ATLANTA—On Sunday SECO 2024 wrapped up five days of optometric education, special sessions, breakfast symposiums, hot topic breakfasts, an exhibiting hall featuring more than 160 exhibitors, and fun-filled social events that attracted thousands of eyecare professionals from around the world. Myopia management and artificial intelligence were the buzzwords at this year’s event, highlighted by a keynote address on Thursday, “Putting the Eye in AI: The Future of Artificial Intelligence in Optometry,” as well as a hot topic breakfast on Friday, “Myopia Management in 2024.”

“AI is not something to be scared of, it’s something to embrace,” Walt Mayo, OD, technology consultant at SECO told the keynote audience on Thursday. “There are many ways AI can be leveraged for use in your professional practice.” The panel also addressed AI concerns from the audience, including data security, billing issues, and misdiagnosis while using AI.

On Friday, myopia was at the forefront of attendees' minds. “All of us are passionate about myopia,” April Jasper, OD, FAAO, told the audience at the hot topic breakfast session. “We need to get engaged in conversations with parents about myopia and getting patients in for regular checkups.”

Other topics of interest at SECO 2024 included the challenges of telemedicine in eyecare, advances in low vision, and emerging trends that will help shape eyecare in the years ahead. In addition, SECO named its 2024 award winners, recognizing the contributions of leaders in optometry:

Ronald R. Foreman, OD, has been honored with the SECO 2024 President’s Award for his commitment to advancing eyecare, his significant contributions to optometry, and his impact on the broader community. Educated at Florida State College and the Illinois College of Optometry, Dr. Foreman’s career is marked by his tenure as past president of the Florida Optometric Association, the North Central Optometric Association, and his distinguished service as a past president of SECO International.

T. Joel Byars, OD, has been awarded the Distinguished Service Award, celebrating his career in optometry that began with his graduation from Southern College of Optometry in 1963. His experience ranges from practicing at Georgia State Hospital to serving as a Captain in the U.S. Army Medical Service Corp. Dr. Byars has dedicated over five decades to the field, including owning and operating private practices in Georgia and serving on various boards. His ongoing volunteer work with the Southern Council of Optometrists (SECO) for more than 20 years further exemplifies his commitment to advancing optometry.

(L to R) Carl Spear, OD, MBA, EssilorLuxottica senior VP of Eye Care; Naama Hammel, MD, clinical research scientist at Google; Walter Mayo, OD, technology consultant SECO; and Jorge Cuadros, OD, PhD, director of informatics research at University of California Berkeley and founder of EyePACS, addressed a large attendee audience and a hot topic in the SECO keynote session titled, “Putting the Eye in AI: The Future of AI in Optometry.”
Mr. Bryan Markowitz, nominated for the Executive Director of the Year Award, demonstrates leadership and vision in his role as executive director. His tenure is marked by a series of impactful initiatives that have significantly advanced the Georgia Optometric Association (GOA). Under his guidance, the GOA has navigated legislative victories, including the passage of numerous scope of practice bills and measures that empower optometrists.

Selina R. McGee, OD, FAAO, founder and owner of BeSpoke Vision in Edmond, Okla., has been honored with the Optometrist of the South Award. Her practice is known for its comprehensive optometric care, including a dry eye center, specialty contact lens clinic, and aesthetics suite.

Christian Wyler, OD, recognized with the 2024 Young Optometrist of the South Award by SECO, has significantly impacted his hometown of Lancaster, Ky., as its first full-time optometrist since the 1980s, growing his practice to serve nearly 4,000 patients annually since graduating in 2018 from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry.

Diane F. Drake, LDO, ABOM, NCLEM, FNAO, recognized for more than four decades of commitment to opticianry, is the recipient of the Optician of the South award. She maintains a comprehensive profile with licenses and certifications from the American Board of Opticianry and the National Contact Lens Examiners. Her contributions to the field extend beyond practice to leadership, notably as a past president of the National Academy of Opticianry, where she has significantly impacted opticianry education and community service.

 (L to R) Moderator Julie DeKinder, OD, associate dean of academic programs, UMSL College of Optometry, and panelists Katherine K. Weise, OD, MBA, FAAO, professor of optometry, University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry, and April Jasper, OD, FAAO, advanced eyecare specialist, addressed the SECO 2024 audience at Friday morning's Hot Topic Breakfast: Myopia Management in 2024. The panelists answered questions and shared treatment options for myopia management and the importance of engaging parents and delaying the onset of myopia in children.
Savanna Johnson, CPOA, OSC, has been awarded the 2024 SECO Paraoptometric of the South. Her educational path from Smithville High School through Itawamba Community College to achieving CPO and CPOA certifications, and studying for the CPOT exam, underscores her dedication. At Total Eye Care, Johnson has played a key role, from scribing to training new employees.

“We are thrilled to honor these exceptional professionals who exemplify the highest standards of excellence and dedication,” said Dr. Michelle Cooper, president of SECO International, LLC. “Their achievements reflect the vibrant community of SECO and its ongoing commitment to advancing eyecare.”