A vision for the future

The new EURETINA President Frank G. Holz MD outlines his plans for his 
term of office.

Dermot McGrath

Posted: Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Frank G. Holz MD, the newly incumbent President of EURETINA

Fresh from another record-breaking annual congress in Paris, the European Society of Retina Specialists will be ramping up its efforts to promote science, research and education in the field of retina over the next few years, according to Frank G. Holz MD, the newly incumbent President of EURETINA.
Taking the reins of the Society from outgoing President Sebastian Wolf MD, Professor Holz said that he is keen to build on the sterling work of his predecessors in serving the interests of EURETINA’s growing membership and the wider retinal community.
“Priorities for my term of office include further development and improvement of the yearly main congress and to promote knowledge sharing among retina specialists. Addressing the needs and expectations of younger ophthalmologists is of high importance also for the future care of patients with retinal diseases. I will particularly support and strengthen all endeavours of the Young Retina Specialists (YOURS) group under the EURETINA umbrella and will continue to support the successful observership grants,” he told EuroTimes.
Supporting research will also constitute a main priority for EURETINA under Prof Holz’s leadership.
“In 2020 we will again run a EURETINA Retinal Medicine Clinical Research Funding call to fund specific research projects. Then in 2020 the EURETINA-funded trial on management of submacular haemorrhage in AMD will be initiated. Finally, we plan to develop and offer a special European Board of Ophthalmology (EBO) retina exam, and thus support our subspecialty,” he said.
Prof Holz sees plenty of other challenges on the horizon for EURETINA, in particular the demographic time-bomb of Europe’s ageing population, which will place unprecedented strain on healthcare services in the coming years.
“We have to anticipate the growing number of patients who will need special care. At the same time, the number of ophthalmologists is not increasing in Europe. So, we need solutions to assist specialists and save time on tasks that can be delegated,” said Prof Holz.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is one possible avenue to lessen the burden on retinal experts in the future, he suggested.
“With AI applications we can analyse digital images faster. For instance, screening OCT-B scans for retreatment decisions can be time-consuming and AI can accomplish this in much shorter time frames. We must ensure that patients have access to these developments as soon as possible. Bottlenecks in this respect for reimbursement also need to be addressed. Easy access to education materials will also be key and EURETINA is engaged actively in various developments in this regard,” he said.
As Prof Holz sees it, research funding will remain a key priority, both through the EURETINA Retinal Medicine Clinical Research Funding Call and through advocacy at a European level.
“The aim of our efforts is to gain better access to EU research funding, which plays a growing role besides national funding. The Macustar study, for instance, is currently the only funded ophthalmological project in the context of the IMI2 European programme. It is noteworthy that it is a retina project in intermediate AMD, looking at the development of novel clinical endpoints for clinical trials in patients with a regulatory and patient access intention,” he said.
Prof Holz also sees scope for EURETINA to support pivotal randomised clinical trials to answer key questions relating to clinical practice in the field of retina.
“We have just selected the recipient of the grant for a trial on management of submacular haemorrhage secondary to AMD. This will be large-scale prospective randomised trial, which will be realised with a grant of over €2 million from EURETINA. We intend to fund more projects of similar scope in the future,” he said.
The beating heart of EURETINA’s success remains its annual congress, which attracted nearly 6,000 delegates to the last meeting in Paris, said Prof Holz.
“It has become the major international meeting in Europe that focuses on retinal diseases with the most prominent and outstanding experts across the entire spectrum of retinal topics. The balanced mix of educational formats works very well. Attendees receive information on new developments that also impact on their clinical management of patients. There is also practical guidance based on consensus papers developed by EURETINA,” he said.
In fact, the continued growth of the Society means that the format of a joint annual meeting with the ESCRS needs to be revisited in the future, said Prof Holz.
“The collaboration with ESCRS has worked wonderfully well over the past four joint congresses and we have enjoyed a very positive engagement with ESCRS during that time. Both societies have experienced tremendous success during this period and, as a result, Amsterdam 2020 will be the last of these joint meetings. Both congresses attract an increasing number of attendees so a combined meeting would be too large in the future, with a very limited number of possible venues that could accommodate such numbers,” he concluded.

Frank G. Holz is Professor and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Bonn, Germany. He trained at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, and completed a fellowship at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, UK. He is a board member of the German Ophthalmological Society as well as a member of the European Academy of Ophthalmology, the Macula Society and is editor-in-chief of Der Ophthalmologe