40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna

In 20 years of conferencing, admittedly I remember the standout congresses not always for the clinical research, but for certain social events. I remember the WOC in 2004 in Sao Paulo, directly after which was Carnival – and where I acquired the taste for my favorite mixed drink today – the caipirinha, but never had one better since. I remember the APACRS in Beijing in 2005 – the first conference I attended in Asia, and the witnessing of China on the rise was so intriguing I moved there a year later. Fast forward to ESCRS 2023, and dancing the Viennese Waltz in The Hofburg imperial palace with my wife Hannah Nguyen will be a cherished memory forever. 

And so in my wrap-up of ESCRS Vienna, I pay tribute to the people who have contributed to one of the finest congresses not only in recent, but in long-term memory. The power of ESCRS Vienna really was as follows: 1) A congress of 15,000+ delegates – just massive 2) One that made significant social impact, via its education on sustainability and charitable efforts toward Ukraine and Africa 3) It bonded delegates with unforgettable memories – 1,800 of us were at the First ESCRS Ball at The Hofburg, surrounded by the opulence of the Habsburgs and the current abode of the President of Austria. 4) The latest innovations of the day were discussed in the commercial hub of the world, both in terms of iNovation Day, and also where many products were commercialized first 5) It did so in a new style never seen before – KOLs “boxing” it out in the ESCRS Arena with costumed debates, replete with ring and smoke machine. 

Still, it came down to one facet that any successful congress always requires. It came down to people. Here are 40 great individuals or groups that each contributed in their own way. 

ESCRS President Dr. Oliver Findl

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
1) With ESCRS President Dr. Oliver Findl

This is a man after my own heart, who in lederhosen, gave remarks at the Opening Ceremony. It takes a special individual to organize a congress of this magnitude, and Oliver did it with aplomb. He gave us a medical history lesson in the Opening Ceremony. Based on his Opening Ceremony slides he pulled together 14,462 delegates on site (which increased further by post-show counts), including 4,960 industry delegates, 459 delegates for WSPOS Subspecialty Day, 309 delegates for Glaucoma Day, and 629 delegates for Cornea Day. ESCRS Vienna held 238 sessions, with 1,910 accepted abstracts, 1,170 e-posters, 111 courses and 102 wet labs. He managed to get 1,800 delegates to the First ESCRS Ball, even emailing me individually to remind me to accept the tickets I had overlooked. He helped instruct us on how to dance the Viennese Waltz in a practice session. Oliver also encouraged us to take sustainability seriously, and it was clear more concrete strides had been taken to align with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and more from initial mentions we saw at ESCRS Milan last year. Oliver probably should have lived during the Renaissance, as he really is an all-rounder both surgically and socially. 

Dr. Dimitri Azar

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
2) With Dr. Dimitri Azar (second from left)

I had the opportunity to sit down at the Media MICE studio booth with one of the brightest ophthalmic minds of our generation. “What is the future? The future in my mind in ophthalmology and in I daresay all of medicine is the convergence of three streams that many people are working on today but it’s very difficult to predict how they will converge in therapeutics,” Dimitri said. “Digital therapeutics [such as using AI]…is going to be a foundational pillar for the future. The second pillar is traditional pharmacotherapeutics. The third is microelectronics – the miniaturization and advanced optics will become part of the therapeutics in and on the eye.” Twenty/Twenty Therapeutics therefore considered how to combine all of these, Dimitri noted. “So we have digital therapeutics in the beginning. We are starting by having devices – we have one on the market now – that we put in doctors’ offices. A retinal camera, tonometer, headset and vision chart. A lot of digital information can be combined in this to allow office flow to become more streamlined. You could have these devices in every exam room. In the waiting room, the patient could have all the tests being done. This is not science fiction. This is happening and will become the standard in the future.” The company has more than a dozen devices underway towards commercialization or in the pipeline, including the VS 2020 virtual reality entrance exam headset for the above purpose described, drug dispensing contact lenses – and even a smart eye drops device. 

ESCRS President-Elect Dr. Filomena Ribeiro

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
3) With ESCRS President-Elect Dr. Filomena Ribeiro (center)

One doctor who wears naturally funky threads is Filomena. I asked her about her colorfulness during a sit-down MICE TV interview, and she explained that Portugal is a colorful country and it is just in their nature to be vibrant. Meanwhile, Filomena was the perfect host at ESCRS 2023 as President-Elect, so I can only imagine what she has in store for ESCRS 2024 in Barcelona. We discussed some of this during a MICE TV interview HERE.

Dr. Nataliya Preys

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
4) With Dr. Nataliya Preys

The first woman ophthalmologist I met who helped with direct donations to Ukraine was Nataliya. Bold and committed, she hasn’t given up since the start of war, and she has been featured in several of our videos on the impact of war on eye care there. At ESCRS, she mentioned she is looking for manufacturing companies to provide refractive equipment such as for LASIK in Ukraine, so any manufacturers looking to support Ukraine definitely reach out to Nataliya, who is here on LinkedIn. 

Dr. Oksana Vitovska and Dr. Ashraf Armia

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
5) With Dr. Oksana Vitovska

Oksana is a remarkable Ukrainian ophthalmologist who runs Ophthalmic Hub, which will incredibly have its own conference in Kiev on November 24-25. Ophthalmic Hub even will have its own international delegation including Dr. Sibylle Scholtz, Dr. Karl Golnik, and Media MICE KOL Influencer Dr. Ashraf Armia. 

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
6) With Dr. Ashraf Armia

Sandor Palfi

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
7) With Sandor Palfi

I had a fascinating sit-down with Sandor at our Media MICE booth. We discussed his upbringing in Hungary, and my adult life in Vietnam, and discovered some interesting parallels. Moreover, we both love to travel and tend to see each other all over the world. Johnson & Johnson Vision, meanwhile, continued with its launch of ELITA around the world, this time officially at ESCRS. Its SILK procedure creates, according to the company, an “industry-first bioconvex lenticule” aimed at reducing/cutting of corneal nerves and optimizing fast regeneration. SILK also employs something cool called the Sub-Micron Digital-Encoder Controlled Scanning System, which provides optimized pulse placement and high optical performance across the treatment zone.  

Paula Ommerli-Weber and Warren Foust

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
8) With Paula Ommerli-Weber

Paula has been a veteran at STAAR, and I still remember how hospitable she was in a visit to STAAR offices in Switzerland years ago, laying out the most amazing Swiss spread for just a couple of journos stopping in. STAAR has undergone an exciting management transition, with friends Tom Frinzi as Chairman and CEO, and Warren Foust now as COO, and Paula herself clearly couldn’t be more excited about the future. It’s understandable. Right after ESCRS, STAAR executives rang the closing bell at NASDAQ to celebrate 40 years of being publicly traded. Almost a decade ago, Paula took a chance on a then-little company named Media MICE to put together an augmented reality presentation of the Visian ICL. It was because of people like her along the way who believed in innovative communication step by step that we are here today. 

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
9) With Warren Foust

ESCRS Secretary Dr. Burkhard Dick

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
10) With ESCRS Secretary Dr. Burkhard Dick

My email exchanges with Burkhard are among the most humorous I have in ophthalmology. Over these exchanges, we have become great friends. In one, we somehow managed to decide we’re like brothers…Blues Brothers! So we came up with a little skit to introduce our KOL interview. Except halfway through, Burkhard started interviewing me. Reverse KOL interview! When he’s not wearing black, this is also the man who decided to make an ESCRS-labeled funky jacket for his bit in the ESCRS Arena – a lively debate ring replete with a smoke machine. I find Burkhard, meanwhile, to have an extremely energetic mind that matches my wild one, which is probably why we get along so well. With people like this at the helm, ESCRS won’t be boring anytime soon!

Jean Garrec

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
11) With Jean Garrec

I got to know Jean in his days at Moria, and he is one of the few marketing heads I know who have gone on to become founder and CEO of an amazing startup. The company: Bioadhesive Ophthalmics. The company is developing breakthrough polymers that release drugs into the eye. Essentially, the product would be “easy to apply and comfortable, [have] in situ gelation and strong adhesion, and provide 7 days of continuous drug delivery,” according to Jean’s presentation. The product targets the retina, glaucoma, dry eye and allergic conjunctivitis, among other issues. 

Dr. Jodhbir Mehta

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
12) With Dr. Jodhbir Mehta

Jod is on our CAKE magazine advisory board, so it’s always good to catch up at conferences. At ESCRS, Jod presented a host of new thoughts, including an update on modern endothelial cell transplantation technologies. Jod also evaluated visual outcomes in patients with complex corneas implanted with the IC-8 IOL, which is a small aperture extended-depth-of-focus lens developed by AcuFocus and acquired by Bausch + Lomb. 

Dr. Eric Donnenfeld

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
13) With Dr. Eric Donnenfeld

Eric was a great source of interviews for ASCRS when I worked there 20 years ago, and he is once again. Eric is a scientific advisor to LensGen, and presented at the ESCRS iNovation Day during presbyopia emerging technology discussions. In short, the Juvene IOL technology “mimics the natural human lens and uses the eye to change the curvature of the lens implant and restore youthful vision,” according to the company. 

Polly Chen 

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
14) With Polly Chen

Out of China, Microclear is doing a very proficient job of marketing itself globally. Polly’s work, along with consultant Fabian Cedrati, formerly of iCare, is helping to influence Microclear to develop global marketing practices to match its world-class products. This is one to pay attention to. Microclear’s core products include the Apollo Confocal Retina Ophthalmoscope, the CRO PLUS ultra-wide-field laser scanning retina angiograph, and even very mobile devices like the Hyperion digital hand-held slit lamp. 

Todd Pinkney

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
15) With Todd Pinkney

Todd and I met years ago – first over discussions about Formula One racing in Singapore – and he’s maintained his great energetic demeanor ever since. Now, Todd is helping to communicate about the ZEPTOLink IOP Positioning System from Centricity Vision, which is so new I had to take pictures-only of a brochure. It provides a seamless integration with any phacoemulsification system, thus allowing then for usage of the ZEPTOLink Handpiece or ZEPTOLink PLus Handpiece, which provide 2 capsulotomy sizes. These instantaneous capsulotomies allow for consistent temperature and energy uniformity for robust and precise capsulotomies. Exciting stuff. 

Dr. Radhika Rampat

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
16) With Dr. Radhika Rampat

It had been a year since I had met up with Radhika in London for posh tea, and yet she was in a very different environment in the ESCRS Arena. Radhika “The Recycling Renegade” Rampat took on Florian “Conservation Conquerer” Kretz in the issue of sustainability in ophthalmology. “You are a high-volume surgeon – probably the fastest cataract surgeon I know – but is your surgical train lean, or you just don’t care?” Radhika asked. “I always care,” he said. “My surgical train is as small as can be. It’s all reusable as much as can be. We reduced the amount of gloves…there’s lots of things you can do.” Good on Radhika for turning the heat up, and for Florian to show he can operate right on that level. 

Anuraag Singh

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
17) With Anuraag Singh

Of course, I’m going to plug a company from my home state of Delaware. W.L. Gore & Associates, headquartered in Newark, Delaware, and famous makers of waterproof, breathable fabric GORE-TEX, is now getting into ophthalmology. Stay tuned for our video interview alongside ESCRS iNovation Day to find out more. 

Dr. Andrew Turnbull

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
18) With Dr. Andrew Turnbull

Andrew and I consistently marvel at one of the best nights of our lives at ESCRS Milan in 2022 — a rooftop YO party, which led to a party in a former church, which led to a party in a botanical garden. We were incredibly busy this ESCRS so we didn’t get to indulge like last year, but our friendship lives on! And we did manage to connect one night at a Rayner rooftop dance party. Not too shabby after all! Meanwhile, Andrew – always good for a pithy comment –  aptly noted on his LinkedIn photo at an airport prior to ESCRS that “the only good thing about luggage taking an hour to get off the plane is meeting and catching up with some amazing people from all over the world while you’re waiting.” He met up with Dr. Renato Ambrosio Jr. and Dr. Glenn Carp, among others, all around the luggage belt. Baggage Belt Networking?! Could be an even bigger thing for ESCRS 2024 if the Barcelona airport belts are bad – ha!

Enrico Plessow 

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
19) With Enrico Plessow

I’d like to introduce you to my good friend Ulf. Wait, this isn’t Ulf. This is his colleague Enrico. Technically, every time I visit Teleon I must visit Ulf. I hope he forgives me that Enrico is here. Regardless, Teleon has some great IOLs like their FEMTIS range. In fact, Dr. Florian Kretz noted at the Teleon booth that choosing FEMTIS IOLs is all about nailing the target. “If you use a FEMTIS IOL then you actually fix it into the capsulotomy, meaning that the optics align perfectly because the capsulotomy was aligned to the visual axis. That gives you a very precise target with very good centration,” he said. This was in regards to using the FEMTIS IOL in conjunction with the Lensar ALLY Adaptive Cataract Treatment System and other options to perform automated capsulotomies. Check out our full article here.

Dr. Cathleen McCabe

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
20) With Dr. Cathleen McCabe

The first time I met Cathy we were vlogging down the street together. Those were some amateur Media MICE film days, but the good times go on. Cathy, meanwhile, presented on during ESCRS – the global platform for making eye care more sustainable. The group has an impressive list of society collaborators and top KOLs, as well as a resource library and the ability to pledge.

ESCRS Treasurer Dr. Thomas Kohnen

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
21) With ESCRS Treasurer Dr. Thomas Kohnen

I learned at ESCRS that Thomas is not only the treasurer. He’s also the Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery editor. So we ended up having a great discussion about hot topics and submissions to JCRS, which is a joint journal initiative between ESCRS and ASCRS. It all appears on MICE TV in an upcoming episode.

Dr. David Lockington

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
22) With Dr. David Lockington

I’m very excited for David, President-Elect of UKISCRS, as this conference in 2024 will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the IOL’s invention by Sir Harold Ridley. UKISCRS is one of the UK’s best meetings now. We’ve never been to a UK national meeting yet. We’ve gone to a German one — the DOC. We’ve been to the Singapore-Malaysia Joint Meeting in Ophthalmology, which rotates between these countries and happens again in January 2024. But the UK — well, UKISCRS will be a very exciting first UK national show for us next year, beyond the ESCRS in London in 2014. 

Jay Herman

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
23) With Jay Herman

Aside from George, the most interesting person in Canada that I know is President/Co-Founder of Salient Medical Solutions, Jay Herman. The level of connections I have within ophthalmology is nothing compared to the level of connections Jay has generally in Canada. If you go there for anything other than maple syrup, you ought to talk to him.

Matthias Görl and Kathrin Benedikt

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
24) With Matthias Görl and and 25) Kathrin Benedikt

More and more mad respect for these peeps. Matthias is just a great all-round guy. And Kathrin has more designs on her arms than her clothes. Awesome! The new generations are just shaking up ophthalmology all over. CASIA2 is Tomey’s latest testing device for lens and corneal shape image capture. Measurements are performed without contact; hence non-invasive testing with minimal risk of infection is provided. 

Dr. Sheraz Daya 

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
26) Dr. Sheraz Daya with honored guest Katie Piper

Sheraz moderated a discussion with the inspirational TV presenter and author Katie Piper, OBE, during OWL at ESCRS. Katie suffered a vicious acid attack in 2008, and in a session entitled Vision of Hope – Honoring the Physician/Patient Relationship, Sheraz and Katie spoke about their shared journey in the restoration of Katie’s vision and life. The pioneering surgery happened in 2012, and today, Katie speaks about the ordeal with a degree of mastery and enlightenment that few humans are able to convey about such a trying ordeal. 

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna

Dr. Ken Nischal and Brad Fundingsland

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
27) With Dr. Ken Nischal

It was great meeting up with friends Ken and Brad to discuss ways to support WSPOS, which is having its 5th World Congress of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus in Kuala Lumpur in conjunction with the Malaysian Society of Ophthalmology Annual Scientific Meeting on 11-13 July 2024. Ken and I have spent some quality ophthalmology conference time together in Buenos Aires and Kyoto. Brad and I also share an alumni network and worked in similar editorial roles for ASCRS a lifetime ago. When shared histories and experiences converge amongst friends in this field, magic can happen. 

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
28) With Brad Fundingsland (right)

Dr. Paul Singh and Dr. Karsten Klabe

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
29) With Dr. Paul Singh and 30) Dr. Karsten Klabe

Sometimes, I don’t know how I get into some of the friendships I have. I mean, my mates are just brilliant people. Paul Singh, what a guy! But the way he speaks about modern canaloplasty worldwide?! If I were to have that medical vocabulary, repurposed to prose, I’d be writing the Great American Novel. Instead, I’m only mildly gifted in ophthal-speak. And Karsten – it was so great seeing him in person after being LinkedIn friends for some time. Nova Eye has been providing dynamic venues all over the world for KOLs in its iTrack Advance Speaker Forum. It all points toward stent-free, tissue-sparing MIGS – modern canaloplasty – that addresses all points of outflow resistance in the traditional outflow paths to lower IOP and medications.

Vincenza Limoli

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
31) With Vincenza Limoli

It is an exciting experience to see Vincenza at a show. We met at some distance from the SIFI booth, and the passion she exuded for this field was like fireworks going off the whole way over to get our selfie there. I remember a racing motorcycle SIFI had at their booth years ago. Some of the latest SIFI innovations “are WELL Fusion and EVOLUX,” according to the company. “WELL Fusion is a unique optical system combining Mini WELL and the new Mini WELL PROXA that offers uninterrupted high-quality vision at all distances and in all lighting conditions without glasses and with negligible side effects. EVOLUX is an extended monofocal IOL designed to provide comparable distance vision to a standard monofocal IOL and improve intermediate vision to help patients in their daily life activities.” Good-to-know updates from SIFI.

Petra Bruckmuller

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
32) With Petra Bruckmuller

Petra is a low-key fashionista. She doesn’t need a funky jacket. She just looks on point. It’s important because she has a point: E-Eye is a pioneering treatment for MGD since 2015. And tearcheck provides dry eye analysis. It’s also clear that ESW Vision is investing heavily in this space with their gorgeous commercial booth at ESCRS. We’ll be sure to stop by next at AAO in San Francisco to catch the latest stateside.

Dr. George Beiko

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
33) With Dr. George Beiko

My wife Hannah Nguyen and I had a delightful time at The First ESCRS Ball at the Presidential Dinner sitting next to George. George is our Advisory Board member for CAKE magazine, and he was bringing us up to speed on meetings that happen in Canada. I mentioned that based on attending the PAAO in Buenos Aires, our relations had strengthened in the United States, and asked whether the same would be true of attending a Canadian meeting. In fact, he said, moreover, relations are quite strong in ophthalmology between Canada and Europe, so we could expect deepening ties here. 

Anne Nestor and Tim Brown

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
34) With Tim Brown and 35) Anne Nestor

Although I’ve known Anne since our time probably a decade ago at RANZCO in Australia, it has slowly occurred to me (sorry, it takes a decade with me sometimes) that she’s in a league above and beyond. She’s a Berliner now – I mean one of the coolest places on the planet – and has her own style, I’ve also seen her with talking points – just a sharp, sharp dynamo. Tim, meanwhile, is a gentleman-and-a-half, and we also get into these intriguing dialogues. There is a je-ne-sais-quoi element to the conversations, and I always come away intrigued, and thinking… thinking. I’m fascinated truly by the Rayner intelligentsia. In fact, I don’t need to say a thing about their IOLs. Just look them up. Making waves, starting with the personnel. 

Eric T’Scharner

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
36) With Eric T’Scharner (left)

For the second time, I’ve given Eric the jacket off my back. That’s swell with me, as he’s doing a lot to contribute to the sustainability issue with Hasa Optix, a Belgium-based company producing premium recyclable single-use instruments. 

Dr. Mor Dickman

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
37) With Dr. Mor Dickman

As part of the Research Committee of ESCRS, it was great to see that Mor ordered a funky jacket that came with a reference. Of course, I referred him to my own jacket fashion line, MICE Wear. Stay tuned for our full interview about ESCRS and research on MICE TV. 

Adel Bencheikh

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
38) With Adel Bencheikh

Although I met Adel back at EURETINA in Paris in 2019, I was stoked to hear that Canon has a new line of ophthalmic products. This is a big moment for the company, with new devices such as the Xephilio OCT-R1 (fully automated OCT combined with high-resolution fundus imaging); CR-10 fully automated retinal camera with 32MP resolution; and the RF-F3M, the new fully automated refractometer. But more on that I’m sure surrounding EURETINA in Amsterdam, where Canon will also be present. 

Steve Stamos

Every so often, I hear about a company looking for a special candidate to hire, or I hear from a candidate looking to be hired. I have the pleasure to introduce #39) Steve Stamos, who I have known for many years in his travels to APAC shows, and I now know based on a discussion at ESCRS that Steve is looking for a new career in eye care. For almost 8 years, Steve was Director of International Sales for Phoenix Technology Group, maker of the Phoenix ICON, a wide-field, general ophthalmic imaging system for the retina, cornea and other external eye structures. Phoenix was acquired by NeoLight in 2021 and Steve continued to expand international sales channels, but now is looking for a change. Check out Steve on LinkedIn and feel free to reach out. 

Team Media MICE 

40 Dignified Delegates from the ESCRS in Vienna
40) With Team Media MICE

I will never forget the role our team played in executing our successful Digital Media Partnership with ESCRS. The wonderful ESCRS 2023 Vienna would have to live on for the most part in memory were it not for the efforts of team Media MICE. Instead, we enlisted rapid production techniques to cover most of the highlights of the congress in short videos, which were posted each congress day and live on in the ESCRS YouTube Channel, as well as our own at Media MICE. Anyone who wants to relive the congress, or those who need a reason to attend next year: the best moments are on YouTube in perpetuity. 

ESCRS, you were incredible. See you in Barcelona in 2024!

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