A very different world

Colin Kerr

Posted: Friday, September 4, 2020

Emanuel Rosen, Peter Barry, Patrick Hillery and Patrick Condon walking through Trinity College Dublin during the EIIC Congress, 1990.Illustration Eoin Coveney
2020 will be remembered as the year of the COVID pandemic but the hope remains that we can return to happier times for ophthalmologists
The world was a very different place 30 years ago in 1990. Europe was at the centre of a major change of the political landscape and in February 1990, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union voted to end its monopoly of power.
This cleared the way for multi-party elections and an agreement was reached for a two-stage plan to re-unite east and west Germany.
The 1990s were to see the redrawing of the map of Europe with the disappearance of four established states and the birth or rebirth of 14 new states.
The world of ophthalmology was also changing and in 1990 the European Intraocular Implant Lens Council, the precursor of the ESCRS, met in Dublin, the capital of the Republic of Ireland.
Dr Peter Barry, in European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons – A History, recalled the meeting.
“The then President of Ireland Patrick Hillery hosted the opening ceremony in the National Concert Hall. The fact that Mr Hillery was a physician helped, but in any case it was very impressive to have the president of the country at the opening ceremony.”
Dr Peter Barry said his memory of the year is that the meeting, held in September in Trinity College, was blessed with beautiful weather. “The sun shone all day, every day, with clear blue skies and this helped to give our visitors a magnificent impression of the city,” he says. “Everyone was astonished that you could have such a marvellous university campus with open space and playing fields and cricket fields and conference centre right in the middle of the city. It was a wonderful event.”
The organising committee for the meeting was made up of Drs Paddy Condon and Peter Barry. “It was not like the programme committee we have nowadays,” said Dr Barry. “But it was actually efficient because you could only blame one of two people if something wasn’t working. So we were on the phone to each other morning, noon and night.”
Few of the ophthalmologists attending the 1990 EIIC meeting would have had mobile phones and even fewer would have been using email or the internet.
Thirty years on the whole world has changed because of the dramatic development of mobile communications, the world wide web and social media.
So much so that even though the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the cancellation of the ESCRS congress for only the second time in the society’s history (there was no meeting in 1986 because of ?) the society will now convene its first ever Virtual Congress from October 2 to October 4 2020.
And 30 years ago, who could have predicted that?