ARVO 2024: President-elect SriniVas Sadda, MD, shares his strategies for engaging vision experts worldwide


Incoming ARVO president SriniVas R. Sadda, MD, discussed major challenges in vision science research and how annual meetings inspire innovation in ophthalmology

Ahead of this year's ARVO meeting, the Eye Care Network spoke with SriniVas R. Sadda, MD, the ARVO president-elect. Dr Sadda is the Director of Artificial Intelligence and Imaging Research, Doheny Eye Institute, and Professor of Ophthalmology, David Geffen School of Medicine, at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA).

Speaking with David Hutton of Ophthalmology Times, Dr Sadda shared his goals for his upcoming term as president. They discussed the challenge of fostering global collaboration, advocacy around funding for vision science research and how this year's ARVO meeting will strengthen relationships and spark innovation in ophthalmology.

Editor's note: The below transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

David Hutton: I'm David Hutton of Ophthalmology Times. The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology [ARVO] is holding its annual meeting this year in Seattle. At the conclusion of the meeting, Dr SriniVas Sadda will begin his term as president of the organization. Dr Sadda is the Director, Artificial Intelligence and Imaging Research at Doheny Eye Institute, and professor of ophthalmology at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine.

Thank you so much for joining us. First, tell us a little bit about the mission of ARVO.

SriniVas R. Sadda, MD: David, first of all, thanks very much. It's really great to be able to speak with you. Yes, I'm really looking forward to serving my term as ARVO president. It's a real great honor. The mission of ARVO really is to promote this kind of scientific exchange between vision science researchers from around the world to promote vision science research, ultimately, with the goal of finding cures and treatments for patients.

DH: What are your goals for your term as president?

SS: It's a great honor and privilege to be able to serve as president of ARVO. It's also a great responsibility. We spent [time] even at the last ARVO meeting devising our next strategic plan for the next 5 years for ARVO, trying to expand our outreach to our vision science research community, including internationally. That's what I'd like to do. I'd like to do it during my term to really promote vision scientists from around the world, try to be as inclusive as possible, try to energise and excite more people globally to participate in the meeting and to contribute to the richness of what is the ARVO annual meeting. That's what I'd like to focus my efforts on during my term.

DH: What are some of the issues that ARVO could face in the coming year?

SS: There are always challenges with regards to maintaining support for vision science research. We're only able to bring together a meeting of vision science researchers as long as there's vision science research ongoing in many ways, and for that we really are dependent on having broad support for research.

Another goal of mine during my presidency, as you asked and something that I see as a challenge, is really to be an advocate for funding for vision science research. I think it's critical. We all recognise how important vision is to all of us and for our patients. Those are the real challenges...the worry that whether it's due to a recession or other budgetary constraints that there'll be a reduction in funding available to our vision scientists. I think that is a potential challenge but I think it could be overcome with advocacy and making sure that the public as a whole is aware of the importance of supporting research in this area.

DH: How much impact can a president have during a term?

SS: As a president I really serve at the pleasure of our broader ARVO community, and of course, at the behest of the Board of Trustees. We have a phenomenal Board of Trustees for ARVO. They're elected. None of us are paid. These are all volunteers that put together their time because of people who really believe in the mission of ARVO and the importance of what we're trying to do in terms of promoting vision science research.

Certainly, I think as president the leadership is important in terms of steering the board or making sure we stay on track with regards to trying to achieve the goals in our strategic plan and the like. Ultimately, as president you really are a member of a much broader team with our board of trustees, our executive vice president, and the phenomenal staff that we have. One of the things that oftentimes people don't fully appreciate is the amazing full-time staff that makes makes things happen at ARVO. As a president, it's a pleasure for me to work with those individuals. It's great to have a chance to be able to influence the direction that we're going but ultimately understand that we're really executing a mission that we've all agreed to as members of ARVO.

DH: How will you gauge the success of your term?

SS: There are many measures. Our annual meeting is the crown jewel of what we do at ARVO. I think the biggest part of the success is obviously...well, what are the metrics? I mean, there are many metrics that one could use. One of them is actually the number of attendees and the number of presentations that we have, because that's what we really are. We're a platform for scientific exchange in vision science research. To me, having more individuals come, more great work being presented—that's really a sign of success. I have to say that it's been a challenge that COVID presented a tremendous challenge for ARVO because, you can imagine, one year we couldn't gather together in person, which is a big part of how business science research exchange occurs. I think that we're only now recovering, in terms of our number of attendees and the like as travel restrictions have eased even though there's some countries that even until recently have had restrictions. What we would like to see is a tremendous rebound and an increase and expansion of the attendees, and most importantly, the research that's being presented. From my perspective, that's a sign that there's real vibrant growth in vision science research. That's what I'd like to see. That would be a measure of success to me.

DH: And lastly, what has ARVO meant to you during your career?

SS: ARVO has meant everything. My first ARVO was, I want to say, in either 1991 or 1992, so I've been going to the meeting for...I think that adds up to 32 years, I think if I do the math correctly. That really was when I first went there, and I went there as a medical student initially. I had really no idea what to expect. It was a great honor, because everyone told me it was a great honor to be able to go and present at ARVO, but I had no idea how valuable it would be. The collaborations that have developed by friends and colleagues that I've met at ARVO, a chance to sit at each other's posters or presentations and talk science and actually sort of brainstorm, is pretty incredible. Every year after ARVO, I come back energised with new ideas. ARVO is what really supercharges the research direction for myself and my lab for the next year. That's what happens to me at every meeting. It's obviously a meeting I look forward to tremendously and as I said, quite frankly, I've grown dependent on it for fueling what I do for the next year until the next ARVO. My research career wouldn't have been able to develop and flourish without ARVO and the relationships and ideas and opportunities that ARVO's been able to create.

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