The Congress is back in physical format with an exciting line-up of programmes and activities
The response to the 3rd Asia Optometric Congress (AOC) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia has been overwhelming.
AOC Organising Chair, Woon Pak Seong, said: “Despite being a virtual event, we have overwhelming attendance, with almost 2,000 delegates joining the e-conference.” Malaysia is host to the Congress from Nov 15 – 16, 2022.
“The response to the physical event at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC), has been equally overwhelming. We anticipated about 300 participants as this was the first conference post-pandemic, but we received over 500 participant registrations and are still counting,” he said in an interview prior to the Congress.
“And I’m happy to share that over 50 per cent of the participations are from abroad and AOC member countries. We have about 100 participants from Indonesia, 50 from the Philippines, etc.”
The AOC, previously known as the ASEAN Optometric Conference, has been held every two years since its inception in 2007.
The conference is back in a physical format, unlike the previous AOC in 2020, which was held virtually due to the pandemic.
The theme for AOC 2022 is ‘A New Vision’, which aims to unite optometrists to move forward to bring quality eye care, make a difference in each person’s life, and improve the optometry profession and eye care services in Asia.
“We seek to uncover discoveries, new perspectives, new ways of practising and forge new friendships.
“It is also in line with AOC’s aspiration; Asian helping Asia. The conference will feature the best speakers from Asia and the world to come and share their wealth of knowledge, expertise and experience.
“It will be a platform for participating countries to come together, learn from each other and pull each other up to global eyecare standards.”
An exciting line-up of programmes
Every instalment of AOC is continuously improved to expand the conference’s purpose and experience, said Woon.
“Based on the past physical Congress held in Bali, we realised delegates wished for more practical workshops. We listened, and thus for this year’s AOC, we have designed it to include practical workshops, with about 24 planned.”
The workshops, he said, will cover various topics ranging from corrective eyewear innovations, optometric skills, vision therapies and eye diseases.
“So, this year’s conference is not limited to theoretical knowledge, but practical skills. To maximise the learning experience, we had a pre-conference session via Zoom. Therefore, to participate in particular workshops, participants must attend the Zoom lesson before participating in the workshop.”
Upon completing the workshop, participants will receive certification from AOC, certifying the skills learned.
“We will also identify the workshops with a high attendance and response to better understand participants’ interests. This is so AOC can organise in-depth seminars or workshops on particular topics later.”
Apart from the workshops, the conference will continue with its regular presentation sessions, which feature renowned representatives from all over Asia who will present their research, innovations and expertise.
“This year, we are opening the attendance for the presentation sessions to the universities, especially optometry students. We aim to capture their interest and expose them to the Asian optometry and eyecare landscape.
“We hope, based on the activities and programmes planned, everyone gains new knowledge and skills and are encouraged to practice optometry and provide eyecare services at the highest level. Let’s move forward together and deliver better services to our patients.”
Public awareness level of eye health and care
According to Woon, the public awareness level of eye health and eye care is unfortunately not very high.
“It is improving through the years, but it is still not high enough. When it comes to eye health, most of the general public still thinks it is about getting a pair of glasses and only visiting the doctor when experiencing a severe eye or vision problem.
“Comparatively, when it comes to dental, everyone knows they need to check their teeth twice a year or every six months. But with their eyes, the awareness for regular eye checks is relatively low.
“I believe we need to create more awareness. Firstly, optometrists themselves must educate patients and customers visiting their practice. The next avenue will be to organise campaigns to engage the public through various media outlets.”
Woon, who served as the Association of Malaysian Optometrists (AMO) President for 2018 – 2020, shared that AMO has actively organised the National Eye Health Awareness (NEHA) campaign annually to engage and educate the Malaysian public on eye health and eye care.
“Each year, NEHA focuses on a particular area, such as eye health for children or eye health in the workplace. This way, we can engage with relevant ministries to make significant changes and awareness impact.
“We have also had a ‘Eyecare For All’ themed NEHA to promote eye care for everyone, not just the rich. And we mobilised vision screening throughout Malaysia that year.”
Woon shared his gratitude for the opportunity to serve as AMO President and his appreciation to his team during his term. – AOC