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ESCRS & EURETINA 2020: You Never Know How a Cow Catches a Hare

The Dutch language contains one of our all time favorite sayings. This is ‘je weet nooit hoe een koe en haas vangt,’ translated into English as ‘you never know how a cow catches a hare.’ The lesson here being, apart from the fact that the Dutch language isn’t likely to win any beauty contests, is that you never know how things will plan out, that strange things can take you off guard.

Well boy if that ain’t a great way to sum up 2020, we don’t know what is. It’s been a year of torrid changes and immense challenges. Coronavirus has changed everything and when it all began at the start of the year, doubt none of us expected that by October all of ophthalmology’s conferences would still be online. Yet here we are… online, watching a computer stream instead of a stage in Amsterdam.

But don’t be too downhearted! Every cloud has its silver linings and there are a fair few clever cows out there who’ve snagged their elusive hare. While we’d naturally love to be in the city of canals the delicious double whammy conference of the 38th Congress of the European Society of Cataract & Refractive Surgeons (ESCRS 2020) and the European Society of Retina Specialists’ 20th Congress (EURETINA 2020) is a treat, online or offline.

Who doesn’t like to go Dutch?

Both societies combined their efforts into one conference this year and DAY 1 got off to a great start. Indeed, you could say the societies decided to ‘go Dutch…’ Not to be stereotypical at all either, but the design of the online forum was both prudent and efficient, easy to navigate and aesthetically pleasing. It took the form of a conference hall with options for the auditorium, exhibition hall, corporate stands by the likes of Bayer and Allergan, and many of us watched a video of Prof. Frank G. Holz, the president of EURETINA, as he welcomed the attendees.

“While this is the 20th congress for EURETINA it is certainly the first of it’s kind. The program committee has worked hard to deliver the highest quality scientific content, curated by world renowned experts,” Prof. Golz said in his welcome video.

“The scope of EURETINA stretches far beyond the conference itself and through the course of this year we have created a strategic roadmap for 2025 to outline our plans and priorities. On behalf of the executive and board of EURETINA I wish you a wonderful and inspiring congress,” he added.

ESCRS & EURETINA 2020: You Never Know How a Cow Catches a Hare
Simple and elegant design, just like the conference…

The EURETINA segment of the congress dominated proceedings on DAY 1, beginning with an hour long symposium entitled EURETINA Guidelines for the Management of Retinal Disease: The Next Steps. In keeping with the short and sweet style of recent online conferences, the speakers were limited to five minute-long slots in which to make their presentations. Chaired by Profs. Anat Loewenstein and Ursula Schmidt-Erfurth, it was an informative deep dive into retinal diseases that boded well for the beginning of the congress.

The subsequent symposium, Management of Complex RRD, was characterized by particularly energetic questions from the audience. Dr. Alistair Laidlaw presented about the management of unrealistic expectations in retinal surgery, both positive and negative. While emphasizing the importance of positivity, he also drew attention to managing failure risk by looking at increased risk factors, like age under 40 and the presence of proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR) in patients.

We also enjoyed Dr. Jose Garcia Arumi’s presentation in the same symposium entitled When, What and How to Peel. No, it’s not on the importance of potato peeling techniques (my Celtic heart was disappointed) but rather peeling of the retinal variety. Highly informative, if slightly disappointing for myself…

Things have changed a little in 2020….

The ESCRS section was somewhat smaller on DAY 1 but no less fascinating. Kicking off with the Dutch inspired understatement of Covid-19: And then Everything Was Different, Prof. Dr. Rudy MMA Nuijts, president of the ESCRS and man with the world’s coolest name, emphasized the unique characteristics of the organization he leads.

“In a world of confusion and uncertainty ESCRS 2020 will provide innovation and vision, as well as networking opportunities and exciting virtual social events. Enjoy this unique experience,” Prof. Dr. Nuijts said.

ESCRS included several symposia focusing on three areas: cornea trauma, controversies in cataract and refractive surgery and pediatric implants. Paediatric Intraocular Implants – Where Are We Now was particularly interesting and offered some fascinating insight into pediatrics and implanting technology. A number of studies were included as part of the symposium, including the Infant Aphakia Treatment Study, presented by Dr. Ramesha Kekunnaya from India.

ESCRS & EURETINA 2020: You Never Know How a Cow Catches a Hare
The Dutch have it right, home is best wherever it may be.

Of course it wouldn’t be a good ophthalmology conference without posters and presentations away from the main symposia, and ESCRS & EURETINA won’t leave you disappointed. Full access was granted to a number of fascinating arstracts, papers and more right from day one. Over 1,000 papers and posters will be available during the conference and for three months afterwards.

Channel 3 of the EURETINA session was dedicated entirely to instructional courses, a new element in 2020’s online conferences and a pretty cool idea at that. This is something we’d definitely like to see at other events going forward. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for tomorrow (DAY 2) when a dedicated channel for prize winning papers will be premiered, we’ve already got our popcorn!

And that was day one of ESCRS/EURETINA, what a great introduction it was. Leaving you on another of my favorite Dutch phrases ‘Oost west, thuis best,’ meaning ‘east, west, home is best,’ remember to stay tuned to Media MICE’s PIE and CAKE magazines, the home of all awesome ophthalmology, for more coverage of this most Dutch of conferences. Vaarwel/farewell!

Editor’s Note: The combined ESCRS-EURETINA 2020 congress was supposed to be held in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Because COVID-19 happened, reporting for this story took place in virtual Amsterdam instead.

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