As CAKE magazine reported back in March, ophthalmic industry titan Jim Mazzo stepped down from his position as global president at Carl Zeiss Meditec (Jena, Germany) in May. He has been succeeded by Euan S. Thomson, President of Carl Zeiss Meditec Ophthalmic Devices and Head Of Carl Zeiss Meditec Digital Business Unit.
In a recent interview with PIE magazine’s intrepid publisher Matt Young, Mr. Mazzo explained his current position as a consultant at ZEISS, as well as his thoughts on the state of the industry.
Jim Mazzo and ZEISS
Mr. Mazzo has been at ZEISS for the past three-and-a-half years and has witnessed the company make some significant leaps. “My goal has been to work with great people in ZEISS to take ZEISS back to where it should be. Over those three years, we accomplished a lot with the help of people like yourself (Matt), moving from number four to number two. There were a lot of positive new introductions, new acquisitions, new team members . . . so really it was all in the works that I had committed in three years,” he said.
Mr. Mazzo noted that he’ll remain an important advisor to ZEISS until September 2020, and subsequently will remain a full-time advisor with the company until October 2021.
How Will COVID-19 Impact Ophthalmology?
It’s not often the world witnesses a sea change in operations in one of its key sectors. Mr. Mazzo compared the changes we’d witness in ophthalmology to the changes witnessed in aviation and travel after 9/11.
“There is no way the waiting room is going to have the patient and three or four family members,” he said. “There are going to be a lot of pre-checks. There is going to be a lot of remote testing as they are not going to have time to meet with the patient. Surgeries are going to be spaced out a little more because of the disinfection of the surgeries. So, the practices are going to be a lot different and you will see a different methodology.”
Not only will ophthalmic practices change for the foreseeable future, but ophthalmic instrument manufacturers will as well. Notably, reusable equipment, especially of the low-cost variety, may go the way of the dodo to allay concerns of virus transmission. “Reusable is probably going to be tough to sell now,” said Mr. Mazzo. “It is going to be a lot of disposable. Why run the risk; just dispose of the tubing.”
What Is ZEISS Doing to Help Doctors and Patients?
ZEISS is certainly not missing this opportunity to help doctors and patients. Their changes include both the equipment they’re manufacturing as well as their training methods.
“At ZEISS, we will be providing face shields for the doctors, as well as the technicians, because of the proximity between them and the patients, and proper disinfection modes and how to disinfect the equipment.” He continued: “[The] transformation of ZEISS is going to be in the diagnostic arena right now, which we are doing, helping the interface. The products we introduce post-COVID would be much easier to ‘disinfect’ and easier to transmit between operating rooms.”
Much of their training has been made remote, and there’s a good chance it’ll stay that way in the future. “Thinking about other practices, there is going to be a need for a lot of virtual training,” he said. “We used virtual training during the downtime and we are going to continue to do that. This actually has become a part of the norm. Even if they [physicians] had the time, they would appreciate that they can do some of the training virtually and they don’t have to go to a meeting.”
What About the Meetings — and the Future of the Industry?
Speaking of meetings — what will happen to important industry conferences? Mr. Mazzo noted that the big conferences would still be there — but the smaller ones may not make it. Instead, he suggests that the industry will see greater specialization within the meetings, and within the industry itself.
“I think the large meetings will continue to be there, as people will use those for networking, however, they are going to be framed differently,” he said. “If you look at all the academy, ASCRS, and ESCRS, the greatest penetration is in the speciality days. It is in the mind of the doctors that they want speciality. So, I think you are still going to see the speciality days. The small meetings, which have been proliferating over the past years, they are just not going to be able to continue. Financially, doctors can go, some companies can survive and change dramatically.”
In an ever-evolving industry, there is always room for surprises and for greater specialization. As he put it, “People thought refractive was dead, then SMILE comes in and completely transforms the industry. My point here is — why broaden, when we still have (a) virtual unknown landscape?”
He recommended specializing in different sections of the retina. He further noted that glaucoma and dry eye, for example, are diseases with no known cure.
Jim Mazzo’s Future in the Industry
The industry certainly seems resilient, despite the knocks it may have taken. Mr. Mazzo will remain a big player for some time. In addition to remaining an advisor at ZEISS, Mr. Mazzo will remain an executive chairman of Neurotech, a retina implant company, as well as take on an important role at another company which he plans to announce soon. As he puts it, “I will still be involved heavily in ophthalmology and optometry, just more behind the scenes working with ZEISS.”
Editor’s Note: This story is part of the new ‘Q&A from Quarantine’ series of PIE Talks, where Matt Young (CEO of Media MICE and Publisher of PIE and CAKE magazines), during the time of COVID-19 lockdown, reached out to KOLs and industry friends to evaluate and discuss the impact of this pandemic to the ophthalmic world.