achieve those goals. In addition, think carefully about which areas of your practice aren’t running as smoothly as they could be, or which areas you excel in that you’d like to expand even further. Read up on the vendors who will be at the upcoming ophthalmology conference and identify which technologies or services might help you improve your practice. Take note of their booth numbers, and make appointments beforehand if possible to make sure they’ll have people available to talk to you. As an added bonus, as you’re attending sessions or visiting vendors related to your key areas of interest, you’ll meet people who have similar interests and challenges to yours. This can spark other conversations and insights.

Learn the event space layout.

Especially if you’re at a big conference, things can get a bit overwhelming if you’re always trying to figure out where you are and where you need to go next. If you can, make sure to study the conference map beforehand, alongside the ophthalmology conference calendar. In the exhibit halls in particular, you may even want to print out a map, mark all the vendors you want to visit and draw a path between them. This can save you a lot of time on wandering around when your time may be limited.

Take notes that you can actually use.

At ophthalmology meetings, you’ll be bombarded with a wealth of information. It can be tempting to write down nearly everything you hear, or not to take notes at all and trust that your memory will retain the information. But neither of these approaches will help you much when you get back home. Before the ophthalmology congress, decide which note-taking format will be most helpful to you and most useful to reference later on. You probably don’t want to have dozens and dozens of pages to read through, nor do you want cryptic shorthand that makes no sense to you once you’ve left the show. Some upcoming ophthalmology conferences in 2019 even make presentation slides available to attendees. If you have these slides to reference specific details, so you won’t have to write all those details down. Most importantly, focus on key takeaways and practical action items that you can implement at your practice.

Tips for Networking at the Event

Think about who you want to speak with ahead of time.

This one is key. Find out which speakers, vendors and attendees will be there, and make a list of everyone you’d like to meet. Once you’ve selected them, do even more research—read their latest book, blog posts, company news, etc. and prepare some questions or comments to fuel your conversations.

Start the conversation online.

Even if you haven’t met people in person yet, you can connect and engage with them on Twitter or LinkedIn before and during the conference. Plus, shoot a quick email or message to the people on your “to meet” list that you’d like to meet up during the event. Don’t make the mistake of asking for an entire hour, though—tell them you know their time is valuable, and you’d just like a few minutes to introduce yourself. You can always extend the conversation from there if both parties are interested.

Attend official and unofficial conference social events.

It can be a lot easier to connect with people in a relaxed environment (and perhaps over a drink). Take a look at the ophthalmology conference calendar and plan on going to every social event if you can. Plus, see if other organizations or vendors are hosting independent events in the area during the conference that you can attend.

Have some conversation starters prepared.

Whether it’s “Where are you from?” or “What do you specialize in?”, having some pre-planned topics can help you get the conversation flowing when you introduce yourself to someone new.

Man and woman looking at piece of paper together during conference lunchDon’t stay in “hover mode.”

Introverts, listen up! Once you’ve seen someone you want to talk to, approaching them and waiting at a safe distance until the perfect moment comes to break into their conversation can seem to be the best option. But in many cases, the perfect moment never comes, and the person might walk away before you get your chance. Plus, they may notice you hovering and even feel a little bit uncomfortable. So if you find yourself hesitating too much, take some extra initiative to step in and introduce yourself—while making sure you’re not being rude, of course.

During group meals, sit with people you don’t know.

Once you’ve met a few new people, it can be tempting to stick with them whenever they’re around. Of course, it’s good to spend some time getting to know them better. But it’s also important to push yourself to meet new people every day. Sitting at a new table can be a great way to do this, especially since most ophthalmology conference calendars include a lot of group meals.

Stay in the hotel where the conference is being held.

This can open up opportunities for chance meetings with interesting people who you might not run into otherwise. Plus, it can save you a lot of travel time.

Be open and approachable between sessions.

Whenever you have a few minutes, you may want to check your phone and respond to some emails. But when you’re surrounded by a room full of interesting and knowledgeable people, screen time might end up costing you some valuable conversations and connections.

Bring business cards.

And not just 5 or 10, either. You should always bring more than you think you’ll need, just in case.

Connect with people online after the conference.

The point of networking isn’t to expand your network for a weekend and then let it shrink again. To keep the connection going and leave the door open to future interaction, make sure to add or follow the people you’ve met on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Final Thoughts

Now that you’re armed with this knowledge of why, where, when and how to attend ophthalmology conferences in 2019, we hope you find the right ones to go to and gain lots of useful insights while you’re there!

Interested in learning more about Modernizing Medicine’s ophthalmology software solutions?

Michael B. Rivers, MD

Michael B. Rivers, MD

Director, EMA Ophthalmology

Dr. Michael B. Rivers is the Director of EMA Ophthalmology. In this role, he helps Modernizing Medicine evolve the ophthalmology platform by combining his years of experience as a board-certified ophthalmologist and retina surgeon with his expertise implementing and using the EMA EHR system at the Retina Group of Washington (RGW). Michael speaks with physician users, listens to their needs and communicates them to the development, customer success and other teams at Modernizing Medicine. 

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