SAN FRANCISCO—The American Academy of Ophthalmology has teamed up with FundamentalVR, a leader in virtual reality (VR) medical training, for their 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, marks a significant step toward revolutionizing pediatric ophthalmic training by harnessing the power of VR technology through a free and open simulation program for ophthalmologists and ophthalmology trainees worldwide. In the past year, the Academy and FundamentalVR have made significant strides in the development of this pioneering educational platform.

With a goal to improve the skills of ophthalmologists and expand their knowledge base, this initiative will offer a range 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."

Phase one of this initiative focuses on building a simulator for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). Residents, trainees and practicing ophthalmologists will learn how to examine patients and perform intravitreal injection and laser treatment, all in a safe environment through VR.

"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 a huge need for the ability to practice and learn proper techniques."

The Academy has chosen to partner with FundamentalVR, recognized for its transformative work with organizations like Orbis International, to design and build a specialized curriculum for pediatric eyecare. Following the ROP simulator, subsequent modules will address strabismus management and other critical 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 health care 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 eyecare globally," Vincent said.