Snowvision 2018: a fun way to learn

Snowvision, a boutique fundraising conference which aims to send two Kiwi optometrists each year to study at the State University of New York (SUNY), is organised biennially by myself and Hamish Caithness, who look after the speakers’ programme, and Catherine Small, Dave Robinson and Kim Taylor, who take care of the recreational/social programme – a big thing at Snowvision.

Luckily the weather in Queenstown this year was kind to all, with skiing and other activities such as clay skeet shooting, golf and go-karting being successful every day. By popular demand, the educational programme once again focused on hands-on clinical situations with plenty of interesting case studies presented by all the speakers. Morning lectures were kept to a tight 30 minutes max., allowing for a decent amount of skiing time during the day, while the afternoon workshops and seminars should again be applauded for their up-to-the-minute clinical relevance.

This year’s US guest speaker was optometrist and inventor Jerry Legerton, who has 55 patents covering his contact lens and other device designs, and 71 published applications. Jerry designed the original Paragon CRT overnight ortho-k lens, is head designer for Synergeyes Hybrids and, amongst his many other interests, is also working on wearable display technologies. He shared his knowledge on this and on new contact lens (CL) applications, including monitoring intraocular pressures and blood-glucose and blood alcohol levels, drug delivery and supporting corneal healing and crosslinking.

Another interest of Jerry’s is ‘refractive error regulation’ and he argued well that we should all be performing peripheral refraction on ortho-k candidates for the most accurate myopia control results.

Wellington ophthalmologist Dr Jesse Gale provided some great, practical insights into managing glaucoma and neurological cases. He covered such topics as triaging swollen discs, managing angle closure risk, assessing tilted discs and the value of blending information gleaned from a combination of OCT scans and visual fields in glaucoma suspects.

Melbourne optometrist Associate Professor Daryl Guest, now clinical director of optometry at Melbourne University, returned for his second trip to Queenstown. He shared some interesting and challenging cases such as viral keratitis, Posner-Schlossman syndrome, central serous retinopathy, and macular-related retinal detachments.

Also, back by popular demand were Daryl’s Melbourne colleagues, Professor Erica Fletcher and Richard Lindsay.

Erica discussed documenting and managing drusen and age-related macular degeneration and shared some preliminary results from clinical trials on a nanosecond laser which is showing promise for helping to regenerate damaged retinal pigment epithelium tissue. She also touched on the management of diabetic retinopathy from the perspective of controlling tissue oxidative stress and inflammation.

Associate Professor Jennifer Craig was back to deliver her popular dry eye workshops, which included the measurement and assessment of tear osmolarity, and discuss the role of inflammation in dry eye disease. Husband Dr Simon Dean enjoyed his skiing and once again kindly agreed to take the “official photos” of the meeting! Thanks Simon.

Our two contact lens gurus, Paul Rose and Richard Lindsay, gave great talks on how to manage different fitting options for keratoconus and presbyopia (with presbyopia often being more frustrating!) They also held a very popular live-fitting workshop of keratoconus and postgraft cases, indicating you had to just try a few ideas out sometimes! Other helpful workshops from Jesse and Erica covered how to maximise the information from OCT scans of the macula and optic discs.

Richard Johnson was back as well, performing his famous pathology quiz, which originated from the late great Gordon Sanderson. In a tight-fought race, the winner was Sam Sharples from Tauranga. Richard also gave some great case history presentations, combining with Daryl Guest for some quality banter, while local optometrist Danielle Ross shared her thoughts on integrating an OCT into daily practice and the positive experience of working closely with an orthoptist.

An interesting addition to this year’s meeting was Janene Draper, the co-founder of Farro Fresh food stores, who’d been invited by Hamish to share some of her business experiences with us. Janene qualified and worked in optometry for a few years, before returning to her main love of food and building up a large food business, now with six outlets and 450 staff, over the last 12 years.

Returning to eye health, Tauranga optometrist and anti-myopia warrior Alex Petty called for more awareness on the problems associated with myopia, having himself suffered from two retinal detachments due to his high myopia. Plus, we got to hear short presentations from our recent Snowvision Scholarship winners, who all raved about their experiences at SUNY University and their month in New York.

Since 1997, 44 Kiwi optometrists have had the opportunity to experience the unique and challenging clinics and unusual cases at SUNY, many of which we don’t often see in New Zealand. Given the positive feedback, the New Zealand Association of Optometrists (NZAO) has also funded an additional Snowvision Scholarship annually. Applications for next year’s scholarships will be called for in March or April 2019, so keep an eye on NZ Optics for all the details for your chance to go to SUNY, and for next year’s Snowvision conference in Queenstown in August in 2020. I, for one, am certainly looking forward to it.

Grant Watters is an optometrist and researcher at the University of Auckland and a co-organiser of the Snowvision conference.

Snowvision 2018 awards

The trustees of the Snowvision Charitable Trust gave a special Trustees Award to Paul Rose at this year’s Snowvision conference for his outstanding contribution to improving the clinical skills and knowledge of New Zealand optometrists.

Hamilton optometrist and inventor of the RoseK contact lens designs and fitting system for patients with keratoconus, Paul was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) in the New Year’s Honours list in 2017 for services to optometry and ophthalmology. The RoseK lens is distributed across the world today, and Paul has worked tirelessly to share his knowledge of speciality lens fitting with optometrists across the country.

Paul received a trophy and $5,000 in recognition of his work as part of the Snowvision honour.

This year’s SUNY scholarships were awarded to optometrist Katie Frame from Christchurch and final year student Kristel Venturina from Auckland.

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