The cancellation of optometry conferences and seminars in Australia and New Zealand due to the corona virus pandemic has led to a rapid expansion of online availability of continuing professional development. Although the requirements for CPD attendance to maintain optometric registration in Australia have been relaxed in the circumstances, the convenience and availability of inexpensive online education has been a boon to optometrists, optometry students, and optometric staff, including vision therapists where optometrists deliver vision therapy to their patients.
I Heart VT 2020 (www.iheartvt.org) is a first-ever international virtual conference to bring the vision therapy community together for a month-long series of online seminars and workshops. Held across the month of April, it combines the knowledge of educational resources of the Australasian and British Colleges of Behavioural Optometrists, Vision Therapy Canada, the Neuro Optometric Rehabilitation Association, the College of Optometrists in Vision Development, and the International Sports Vision Association, as well as optometric associations in Europe and South America. The operation has been organised and is being incredibly well-run by staff of Vivid Vision – a company which has developed and distributes virtual reality vision therapy equipment – although there are no commercial factors involved. Indeed, the small registration fee payable to attend I Heart VT 2020 will be donated to DirectRelief.org to support international COVID-19 relief efforts. Direct Relief works in the U.S. and internationally to equip doctors and nurses with life-saving medical resources to care for the world’s most vulnerable people.
Live Presentations via Zoom
Every day in April more than 1,700 optometrists and vision therapists have online access to lectures, workshops and discussion groups by over 100 presenters from more than 45 countries in eight languages including Spanish, French, German, Dutch, Arabic, Portuguese, and Mandarin. The calendar of lectures is available in your own region by adjusting the time zone on the site, and you can register easily and receive a quick response for access to the scheduled Zoom conferences.
You have access to all presentations live on Zoom, where you can ask questions, or it is recorded for future viewing. The scheduling depends on the presenter’s time zone, and due to the time differences it is often much easier in Australia or New Zealand to watch a presentation originating in America or Europe at a more reasonable time during the day, as many practitioners have closed their offices and have time, or after office hours.
I Heart VT 2020 is an extensive and intensive program of online education, and it is easy to spend a few hours each day or night catching up on presentations of interest
So far over 130 Australians and more than 20 New Zealanders have benefited from the online availability of this extensive educational resource. I have been able to add to my education and experience by watching from the comforts of my study a great range of excellent presentations on amblyopia and strabismus, sports vision, concussion and acquired brain injury, prescribing prisms, management of myopia, contact lenses for children, optometric management of oculo- vestibular dysfunction, use of tinted lenses in acquired brain injury and excessive photophobia, autism, vision and nutrition, vision development and learning – related vision dysfunctions.
As well, case studies are presented for audience discussion with a moderator, research studies are presented, and there are live journal and book clubs where attendees can discuss recent journal articles or textbooks.
The international nature of the program is exemplified by the numbers attending in real time or watching later. For example, I have been privileged to present a number of one-hour seminars on various topics, including one on avoiding malpractice and negligence actions in paediatric optometric practice, at which 245 people participated online, and another 320 people watched the recording later.
In the current health environment around the world, it is not surprising the program has included numerous presentations by optometrists, especially from the US, on the practicalities of providing tele-optometry, as well as discussing the different practitioners’ experience of delivering home – based vision therapy online for patients who had previously been combining office and home therapy.
I Heart VT 2020 is an extensive and intensive program of online education, and it is easy to spend a few hours each day or night catching up on presentations of interest. It has been so successful that the organisers have already indicated it will continue on into May as well, and will also serve to continue to help the involved groups to present their education to devotees of paediatric and vision therapy care around the world.
Steve Leslie B Optom Emeritus Fellow of ACBO, FCOVD, Ophthalmic Medicines Prescriber, practises in Leederville Perth where he has special interests in neuro – optometric rehabilitation, strabismus, amblyopia and vision therapy. He served for 15 years, including National President, on the board of Optometry Australia, is a life member of Optometry Australia, and has been involved with registration boards in Western Australia and nationally. He is currently Executive Director of the Australasian College of Behavioural Optometrists.