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AAO and FundamentalVR Collaborate to Improve Ophthalmic Training Around the World

AAO and FundamentalVR Collaborate to Improve Ophthalmic Training Around the World

November 07, 2023

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has partnered with FundamentalVR, a leader in medical training using virtual reality (VR), for the Knights Templar Eye Foundation (KTEF) Pediatric Ophthalmology VR Simulation Program.

This collaboration, made possible by a $5 million donation from the Knights Templar Eye Foundation, represents a significant advancement in transforming pediatric ophthalmic training through the utilization of VR technology. The program will provide free and open access to ophthalmologists and ophthalmology trainees worldwide.

Over the past year, the Academy and FundamentalVR have made substantial progress in developing this innovative educational platform. With the aim of enhancing ophthalmologists' skills and expanding their knowledge, this initiative will offer a variety of specialized training programs focused on pediatric eye diseases and conditions.

"The potential to improve training programs is huge," said Faruk H. Orge, MD, executive editor of the KTEF Pediatric Ophthalmology Education Center. "Just as virtual reality has greatly enhanced the experience of video games, so can being immersed in a virtual surgical training environment. Studies show that it allows residents to learn details more efficiently and effectively, leading to a decrease in complications in actual cases with real patients. There is simply no substitute to performing a task again and again to master the basics. These platforms provide a safe, lifelike environment in which trainees can practice as much as they want, with real-time feedback that allows for course correction."

The first phase of this initiative concentrates on developing a simulator for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). Within this VR platform, residents, trainees, and practicing ophthalmologists will acquire the skills to examine patients and conduct intravitreal injections and laser treatments safely.

"ROP is a natural first choice for this effort because it is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children worldwide," said K. David Epley, MD, deputy executive editor of the KTEF Pediatric Ophthalmology Education Center. "At the same time, the opportunity for trainees to learn how to properly examine and treat babies is limited. Outside of the U.S. many countries don't allow residents to perform any pediatric surgeries, so there's huge need for the ability to practice and learn proper techniques."

After the ROP simulator, subsequent modules will cover strabismus management and other essential pediatric ophthalmology topics.

"We are thrilled to be working with the American Academy of Ophthalmology on this transformative venture. Our collaboration with the Academy not only underscores our commitment to advancing the field of ophthalmology but also highlights the immense potential of VR in creating safer, more effective learning environments for healthcare professionals," said Richard Vincent, co-founder and CEO of FundamentalVR. "Together, we aim to equip ophthalmologists with the skills and confidence needed to provide exceptional care to patients around the world, ultimately improving patient outcomes and enhancing the quality of eye care globally."