ICO marks centenary

The Irish College of Ophthalmologists recently commemorated the 100th anniversary of the society that would later become the ICO

Colin Kerr

Posted: Friday, February 1, 2019

Dr Micheal Brennan, Past President of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, is pictured with Dr Alison Blake, President of the Irish College of Ophthalmologists, at the Montgomery Lecture 2018

On Friday November 16 the Irish College of Ophthalmologists formally commemorated the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Irish Ophthalmological Society (IOS) in 1918, the forerunner to the ICO, with a series of special events.

The ICO Winter Meeting and Royal Academy of Medicine Ophthalmic Section session preceded the Annual Montgomery Lecture and Centenary Reception held that evening at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

Of great significance to the specialty of ophthalmology in Ireland in the early 20th Century was the establishment of the Montgomery Lecture in 1916. The 2018 Lecture, entitled “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”, was delivered by Dr Michael Brennan, Past President of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and presented a fitting occasion for the College to commemorate the Society’s centenary.

The Montgomery Lecture was the first medical lecture founded in Trinity College Dublin. Through this lectureship, the small Montgomery family have retained their influence in ophthalmology and the name of Sir Robert Montgomery has become widely known, particularly in contemporary ophthalmology, alongside other Irish ophthalmological luminaries such as Sir Arthur Jacob, Sir Henry Rosborough Swanzy and Sir William Wilde.

The lecture was initially given as a research lecture by early career ophthalmologists; however, since World War II it has been presented by the leading figures in ophthalmology from both Ireland and abroad including neurologists, behavioural scientists and molecular ophthalmologists, to the immeasurable advantage of Irish ophthalmology. It was a great honour for the College to welcome Dr Michael Brennan, who has served as the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s international envoy for many years, and on the AAO Global Advisors Committee.

To mark the occasion, the ICO created a special commemorative booklet, providing an overview of the evolution and the delivery of ophthalmic services to patients in Ireland over the last number of decades.

Commenting on the importance of the occasion, Dr Alison Blake, President of the ICO, said: “It is a great honour and privilege to be president of the ICO at a time when we mark this significant milestone in the history of our specialty in Ireland. There have been many incredible advances in eye care for patients over the past 100 years and Irish ophthalmologists have much to be proud of in this timeframe. Many eye conditions, which would have previously led to certain sight loss for patients in the past, are now manageable or preventable as a result of significant advances in treatments and technologies. Our focus remains on continued evolution in the training of eye specialists in response to the eye care needs of our population and to ensure the highest standards of eye care delivery in Ireland are safeguarded.”

Dr Blake added : “In tandem with the fast pace in advances for the treatment of eye diseases has come the challenge of providing the required services to a growing and ageing population. The demand for specialised medical eye care in Ireland greatly exceeds current capacity and waiting lists in ophthalmology are among the most numerous in the Irish health service. The ICO has strongly advocated on the urgent need for extra resources necessary to ensure avoidable cases of sight loss are kept to a minimum.”

A key priority for the ICO is to ensure the required funding is made available to implement the recommendations outlined in the Model of Eye Care document and HSE Primary Care Eye Services Review Group Report, published in June 2017.

She continued : “The implementation of these keys actions will be essential in addressing the current unacceptably high waiting lists. The ICO welcomed the recent opening of two dedicated, consultant-led cataract units in Ireland, aimed at significantly reducing wait times for patients on the surgical wait list. Continued investment in order to bring the facilities to full operational capacity is however essential if waiting lists nationally are to be fully tackled and to ensure sustainable improvements to the service.”

The establishment of the Irish Ophthalmological Society is credited to Irish Ophthalmologist Dr John Benjamin Storey in 1918. Dr Storey was among the many influential Irish figures in ophthalmology at this time, alongside Sir Henry Rosborough Swanzy, Sir Arthur Jacob and Sir William Wilde, father of famous Irish poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde.

Dr Storey served as President of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland from 1918-20 and during the same period, as President of the Ophthalmological Society of the United Kingdom. Almost certainly, the prospect of this honorary office underlined for Dr John Benjamin Storey the lack of an equivalent society in Ireland, prompting him to found the IOS in 1918. He was elected President of the Society from 1921-23.

The IOS would later merge with the younger Faculty of Ophthalmology in 1992 to form the Irish College of Ophthalmologists, the accredited postgraduate training body in Ireland for ophthalmologists. The ICO is now the professional and representative body for eye doctors in Ireland.

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