ARVO 2009

ARVO 2009 is a wrap. Another good year of science and discussion has come and gone. Our graduate student James Anderson presented on the retinal connectome, James Tucker presented our translational drug work for AMD, Peter Westenskow met up with potential post-doctoral investigators, Felix Vazquez and Drew Ferrell presented the early light damage studies we’ve been working on, we got to hear about some exciting new prospects and are enthused about getting back into the lab.

What follows is a quick summary with photographs for my peeps.

April 30
SLC to ATL to FLL for Pre-ARVO.

James Tucker and I flew out for the pre-ARVO conference Wolfgang Baehr sets up every year. This year the pre-ARVO focus was Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) as the vision research community essentially realizes that we know far more about retinitis pigmentosa (RP) than we do AMD, even though the numbers of people affected by AMD are far greater. Depending upon the statistics, upwards of 10% of the population will suffer from some form of AMD.

Paul Bernstein and our chairman Randall Olson were there for a wonderful discussion by investigators from all over the world as well as some presentations by folks we are anxious to have join us at The Moran Eye Center.

May 2

After pre-ARVO wrapped, some folks from the Moran Eye Center (and Rajendra), ran out to The Rustic Inn for crab, beer and laughs. The crab was delicious (try the garlic crab) and the company was wonderful. Thanks everyone.

After dinner at The Rustic Inn, I ran out to the airport to pick up the rest of the lab crowd including James Anderson, Peter Westenskow, Felix Vazquez and Drew Ferrell. This year we had decided to rent a house in Ft. Lauderdale rather than go through the horrendously expensive process of hotel rooms for everyone.

The hotel room costs in Ft. Lauderdale have been going up at astronomical rates and we simply could not have afforded, particularly in this economy to send everyone if we had to pay for hotel rooms at the current rate. So, we ended up saving thousands of dollars by renting a lovely house on the waterway. It actually worked out pretty well as we had lots of room to move around with free Internet and an opportunity in the evenings to sit around on the deck and talk about what cool science we’d seen during the day.

May 3

After the session today I invited Andrew Ischida and Ken Greenberg to join us for dinner at the always tasty Johnny V’s on Las Olas. The food was fabulous, the company was wonderful and James A. got some great feedback from two wonderfully intelligent and pleasant people prior to his talk the next day.

May 5th

James’s talk was well received of course and absolutely rocked the house. I had more than one person tell me that his presentation on the connectome project was the best thing they saw at ARVO this year. Drew presented his research for the first time at ARVO and everyone that talked to me about his presentation was surprised to find out that he was an undergraduate. They had assumed he was either a graduate student or a post-doc which should say something for his level of competence. I hope that he stays in science, but his plans are to get a business degree and go to dental school… We’re working on fixing that little problem though, so hopefully he’ll stay in science.

One of the things about ARVO is the chance to catch up with old friends that you really don’t get a chance to see often and It’s always fun to see people reconnect that have not seen each other in some time.

Later, a group of us from the Moran Eye Center got together to discuss work and the meeting. An additional benefit to getting out with folks outside the normal boundaries of the laboratory is that you get to learn more about individuals and their history. Given that the 20th anniversary of Tiananmen Square is coming up, it was fascinating to listen to Yingbin, who had been one of the students present at the time of the Tiananmen Square protests and get his insight on what happened.

We also celebrated a little bit for our friend Jennifer Harmon who is getting married and moving off to Singapore with Raymond who we got to meet for the first time at dinner. David ordered glowing drinks (don’t want to know what it was) and we all enjoyed the evening and each others company. A side benefit was getting to meet one of our new surgeons, Chang-Hee Kim or Chuck as everyone calls him.

We also got to meet one of Broward Counties finest, Officer Campbell who took the group picture for us after not believing that we could make photographs at night with very little light and no flash. You can thank Canon for the 1D Mk III and their 50mm f/1.2 lens.

May 6th

This year, Marie Burns got the Cogan Award and Sam Wu was awarded the much deserved Friedenwald Award. It was good to see these individuals recognized for their contributions to ophthalmology and visual science. I don’t know Marie, but have followed her work and have the utmost respect for her efforts. Fortunately I’ve known Sam for a number of years and this was really enjoyable to see him receive this recognition.

Of course we had to fit in a dinner out at the Greek Islands Taverna as a visit there is obligate every year. As usual, I met up with Daniel Palanker to talk about data and our collaboration and to have a wonderful meal with even better company in the form of Daniel, Sasha and his wife. Fortunately, both Peter Westenskow and James Anderson wanted to come along, so it really was an enjoyable evening.

May 7th

We had a late flight out on the 7th making for a really late arrival in Salt Lake. However, the flight was reasonably enjoyable for me at least as Delta upgraded me on both legs to Atlanta and Salt Lake City and I ended up sitting next to our chairman for the flight from ATL to SLC, sharing stories, talking about plans for the Moran and inbetween, grabbing a few shots out the window at the nighttime countryside going by.

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