American Academy of Ophthalmology receives $5 million donation for virtual reality-powered clinical training, its largest ever
Newswise – The American Academy of Ophthalmology today announced a $5 million gift from the Knights Templar Eye Foundation (KTEF) to develop a first-of-its-kind educational initiative: free, open, cutting-edge simulation training for ophthalmologists worldwide using standard virtual reality (VR) headsets and web browsers. This is the largest donation in the history of the Academy Foundation. The program was announced during the opening session of AAO 2022, 126e annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
KTEF’s pediatric ophthalmology VR simulation program will build on the highly successful KTEF Pediatric Ophthalmology Training Center on the ONE networkwhich has reached more than 2 million people since its launch in 2015. The new VR program will create a simulated environment that actively engages the learner’s sensory perceptions to teach eye care to children, including, but not limited to, diagnosis of retinopathy of prematurity and surgery for strabismus. Key features include:
- A three-dimensional educational tool with primary instruction on clinical concepts and eye anatomy
- Mock encounters with patients to better diagnose and manage childhood eye diseases
- Simulated surgical procedures for optimized teaching of strabismus and muscle surgery techniques
The VR program is aimed at residents, trainees, and practicing ophthalmologists, providing a safe, simulated learning environment that targets childhood illnesses and skills essential to pediatric eye care.
The Academy expects the new program to become available in about two years, with a full pediatric program completed within five years. While initially focusing on a selection of pediatric eye diseases, the Academy intends to include other conditions and patient groups over time. Virtual reality approaches are gaining traction in medical school curricula around the world, as they enable not only practice, but also self-assessment, ensuring concepts are learned, retained, and applied.
“We share with the Knights Templar Eye Foundation the belief that protecting sight globally requires passion, philanthropy and a sense of urgency,” said Academy CEO Stephen D. McLeod, MD. . “We thank the Sir Knights for this generous gift and for their unwavering commitment to supporting innovative sight-saving initiatives that have changed and will continue to change the way ophthalmologists serve patients.
The Knights Templar Eye Foundation is a charitable organization sponsored by the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar, a Masonic fraternal organization. Their mission is “to improve vision through research, education and support for access to care”. For the past 23 years, KTEF has been a key supporter of the Academy Foundation’s EyeCare America public service program, which provides sight-saving services to medically underserved people across the United States.
“The Sir Knights have been valued philanthropic partners of the Foundation for many years, launching a number of groundbreaking initiatives,” said Tina McGovern, Executive Director of the Academy Foundation. “They deeply believe in our bold vision for the future.”
About the American Academy of Ophthalmology
The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world’s largest association of ophthalmologists and surgeons. A global community of 32,000 physicians, we protect sight and empower lives by setting the standards in ophthalmic education and advocating for our patients and the public. We innovate to advance our profession and ensure the delivery of the highest quality eye care. Our EyeSmart® provides the public with the most trusted eye health information. For more information, visitaao.org.