by Paul Kaufman, MD, IOVS Editor-in-chief
ARVO is my busiest week of the year, and this year was no exception.
The few days leading up to ARVO were busy ones — last-minute personal schedule changes, altering hotel and airline reservations — but it was a quiet, uneventful flight down to Fort Lauderdale with perfect flying weather and a great aerial tour of the Southeast U.S.
Arrived Thursday night, stayed up too late to get up early Friday for THE WEDDING, off to the ARVO/Pfizer Research Institute Friday mid-day. The biomarker meeting was interesting, although many of these discussions have occurred in other contexts / venues.
Friday night began the “on the ground” pre-scheduled individual meetings and/or rearranging such meetings. Registration Saturday morning was wonderfully efficient and uncrowded, although the scanner did not like my iPhone. Keyboard to the rescue! Preloaded slides for Monday talk showed perfectly in the speaker ready room – not even any Mac-Windows transfer issues. Back to ARVO/Pfizer for the first of three meetings.
Hoped that my broken but healing ankle (a casualty of the Wisconsin winter on the last day in January) would carry me through the week, but felt secure knowing that the ARVO office folks were looking out for me by having a mini-scooter available if needed (as they would for any member with a disability requesting one in advance).
Saturday evening: A moving and informative Alcon Research Institute Symposium in tribute to Steven Podos, deceased late in 2009. Steve, a previous ARVO President, IOVS Editor-in-Chief, and AUPO Executive Vice President was a friend and mentor throughout my entire career, starting as a first-year ophthalmology resident at Washington University. His wife Wendy has been a friend even longer, so I have known them each longer than they knew each other. Janet Serle, Steve’s protégé and longtime associate at Mt. Sinai, was eloquent and, in keeping with Steve’s passion for training and mentoring physician-scientists, Dave Epstein, Paul Sieving, Janet Sparrow and Ted Dryja all spoke of different aspects of the development and role of physician-scientists in ophthalmology.
Sunday: Worked on a manuscript with colleagues in the morning, then off to the convention center for a poster session, including one from our group. Then the IOVS Editorial Board meeting, then a meeting with our IOVS Associate Editors and senior staff. A very full day before I even got to the official ARVO Opening Session and Keynote Lecture on Sunday evening!
Fast-forward through the rest of the week – many small focused meetings with scientific colleagues and partners, several oral and poster presentations from our group (fine-tuned some to the very last minute); struggled to get to sessions and hear / see the specific papers / posters of greatest interest; had the mixed emotions of being accosted by friends, colleagues, students along the way so that one got to only a fraction of what was planned; stayed up far too late to keep up with responsibilities at the home base and at IOVS; and faced the nightly choice between running on very little sleep vs “cheating” on the morning sessions / meetings.
The Helen Keller Foundation award dinner for Dr. Endre Bálázs, a scientist who not only did important basic research on hyaluronan and its role in the vitreous, but also changed forever the practice of ophthalmic surgery worldwide with the introduction of injectable hyaluronan as a tissue coater / protector and space expander, used in virtually every intraocular surgical procedure. He also founded the International Society for Eye Research (ISER), was the founding editor of the journal Experimental Eye Research, and is still eloquent and dashing at the age of 91 – what an inspiration!
The Dean McGee Eye Institute reception, which would have honored Dr. Gene Anderson, recipient of the Proctor Medal this year, was instead focused on honoring Gene’s wife of 48 years, Elizabeth, who succumbed to cancer shortly before the meeting, and an outpouring of support for him. Gene, a former ARVO trustee and vice president and a leader in retinal cell biology, postponed giving his award lecture until next year,
These three non-science “events” illustrate how ARVO has become a community going far beyond the specific science we all come for. It is for many deeply personal, and truly a global village where we give and receive support not only professionally but in many other levels as well. The collaborations in science that have become essential for success form the basis for collaborations and support in life as well. Truly, we are not alone.
Other non-science events also make ARVO memorable. The ARVO Classical Concert, ARVO Rocks, ARVO Idol, the various institutional and organizational receptions, breakfasts, luncheons, etc . – some purely social, some devoted to forging disciplinary or geographic interactions, are all important dynamics for moving science forward in the modern era – interactions and connections between people. Like a village, we worry and try to care for and develop and educate the children – the young scientists, physician scientists and even the supporting staff – e.g. administrators – and help them become independent self-sufficient adults (i.e., independent but collaborative investigators). It is especially rewarding beyond words to see some that you personally have had a hand in training become successful investigators and even leaders in their field. This joy is one of the few privileges of aging, and more gratifying than any work that we do as individuals.
The icing on the cake was the very last day of the meeting, Thursday, when things are relatively quiet. This provided a clear path to attend several scientific sessions undistracted by other events and appointments, and to hear some spectacular presentations in my own areas of interest. It reminded me of the joy we get from the science itself, the unfolding of new information and insights. I had several “aha” moments in just a half day, leaving a warm glow heading back to “normal” life.
There is nothing quite like ARVO for those of us lucky enough to work in this field. Can the meeting or the organization itself do some things better? Of course, always. But we should never forget what we have, and build from that, not remake it.