What I Learned In Atlanta

I just returned from five days in Atlanta attending the Southern Educational Congress in Optometry (SECO), one of the largest optometry meetings in the world. It had been a while since I had attended so large a conference, and I discovered that I had some catching up to do. Since most of you weren’t able to go too, I decided I would share a few things that I learned:

  • Be careful if you use a hotel elliptical trainer. If the “glide” track is angled differently from the one you use at home, it can ball up your calves into knots making it extremely difficult to walk for the rest of your stay.
  • Remember the old expression, “You are what you eat?” Well, that’s putting it mildly. The amount of new research on nutrition is absolutely amazing. We are now getting stabilization and even reversals in debilitating diseases such as macular degeneration with proper diet and better, more targeted supplementation. I’ve seen it in my own practice, and I saw fresh evidence and new published reports last week.
  • Speaking of which, eat lots of fish, people. Baked or broiled, not fried. Also, consider adding a fish oil supplement to your diet. Those omega-3 fatty acids are literally “good for what ails ya.” Fish oil is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent and has been shown to be of benefit in treating dry eye, macular degeneration, depression and other mental disorders, and is associated with increased intelligence among breast-fed children and decreased risk of heart disease. Many people who use it report extra energy and a little better spring in their step too.
  • Since you’re constantly greeting old colleagues and meeting new ones, be sure to wash your hands frequently. However, take along a little bottle of hand moisturizer. Otherwise, your knuckles will be cracked and bleeding by the end of the meeting.
  • Medicine is getting “smaller.” By that I mean we are moving increasingly toward preventive measures which will take place at the level of the cell and even inside the nucleus itself with precisely targeted genetic treatment. Think “smart bombs” aimed at those harmful genetic mutations which seem to lie at the root of so many different diseases. Those with a good foundation in molecular biology, genetics and biochemistry are going to rule the roost in future years (are you listening, Number One Son?).
  • If you want to eat on the cheap at a meeting, it’s possible to find free food for practically every meal with all the receptions going on. Just walk in, smile a lot and act like you belong there and you can eat your fill.
  • I already knew this, but I was reminded of the fact that military optometrists are among the best in the world. I love hanging out with them, and I ran into several former students who reminded me of things that I had taught them and thanked me for being patient with them while they were learning the ropes. I never get tired of hearing that. Among them was a former resident, Major Jim Elledge, who has since served around the world and earned an MBA. Now he faces yet another challenge–a tour of duty in Iraq in a couple of weeks. Godspeed Jim.
  • I typically don’t go for motivational speakers, but 2-time Olympic gold medalist sprinter Antonio McKay is an exception. By the time he was done speaking to us, I was fired up and ready to sprint to the nearest eye exam lane and start seeing patients. I wish that he could either ride to work with me every morning, or otherwise someone would bottle him so I could drink him as an energy supplement.
  • Trade shows are loads of fun even if your calves are mooing and your dogs barking by the time you’re done. Some company reps are snake oil salesman and full of B.S., while others hawk fish oil and know what they’re talking about, so you have to go into them with an air of skepticism and be on alert. But generally speaking, you can learn a lot from industry reps, and you can stock up on samples and pens for the next year. If you’re polite and patiently listen to their shtick, many times they will pull out the really good “freebies” from behind the counter and stuff them in your bag
  • I was actually witness to a raucous debate at a business meeting in which all present, regardless of station, spoke their minds and hashed out a well-crafted compromise between two extreme positions. It was refreshing to see and to participate in. Your typical group of managers, church elders, politicians and other head honchos could have learned a lot from those straight-and-to-the-point optometrists
  • I’m convinced that there’s some kind of inborn defense mechanism whereby colleagues whom you haven’t seen in years appear exactly the same as they did the last time you were together, giving the impression that no time has passed and therefore you must be no older either. This effect seems to be enhanced by a glass of a good merlot.
  • I had been mulling over several problems facing me in my current practice, and I was amazed at how many creative and practical suggestions I received when I shared them with my colleagues. It seems like a lot of us are struggling with the same things, and the synergy of “iron sharpening iron” was just the boost I needed. We aren’t meant to go it alone–community and face-to-face time remains important even as we all walk in the increasingly large shadow of the internet. There’s probably a larger lesson there somewhere.
  • Atlanta is HUGE and exciting. Huntsville is small by comparison and a little slow. I realized this anew as I drove back into town Saturday evening. But as I topped Monte Sano and gazed upon downtown and the pastoral beauty of Jones Valley cast in the reddish hue of a stunning sunset, I felt very blessed to live in such a nice town. I felt like I was coming home.

Well, that’s barely scratching the surface, but that should do. If you’re reading this and among those with whom I rubbed shoulders these past few days, then let me say that it was an honor and a privilege and thank you. I’m proud to have such fine friends and colleagues and prouder still of being a part of such an honorable, caring and cutting-edge profession.

  1. Hal

    Ah, a good Merlot – a fountain of youth. It was great to see you and catch up.

    Other than your balled-up calves, it sounds like the meeting went very well. This morning I’m feeling prodromal symptoms similar to my episode of sciatica 2 mo ago. I hope it’s not returning to haunt me.

    Well, Allyson is headed out on her own, and I’m planning to help her out a little. It’s a little scary, but very exciting. I’m looking forward to the new challenge.

  2. Brady

    Come on, man, just one glass of Merlot?

  3. Hal

    You should have seen the size of the glass.

  4. Mike the Eyeguy

    Hal, in your case, it took an extra large glass to smooth out all your wrinkles. 😉

    Here’s to new challenges and down with sciatica!

    Brady, I just can’t keep up with you Europeans. But I’ll keep on practicing! Maybe I need to come over and get a tutorial.

  5. bpb

    I am not a fan of Atlanta . . .

  6. Hal

    I resemble that remark.

  7. Mike the Eyeguy

    bpb–I’m not either, but I can take it in short doses.

    Hal-I thought you more resembled a Freudian psychiatrist with that goatee of yours.

  8. Hal

    hmmm, how did that make you feel?

  9. Mike the Eyeguy

    A little id-dy.

    Anyone who sports a goatee must have a super-ego.

  10. Hal

    Well, my ego is only super-sized in the winter. In the summer I’m likely to go bare faced and return to my perfect, modest self.

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