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50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Well, I didn’t realize it was ASCRS’s 50th anniversary until I touched down in Boston, so for me, it was a surprise party. And I like surprises. 

Without further ado, I’d like to share moments with m’eye friends who surprised me at this nearly week-long party, and why.

1. Drs. Robert Osher, Samuel Masket, Douglas Koch and Richard Lindstrom

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Kelman’s Corner at the ASCRS Tap Room was chock full of great walks down ASCRS history lane. I’ve known these four surgeon gentlemen for the 21 years I’ve been aligned with ASCRS, and they were always a great interview in my early days with the society itself. Here, they showed a side to me I never knew about…as industry outsiders back in the 70s!

2. ESCRS meets ASCRS group photo

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Dick Lindstrom, meanwhile, has been a friend for years, so originally we were having our standalone selfie when we saw the ESCRS gang walk by. Of course they had to get in on the action! The ESCRS board has been making the rounds in the United States quite often these days (as well as in Asia), and it’s great to see the society take the rightful place of a hugely international organization. I suppose it’s symbolic that I’m in there as some kind of funky bridge between ophthalmic continents. As the official Digital Media Partner of ESCRS for the second year, the international bridge of Media MICE is getting stronger. And so are my muscles fortunately with 5-7 a.m. crossfit and kayak workouts throughout the show week. Phew!

3. Team B+L

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS
50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS
50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

We had some excellent meetings with team B+L USA this time, thanks to my years of friendship with Andrew Stewart and Bob Blauvelt, and new friend Patti Moroses. Thanks crew for the good times, and here are moments committed to memory. Also, we had some additionally great talks with Marion Bastier at B+L International.

4. Warren Foust

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Warren and I spent some good times together in Okinawa, Japan recently at the STAAR 3rd EVO ECL APAC Experts Summit, and enjoyed a few more moments here. As busy industry executives, it can be hard to get outside meeting venues to explore our friendships, but fortunately, this wonderful industry of ophthalmology carries us around the world and provides many opportunities at shows to catch up. Here, the ASCRS foyer itself was a hotbed of exchanges just coming into the meeting, and meeting the former college football player Warren was a good omen for who I met soon thereafter at the STAAR booth. 

5. Will Levis

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Will Levis is a talented young quarterback for the Tennessee Titans, and he himself had the EVO ICL lenses implanted. “Getting the EVO lenses has been one of the best decisions I’ve made, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the amazing results,” Levis said. “The ability to wake up with sharp, clear vision has been a game changer.” He also has said he’s glad he doesn’t have to deal with contacts anymore during a game. Food for thought, since the day after we met, I struggled to put contact lenses in on a cold sidewalk of Boston before a 6 a.m. crossfit workout. Meanwhile, while Will is a young athlete, I appreciated the chance to meet and be inspired by him, getting into older athleticism now around showtime.

6. Dr. Cathleen McCabe

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

There’s a backstory of my joining the winning team, Sight Sisters, at the 70s-themed ASCRS Party for a Purpose. One member was running a few minutes late to the team, and they needed another stand-in. Matt Young, Dancemaster, at your service. Of course, Nicole then showed up but the die had been cast. The rest, m’eye friends, is Saturday Feverish history. Take a look…

7. Kate Hunt

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

“My girl, my girl, my girl, talking ‘bout, my girl….” Wait, that’s a 60s themed song. Nevermind. Nonetheless, Kate Hunt is one of my favorite friends in the industry, as she’s always living her best self in the moment at hand. Whether that’s putting on an incredible Halloween experience for her kids in Australia, or coming out for Party for a Purpose in a 10/10 styled outfit, Kate’s cool is not to be messed with. That always of course extends to visuals and her marketing approach on behalf of Nova Eye, which is “lighting the way in canaloplasty.” 

8. DJMJ

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Dr. Mitch Jackson is already getting us ready for the clubs in Chicago come AAO. He’ll be DJing in the vicinity, and as a big clubgoer still, I’m there dude. 

9. Alessandro Vinti

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

The new CEO of Alchimia Srl was a treat to meet. I couldn’t believe it but he has the same sense of humor as friend Frederic Giulj at Moria, which acquired Alchimia. For a long time, Frederic was an outlier funny man at Moria. But with Alessandro in the group now, I’d invest in the company if I could. Nah. Instead, I’m going to let these guys have an opportunity to invest into Media MICE marketing. Editorial coverage about their reusable and single-use instruments; microkeratomes; and punches and trephines is fairly limited otherwise. Like one line. Ha!

10. Dr. Tanya Trinh

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Every time I see Tanya at a show now, she wears single colors of sophistication. The last time we met in America, she was all in red. Now, all in white. Not so innocent, though, that Tanya. Talk to her more than a minute and she has cleverer things to say than out-of-state Delawareans. This comes through on her latest LinkedIn posts, where she’s getting more active, becoming one of Australia’s most up-and-coming influencers, on the world scene as well. 

11. Rigo Magana

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

I’ve known Rigo since his days at Iridex, where he was one of the most confident marketeers I had ever met. I shared with him that it was like he was a creative sharpshooter back then, executing ideas with precision. Nowadays, though, he has a creative gatling gun at Sight Sciences, and I’ve been impressed with his transition to the marketing big time in ophthalmology. Sight Sciences has been going through a delightful rebrand, and Rigo has a big hand in what you see here. Purple is my favorite color by the way, so I approve. I also approve of this magazine photoshoot scene about The Legends of Eyecare, where I am the cover feature for a moment at least. I guess a lot of delegates stood here…

12. Laurie Ferguson

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Laurie has come a long way already from her days at ZEISS. I don’t think I ever would have seen her wearing this there, or the possibility that we could be twinsies. But lo and behold. How times have changed since the 70s. Make that since 2023 when she started as Chief Communications Officer for Neurotech Pharmaceuticals, which is advancing encapsulated cell therapy (ECT), involving genetically-modified cells releasing sustained, back-of-the-eye therapies. My old friend Jim Mazzo is involved there, so many in the community are bullish on prospects here. 

13. Jim Mazzo

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Speaking of which, Jim met up with my colleague Rob Anderson at Eyecelerator, supported by both AAO and ASCRS. I used to wear superhero outfits, sashes, banana suits and other wardrobes to greet Jim at his famous ZEISS press conferences years back. And on this Eyecelerator day, I was conjuring the spirit of Jim in a seal outfit (a.k.a. a wetsuit), kayaking on the Charles River, greeting not Jim but Ulf Nawrocki, who was wearing a similar costume to combat the snow and ice on the river. Hence, Rob was making the rounds at Eyecelerator, and bumped into Jim, who was helping to judge The Winning Pitch Challenge, a Shark Tank-style competition. 

14. Gavin Tachibana

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Rob also met up with Gavin at Eyecelerator, who apparently is a big baseball fan. Our team will be looking forward to visiting Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs, in Chicago this fall when the American Academy of Ophthalmology comes to town. Good times ahead!

15. Luis Diaz-Santana

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Luis has struck out on his own now, consulting as founder of LDSH Strategy in Cambridge, England. In his previous position as Vice President, Ophthalmology, at Cambridge Consultants, his mind was a wonderland of strategic information. We’re looking forward to hearing even more out-of-the-box strategic thinking now that Luis is doing his own thing. Great times ahead!

16. Onur Birsen

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Onur and I had a good time watching his partner Michael rock out on guitar to the charitable Eye Love Rock N’ Roll 2 performance on Sunday night. Michael looked like he was having the best time up on stage, but Onur and I rock out just as hard when I visit his hometown in London. I’ll be back in November for UKISCRS and looking forward to hanging out with the Glacial Multimedia virtuoso more. Glacial Multimedia, meanwhile, provides medical website design and digital marketing services to doctors and healthcare practices, and we are now collaborating together for these sectors, so good times ahead!

17. Rick Soto

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Rick has been a friend at Corza since his days at Katena, which Corza acquired along with a number of other high-caliber companies, such as Vortex Surgical, and others. I always make a point to stop in and see Rick, who was cheering me on for years prior to the rapid growth of Media MICE. Now, I cheer him on as he helps take Corza to new heights. 

18. Bill Link

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

It was great seeing longtime friend and visionary Bill Link, who was also a visiting delegate at the Beyeonics booth, where I tried on their amazing headset. While still heavily invested by BVI, Beyeonics has now gone direct in the United States, where they are commercialized. We wish them all the best on their new independent journey. Beyeonics One is the first ophthalmology endoscope with augmented reality surgical headset. 

19. Matteo Ziff

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

I first met Matteo back at APAO 2023 in Kuala Lumpur. He was just beginning the worldwide wave of commercialization of Virtual Vision. Things are a lot further along now, with a great number of sales worldwide. Their FDA-registered Virtual Eye device came out of two years of R&D at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. Highlights include “test modalities, reporting accuracy and repeatability comparable to standard automated perimetry (SAP) tests; audio instructions that replace the need for monitoring; and portable, comfortable testing in any location,” according to the company.

20. Dr. Thomas Kohnen

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

As ESCRS Treasurer, Thomas always is where the ophthalmic action is. Here, we met at the ASCRS Party for a Purpose. We briefly discussed ESCRS’s social activities this year in Barcelona, but there are plenty of surprises left in store. Be sure to join us both at ESCRS 2024 in Barcelona on September 6-10.

21. Nikkhil Masurkar

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Nikkhil, CEO of Entod Pharmaceuticals, has done great things growing his company in India (posting the fastest growth often compared to other companies in the market), and other countries worldwide such as Vietnam. Now he’s seeking to internationalize even further, and is in pole position to do so with his engagements at ESCRS and beyond. Nikkhil is a very thoughtful CEO, and has his eye on taking Indian innovation to the next level. We’re looking forward to hearing all about it. 

22. Grace Park

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

The Johnson & Johnson Vision APAC team is some of the most delightful people we work with in ophthalmology, and Grace really represents that. She’s always a bundle of smiles, and it’s great to see that radiate all the way to America. J&J debuted their new full visual range of presbyopia-correcting IOL Tecnis Odyssey at ASCRS. The lens offers patients full visual range, high contrast quality and enhanced tolerance to residual refractive error, according to the company. 

23. Dr. Mark Lobanoff

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Mark was all smiles as he shared he has received new investment for a new innovation coming down the pike soon. It’s always great to hear about the journeys of fellow entrepreneurs, and Mark said he’s also looking forward to greater work-life balance as well. That’s going to be hard with a new project coming on strong, but with Mark’s intelligence and dedication, he’ll be able to do it all. 

24. Helix Surgical Team

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

It was great meeting Antoine Doumenc (left), of Helix Surgical beyond our Zoom meetings. This was one of the most interesting innovations on the show floor, as Helix has created a femtosecond laser instrument at a fraction of the cost of most instruments, and in a much smaller, more portable package. All the best for the journey ahead!

25. Rod Ross and Justin Ross

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

I was invited by Rod to the headquarters of Med-Logics in Texas, and I’m looking forward to taking him on on that. His son Justin is spearheading another company, Liquet Technologies as well, which is making great progress and is going into clinical studies later this year. 

26. Dan Mattson

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Dan and I spent some time together last year in the lounge of my favorite hotel, the Sofitel Metropole in Hanoi, Vietnam. The Metropole is Vietnam’s answer to the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, and has equal if not greater historical significance. Joan Baez recorded a track there in the bunker as B-52s bombed Hanoi in the 70s. Presidents and dignitaries of most major countries have stayed there. And it was my pleasure to welcome Dan, who was extending the influence of CIMA in the country. CIMA manufactures IOLs, OVDs and more. 

27. Dr. Sam Masket

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

I’d like to mention Sam once more as he was kind enough to say our editorial coverage lately has been stellar. That means a lot, as Sam was one of my first interviews 21 years ago when I worked as a senior staff writer for EyeWorld and ASCRS. He gave me some great tips back then, which I took to heart, and apparently have put them to satisfactory usage even more recently. Here, we are at the ASCRS Time Machine booth, which explained some of the early innovations, including the 70s-launched Cavitron/Kelman Phaco-Emulsifier. Thanks Sam!

28. Chris Xu

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Chris is a great representative for Gaush, a strong distributor in China, and he also provides a unique link to the Western world, as he lives in the United States. Chris promised to show me around the APACRS show floor later this year in Chengdu to make some great new connections, and I’m looking forward to that. The last year I was in Chengdu was 2005 during a visit. It’s a great town by the way. I recall long spout teapot masters can be seen pouring tea at a distance–cool!

29. Satish Modi and Jeannette Bankes

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Journalist Hattie Hayes and I enjoyed the company of Satish and Jeannette of Alcon, who were a real tour de force, explaining innovations in Alcon’s press event. We saw new forms of workflow from Alcon, and sensed that the time of selling individual units was drawing to a close, while providing entire ophthalmic systems is the future. 

30. Paul Rousseau

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Paul, who is vice president and head of US sales and marketing at ZEISS, helped launch the new Visumax 800 at ASCRS, which is said to be one speedy laser. Hence, the race jacket! The FDA-approved Visumax 800 with SMILE pro software indeed offers faster treatment, greater flexibility and significant workflow enhancements. 

31. Sven Mehlitz

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

My newest business development colleague at Media MICE hung out with me the longest at the show, even after the Media MICE booth had been dismantled. That’s because Sven and I were on “witching hour” duty. That’s the time when the exhibition hall is about to close, and we’re making the rounds to meet people at booths we didn’t get to at normal show hours. Witching hour has all kinds of characters. There’s friendly warlocks. Witch allies. And then sometimes, you just get a dirty look. 

32. The MST Team

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

While Sven hung out with the main man, Erik Bror Bonn at Martinis and Malyugin Rings, an MST event at the W Boston, I swung by to hang with the core MST team at their booth. I ended up meeting Oliver Seitz, managing director of MST in Germany, and we’re looking forward to seeing each other again at the DOC in Nuremberg. MST is the leader in high quality, surgeon-designed, innovative ophthalmic products. It’s also a Halma company. Be sure to check out the TrabEx Pro, a new angle on glaucoma management, which provides a dual-blade design that enables excision of the trabecular meshwork. Visit microsurgical.com for further details. 

33. Kerim Ekonomi

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Kerim, who is vice president at Tecfen Medical, is taking big strides to advance a family-owned company. Kerim didn’t always work in ophthalmology, and has a lot of experience working outside the industry. We’ll be looking forward to exploring more about his company in the near future. Tecfen makes precision ophthalmic instruments — mainly disposables and postoperative products, sold in more than 60 countries worldwide. 

34. Joel Gaslin

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Joel’s company Sightpath Medical owns a veritable fleet of vehicles, providing mobile ophthalmic services for cataract and refractive surgery. I joked with him that if the United States were ever invaded, his vast fleet could be very useful if converted to vehicles used in defense. That’s how large it is. At Sightpath, employees travel over 3 million miles every year to help deliver quality care to patients. 

35. Dr. Arun Gulani

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

In business, you talk about early adopters of ideas. But for me, Arun was an early believer — even more important. Dating back years and years, Arun spoke to me to encourage advancements like few others did. Coming from a successful maverick like Arun, it was some of the greatest encouragement I received. Meanwhile, look for our fantastic interview on cultivating the inner self to achieve outward success. Arun’s success has taken him to even greater heights with proprietary procedures including LaZrPlastique, LenzOPlastique and CorneoPlastique. 

36. Prasanna Venkatesh Ramesh

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Even in the United States, I enjoy seeing friends from all over the world. This includes Prasanna Venkatesh Ramesh, from India. Prasanna is a glaucoma surgery and research medical officer at Mahathma Eye Hospital in Tamil Nadu, and he also has involvement as a management committee member at the Tamil Nadu Ophthalmic Association (TNOA). Besides AIOS, there are a vast number of state societies in India, many of which are very important and influential. The TNOA is one of the most important of these, and is good to note when doing business in India. 

37. Ulf Nawrocki

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS
50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Ulf cleans up good when he’s not kayaking with me at ASCRS. And it’s a good thing, as Teleon is a major partner of US-Based LENSAR in Europe, as well as other groups such as ViaLase, which reduces IOP with a femtosecond laser. We’re all looking forward to Teleon’s famous boat party at the DOC later this year, which is on a lake in Nuremberg. That one is more notable for swan boats instead of kayaks, but you would certainly look good on one with the great scenery. 

38. Carey Powers

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Carey, now the CEO of Powers & Company, is making big strides. She announced during ASCRS that the company is contributing 5% of all profits to non-profits that advance health equity. This is quite a milestone for a young company, and is a beacon to others in the field. The donation program even has a great name– Lion’s Share. 

39. Domenic von Planta

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Some say brother from another mother. Others say CEO with another bro. Domenic and I don’t say any of this. We’re just good friends who like to joke around sometimes. Speaking of which, I shared a joke on LinkedIn  inspired by my meeting with Domenic, the CEO of Schwind. Check it out, and check Schwind laser innovations out for refractive surgery…

40. Brandon Winkeler and Robert Anderson

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Sales Team Media MICE was in full force at ASCRS. Given their success in the American market, Rob and Brandon each had a single $26 spoonful of uni at Brandon’s old colleague’s restaurant, Uni, in Boston, among other delicacies. Brandon worked at a Michelin starred restaurant as a chef prior to his career at Media MICE, and so we still get a taste of that from time to time. Or at least he and Rob do. I prefer investing my $26 at IHOP. 

41. Hugh Ross

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Hugh really had me thinking on a deeper level about interventional glaucoma this time around, and I think we’re better off having carefully considered the topic to advance action. iDose TR is now FDA-approved, meanwhile, and of course is a travoprost intracameral implant that aims to reduce IOP in patients with open-angle glaucoma or ocular hypertension. 

42. Dr. Raman Bedi

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Raman is based in Chandigarh, India, and we always like to see ophthalmic community from Chandigarh, as that is where our own Ruchi Ranga of Media MICE is based. Ruchi post-ASCRS is heading to New York for the first time, which she has been dreaming about since she was young. We’re so happy to see ASCRS delegates like Raman and Ruchi all smiles in the United States, as despite whatever the news says, it still is a land of opportunity.

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

43. Matias Iskowitz

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Matias is one of my favorite new friends from Argentina, as we met in Buenos Aires last year at the PAAO. Since then, we’ve determined to help each other however we can. Matias is a great resource on all things Latin America, as the CEO of distributor Iskowitz and co-founder of Medisol. Look him up if you’re ever in Argentina. Meanwhile, we’ll look forward to reconnecting at the PAAO in Colombia next year, and of course other shows along the way. 

44. Dr. Burkhard Dick

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Burkhard is always worth an additional mention – many additional mentions in fact, as he always has interesting things going on besides being ESCRS Secretary. Here, actually, he was trying out the Neuro Trigger, a next generation powered muscle stimulator. “Re-educating muscles (anywhere in the body, including musculature of the face) is important for improving or facilitating muscle performance for either maintaining or increasing muscle’s range of motion and  prevention or retardation of disuse atrophy,” according to the company. Indeed, I saw Burkhard wink at me, so it must have been working. 

45. David Peacock

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

David got wind of my kayaking adventures with Ulf, and was down to go out himself. In return, he offered me my first crossfit experience on the early morning of the final ASCRS day. 20 minutes of squats, and four sets of 400 meter dashes, with 10 pull-up sets in between. Fortunately, I finished, and will look forward to our next session in Germany. OCULUS, meanwhile, is continuing to promote their two-handed MIGS device, Gonio Ready. 

46. Alex Bergoudian

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Since Katalyst was acquired by FCI some time ago, which is in turn a ZEISS company, Alex has been seeing a lot of positive change at the company. He’s always smiles and is a great industry friend. Now that DORC also has been acquired by ZEISS, there are great synergies coming between the posterior segment line of instruments that Katalyst makes, and the retinal devices by DORC. Great intel. More to come soon, I’m sure. 

47. Dr. Cristina Hubert

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Cristina supports Light for the World, which helps save eyesight and fights for disability rights. She has helped especially with a group of cyclists in the past, and is looking to do so again surrounding ESCRS in Barcelona. Some of her cyclist group have even helped cycle during booth activities in the past. Be sure to connect with Cristina to help drive forward her good work. 

48. Dr. Michael Cooper

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Michael, president of Visionary Medical Education, also is actually an OD attending the conference, and we love to see collaboration between optometrists and ophthalmologists. I was just asking to take a picture of him and his badge here, as we wanted to be sure to keep in touch after a missed connection last year. Michael wrote me right away to say he’s excited to be part of our collaborations moving forward. Be sure to stay tuned to MICE TV as Michael’s interview will be released soon. 

49. Hannah Nguyen

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

I always feel supported these days by Media MICE CFO and COO Hannah, who also happens to be my wife. Hannah has our projects on lock every time we show up, and ASCRS was no different. Over the last couple years, we have succeeded in engaging the American market like never before, and had 4 sales reps covering the floor for us this time around just to tackle new projects. This is thanks in no small part to Hannah’s excellent management on-site. We’re very different by the way, so if she doesn’t smile at you, she’s busy. Ha! Thank you darling!!

50. Karen Mathes

50 Groups of Friends for 50 years of ASCRS

Since leaving ASCRS as a staffer in 2006, I’ve always made a point to reconnect year after year with associates there new and old. Karen is a new friend, and exudes the friendly, dedicated spirit of ASCRS. I’m looking to our talks moving forward into what will be ASCRS’s 51st year come next year! 

But for now, let me say once more, Happy 50th Anniversary ASCRS!

Editor’s Note: The 2024 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS 2024) was held from 5 to 8 April in Boston, Massachusetts. Reporting for this story took place during the event.

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