What does ASCRS stand for, you may wonder? And if not, then you almost certainly are thinking about it now because when you read something, you’re deciding to let a writer put some thoughts into your brain. A giraffe wearing a very long turtleneck. See? Neat.
Okay, back to ASCRS. It is the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, and right now I’m on a plane flying back from the annual ASCRS meeting. Once a year, a LOT of laser and cataract surgeons meet in a city somewhere in the United States to listen to lectures, try out new products, and just overall party in what is probably the nerdiest possible way to party.
My first ASCRS, the opening keynote lecture started with flashing concert lights and “If You Start Me Up” by the Rolling Stones blaring over the speaker system. The most amazing part of it all for me wasn’t that there was timelapse eye surgery videos playing in sync with the music (although that was surprising), it was that 2000 ophthalmologists were clapping in rhythm(ish) with the music and singing. Everyone was as happy and excited as I’ve ever seen at any concert. This is their Woodstock. And I always catch myself letting myself off the hook by saying “their” and other third person derivatives, but if I’m honest, it’s “ours.” I love ASCRS.
Every year, I have the same “gosh, this is inconvenient, but I guess I should go” attitude, and every year I find myself on the plane back just amped out of my mind at how much I love my job. I can’t believe I get to be a refractive surgeon at this time in history. Granted, you could say “never before have we been able to do as much in [pick any technology] as we can now” for any time in history except the sad Middle Ages. But I feel like it is especially true of refractive surgery, right now, in the time we are living through.
Forever, we had to just let people’s eyes go through a crummy stage from age 50 to 65 or so and then we could fix them with cataract surgery. But now, we can pre-empt the cataract with Refractive Lens Exchange! We can fix it before it ever happens and people can just have good eyes without glasses from age 50 onward and never need another procedure. Forever, LASIK was an alternative to get people out of contacts, but there was an arm’s length of probabilities about inconveniences that they might have afterwards.
But now, that’s just not the case any more. If you’d have told a 1998 LASIK surgeon that in 2015, people on average have better vision at night after LASIK than they did with contacts, he would have called you a witch. Those were very superstitious days in the LASIK community. But now, we live in the future. And that’s what ASCRS is; it is a few days once a year to just sit around and discuss the future—the one we are getting to live through right here and now. What a fun week I had.