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On Saturday, April 13th, UNC Ophthalmology faculty, trainees and ophthalmic techs joined eye care professionals from across the Southeast to learn from one another, get acquainted and share application-to-practice knowledge via lectures and hands-on learning at the daylong 2024 UNC EYE Symposium. Each year at the William & Ida Friday Conference Center in Chapel Hill, NC, this annual event provides a forum for physician eye specialists and ophthalmic technicians to hear the latest from expert UNC Ophthalmology faculty and invited speakers on evidence-based diagnostic and medical/surgical approaches to comprehensive eye care and management of ocular disorders and disease. As attendance grows larger each year, unsurprisingly, the 2024 UNC EYE Symposium drew a record high number of eye care professionals — 213 attendees — to this conference, surpassing the 2023 Symposium’s total attendance by 50!

The 2024 UNC EYE Symposium Physician Sessions covered all major areas of subspecialized eye care, including retina, glaucoma, oculoplastics and reconstructive surgery, neuro-ophthalmology and cornea and external disease. Joining UNC Ophthalmology clinical faculty presenters, a nine-member panel of Distinguished Guest Speakers from major academic medical centers across the U.S. presented a range of diagnostic approaches to ophthalmology practice in their respective areas of focus, including retina (eg, “Pathogenesis of Geographic Atrophy in Age-Related Macular Degeneration”), neuro-ophthalmology (eg, “Latest Reclassification of Optic Neuritis), glaucoma (eg, “Uncertainty in Glaucoma Testing and Measurement, and its Implication for Clinical Care“) and other areas of expertise. Distinguished guest speakers from institutions across the U.S. included:

  • Caroline Baumal, MD: Chief Medical Officer (Apellis Pharmaceuticals) / Department of Ophthalmology (New England Eye Center)
  • Gil Binenbaum, MD, MSCE: Chief of Ophthalmology  (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia)
  • Kathryn Colby, MD, PhD: Elisabeth J. Cohen Professor & Chair – Department of Ophthalmology (NYU Grossman School of Medicine)
  • Gena Heidary, MD, PhD: Director – Pediatric Neuro-Ophthalmology Service / Pediatric Ophthalmology and Adult Strabismus / Boston Children’s Hospital
  • Maja Kostic, MD: Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology / University of Miami / Bascom Palmer Eye Institute (Miami, FL)
  • John McCann, MD, PhD: Restoration Eye Care (Columbia, MO)
  • Pradeep Ramulu, MD, MHS, PhD: Director – Glaucoma Division / Wilmer Eye Institute (Johns Hopkins School of Medicine)
  • Marlee Silverstein, MD: Pediatric Ophthalmology Fellow (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia)
  • Michael Tramber, MBA, CEBT, CTBS: Vice President of Operations (Miracles in Sight)

In 1963, the UNC EYE Symposium was instituted as an annual staff meeting of the UNC Department of Ophthalmology. Since then, the meeting has experienced significant growth and drawn a widening range of expert guest speakers to Chapel Hill to share their expertise on a range of topics emerging in the field. Over 60+ years later, the UNC EYE Symposium drew its largest audience yet in 2024 from across the Southeast. Symposium Course Director, UNC Ophthalmology Chair and Kittner Family Distinguished Professor Donald J. Budenz, MD, MPH, and Co-Course Director and Residency Program Director (Alice Zhang, MD, led extensive planning and day-of facilitation for the Physician Sessions. Both Course Directors aimed for this year’s Symposium to offer scholarly excellence and professional enrichment to meet the continuing medical education needs and interests of ophthalmologists and optometrists in attendance.

Dr. Zhang noted: “The UNC Eye Symposium this year had a stellar line up of expert guest lecturers in every ophthalmic subspecialty. The topics discussed are all highly clinically relevant and applicable, and our expanding roster of distinguished speakers enhances the breadth and depth of continuing medical education opportunities. This symposium continues to draw record-breaking attendance numbers, hitting 213 participants this year, showcasing this event’s growing reputation as a must-attend conference.”

UNC Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and Comprehensive Eye Care Specialist Michael Mendsen, OD, served as Technician Director for this year’s Technicians Sessions. For ophthalmic technician learners, Dr. Mendsen facilitated day-long sessions divided into morning seated lectures and afternoon hands-on skills acquisition sessions led at UNC Kittner Eye Center. Seated learning covered a range of knowledge applicable to technician practice, from how to conduct pediatric and sensorimotor eye exams (Presenter: UNC pediatric ophthalmology expert Dr. Michelle Go)  to how to triage ocular emergencies (Presenter: UNC Ophthalmic Manager Jackie Cunningham, COT, OSC). In two afternoon workshops held at UNC Kittner Eye Center,  Miracles in Sight Vice President of Operations Michael Tramber overviewed the history, regulations and process of eye banking. The afternoon hands-on learning sessions at Kittner Eye Center also familiarized technician learners with identifying and correcting common mistakes made in eye exam refractions.

Dr. Mendsen noted: “Every year, this event’s daylong continuing medical education sessions are aimed at providing knowledge that is relevant to practice for all levels of eye care clinical providers. For technicians, the seated learning during the first half of the day provides updates from the field that our learners can apply to practice. Our afternoon hands-on workshops are planned with the intention of reinforcing seated learning and enabling participating techs to refine skills such as identifying and correcting common mistakes made in standard eye exams, such as errors in refraction. The topics provide good refreshers for experienced technicians but also touch on the basics for those newer in the profession.”