ESCRS President-Elect Béatrice Cochener Sets Out Her Vision for the Society
It is a great honour to become ESCRS President and it is also somewhat of a surprise for me, but personally, I take it as a gift. It has inspired me to make a true mission of being a good European citizen and to promote the continuing progress of ophthalmology throughout Europe. The ESCRS has played an essential role in defining current best practices and has great potential to influence policies that will raise the standard of care for our patients.
The ESCRS continues to expand the scope of its activities, which encompass education and debate as well as research. Education has always been our primary aim and I expect it shall continue to be so in the future. In that regard, I think the quality of the programme in our congresses has improved dramatically over the last decade. That is because the Programme Committee and the entire ESCRS Board have made huge efforts to offer a model format for promoting the exchange of ideas during the congress, and also to use the Internet to provide continuous support for education throughout the year.
Moreover, we have become better at designing our meetings in ways that reflect the educational needs and interests of our members. In particular, the programmes dedicated to the education of young ophthalmologists have really brought a breath of fresh air to the organisation, and brought the society closer to fulfilling the needs and expectations of young members. This has not only helped the society to become more well-known, but has also made it more open to innovation and responsive to new ideas.
One big challenge over the next few years will be to ensure that we organise our meetings in ways that will meet the requirements of the new regulations regarding conflicts of interest and industry sponsorship. While we cannot hold our congresses without the support of industry, we need to be strong in our defence of evidence-based medicine so that we train our students according to what is the state-of-the-art rather than being the tool of the industry.
Outside the congress, I envisage the ESCRS taking on an increasingly important role in research, organising multicentre studies and epidemiological studies in order to answer some key questions about hot topics and to define what is the state-of-the-art based on evidence. Our organisation is strong enough to be representative of Europe and perhaps define some guidelines in terms of ophthalmic practices all around Europe. There are also many things we can do to provide better recognition of new diagnostic technologies and treatment options, which will benefit both patients and the ophthalmic industry.
I am currently the Secretary of EuCornea and I strongly believe that we should consider the relationship between these two societies. EuCornea and the ESCRS have many concerns in common, crosslinking for iatrogenic ectasia and keratoconus is an example that quickly comes to mind, and we will continue to have sessions and symposia connected to corneal surgery at the ESCRS meetings. We should also keep the joined format for our meetings because, first of all people like it, and it also brings together a wider knowledge base, which really helps our members find answers to their questions.
Another direction that can be further developed is in strengthening our links with the developing world. Besides supporting humanitarian missions, the ESCRS should extend its educational programme to these parts of the world, because we know that there is a need there.
Finally, I should add that 2016 saw the passing of many influential and inspiring figures, including our own past president and a true pioneer, Dr Peter Barry. However, I have no doubt that his spirit will live on, not only in the hearts of those to whom he was near and dear, but also in our continuing effort to educate doctors and to provide the best for our patients.
Béatrice Cochener MD, PhD is Head of the Ophthalmology Department at the University
Hospital of Brest, France
• Interview by Roibeard O’hEineachain