Becoming ASCRS President in a Time of COVID-19

Terry Kim, MD, professor of ophthalmology and division chief of cornea, refractive surgery and external disease at Duke Eye Center, began his term as the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) president during an unprecedented time at the virtual annual ASCRS Meeting in May, 2020.  
 
What has been your focus during your time as ASCRS President? 
It is a tremendous honor and privilege to serve as the 35th president of ASCRS, but I certainly never imagined I would have to face the challenges our organization has encountered during my term. I have remained focused on 3 major issues: COVID recovery, education, and collaboration. It has been important to focus on the immediate COVID crisis at hand and help our members recover from this historic pandemic as we’ve re-opened our practices and transitioned to a new patient care and practice environment. Besides our missions of Philanthropy and Advocacy, Education still remains our top priority at ASCRS, and we’ve proactively transitioned to how we educate our members during this crisis. I also know there are a lot of doctors and staff in different stages of adapting to the current environment, and many of us are experiencing COVID fatigue, especially with the recent surge in coronavirus cases and how it’s affected all of us both professionally and personally. I believe it is crucial for all of us to collaborate and coalesce together as a profession, which I’ve seen occur right here at Duke Eye Center and our surrounding community. And I can’t think of a more important time than now for an organization like ASCRS to help lead us through this calamity. 
 
How has ASCRS addressed the current challenges of members? 
Ophthalmology was one of the hardest hit medical specialties with COVID, and we have focused our energies to address these COVID-related issues. These endeavors include ASCRS’s advocacy and support for immediate and long-term governmental relief initiatives for our ophthalmic practices, our revised and enhanced web portal (which houses the COVID resource center), the transition to virtual CME programs and webinars (like our extremely successful 20/Happy program), and the introduction of new educational programs, including ASCRS Grand Rounds, ASCRS Journal Club, and the Quicksand Chronicles. The virtual format of the 2020 annual meeting was a first for ophthalmology and a major step forward to address the COVID-19 crisis. We took this important step because we thought it would be the best way to help our members with the recovery process. The meeting featured over 30 CME credits and over 400 hours of content, with sessions highlighting COVID-19 related material.  But we are extremely excited to hold our annual ASCRS meeting LIVE on July 23-27, 2021 in Las Vegas!!! I’m sure all of us are eager to see all our friends and colleagues in person, resume the invaluable face-to-face networking, and access all the high-quality educational programs that our annual meeting has to offer. Highlights will include a keynote speech given by Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former head of the FDA and a leading authority on COVID-19, the inaugural Lindstrom Lecture, acknowledging the immeasurable contributions of Dr. Richard Lindstrom, as well as a totally revamped ASCRS Exhibit Hall. Of course, we will continue our traditional Binkhorst Lecture delivered by Dr. Richard Lewis, Charles D. Kelman Innovator’s Lecture delivered by Dr. Stephen Slade, and our popular Cornea, Refractive, and Glaucoma Subspecialty Day programs. 
 
How did you first get involved with ASCRS? 
I attended my first ASCRS meeting as a resident 25 years ago and haven’t missed a single meeting since. The clinical program was one of the biggest draws, as I was impressed with the high quality of the paper presentations, symposia, instructional courses, and skills transfer wet labs, the incredible access to all these educational events, and the tremendous networking opportunities. I instantly felt part of a larger community of anterior segment surgeons. I’ve been so fortunate to form strong friendships with so many role models within ASCRS: some who have served as previous presidents and officers of ASCRS, some industry leaders, and others who were brilliant surgeons around the globe; all of them not only encouraged me to participate in various ASCRS initiatives, but they’ve also given me constant mentoring and support throughout my career.  
 
Is there any message you would like to send out to ASCRS members and the community?  
First, I’d send to send a message of collegiality, as I encourage all our members to do what you can to support ASCRS and your colleagues with your time and resources. And if you’re not a member, I encourage you to join by simply logging on to www.ASCRS.org, as ASCRS truly empowers its membership of all ages to make important decisions regarding our organization that significantly impact not only our practices but our specialty as a whole, especially as we all navigate through this COVID crisis together. 
 
Second, I’d like to send a message of gratitude to all of our doctors, fellows, and residents who have risked their health and safety to put our patients’ eyecare as a priority. I want to thank my entire ASCRS family, my Duke Eye Center family, Coach K and my Duke Basketball family, my friends and associates in industry and other ophthalmic organizations, and to all my personal friends and colleagues out there. I also want to express my sincere gratitude to my wife Ellie, my daughters Ashley and Kayley, my sister Suzanne and her family, and my mother Hyun and father Kyung for their never-ending love and support, as I wouldn’t be here today without them.  
 
Finally, I want to end on a very personal note with a comment about the recent loss of my father, who passed away from COVID last year. I am especially sad that he’s no longer around to give me advice as he did when he steered me towards the field of ophthalmology and academics. As a retired physician, he knew the importance of medical societies like ASCRS, and he was so proud to see me take on the role of President for this great and historic society in ophthalmology. He knew how much ASCRS has meant to me, and I’m deeply saddened that he is not here to see me take on this duty.  
 
I encourage all of you to stay positive and to stay committed to one another and to ASCRS. I have high hopes for our future, and together we will move forward to an even greater future with new opportunities as we proceed to overcome our current challenges. Someone once said, “Never let a serious crisis go to waste, as there’s an opportunity to do things that you didn’t think you could do before.” As your ASCRS President, I’ve been asked to lead our organization during a very difficult time, and I am fully committed to confront this challenge. And I assure you that ASCRS will be here, to help you overcome any and every obstacle and not only survive, but thrive, as we all adjust to this ‘new normal.’  
 
Best wishes and stay safe.