ATLANTA—Enhancing the reputation it has built as “The Education Destination” over the last nine decades, SECO 2014 added 53 more courses of continuing education (CE) this year. With more than 275 CE courses, along with 250 exhibitors and more than 50 social and affiliate events, SECO fulfilled this year’s theme of “The Full Spectrum of Eye Care” at its 91st annual event held at the Georgia World Congress Center here from March 12 to 16.

With pre-registered attendees nearing 6,000 and on-site registrations expected to be well over 2,000, SECO predicts its audited attendance figures will be more than 7,000 optometrists, opticians, certified ophthalmic technicians and paraoptometric professionals.

To further improve its educational offerings, this year show sponsors launched the Clinical Trends Survey research project among attendees, “looking for education gaps we can address in the future,” said SECO’s Elizabeth Taylor. All who participated were entered into a drawing to win one of 15 iPad Minis on which they completed the 15-minute survey.

Further outlining SECO’s educational initiatives, outgoing president, Darby Chiasson, OD, described its continuing support of student education: “SECO 2013 experienced the largest student attendance ever. As an organization dedicated to education, we are proud to invest in future optometrists with funding to the three optometry schools located in our member states. We provided each with $15,000 in funding, in addition to the $3,000 we give in Clinical Excellence Awards. Also, we supported the Partnership Foundation for Optometric Education program with a $5,000 contribution. Every year, we are honored to host a ‘SECO Day’ event at Nova Southeastern University, Southern College of Optometry and the University of Alabama and provide students who attend a $100 stipend to help pay for travel and expenses at SECO 2014.”

Frank D. Fontana, OD.

“Eye to Eye, The Visionary Exchange” was also introduced this year to bring million-dollar-plus practices together with industry suppliers in personalized, one-on-one meetings. In response to surveys conducted previously with show participants, exhibiting vendors were given the opportunity to meet face-to-face with select eyecare professionals they wanted to reach.

In addition to education and exhibitors, other highlights of this year’s SECO included an Allied Ophthalmic Professionals Program, a Downtown Dine Around, the Student Party, and numerous organizations’ meetings and receptions. The 1980s rock band, Foreigner entertained at Friday’s “Wild and Wonderful” Flashback Party at the Tabernacle.

Television screens on the exhibit floor and the SECO Sports Lounge enabled attendees to watch the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament. SECO’s prize program offered daily chances to win, culminating in Saturday’s grand prize drawing of $10,000.

On Saturday, March 15, three contestants competed in the SECO 2014 shootout for a chance to win a $10,000 grand prize. Katrina Lieske, OD, a Fort Worth, Texas, optometrist, took home the $10,000 prize for the most baskets. Runners-up, Roanoke, Va., optometrist Catherine Abbott, won $1,000, and Crystal Lindsey, a paraoptometric technician from Morristown, Tenn., received $500.

Winners at SECO recognized for their professional achievement were Joe E. Ellis, OD, of Benton, Ky., 2014 optometrist of the South, SECO’s highest honor; Benjamin P. Casella, OD, FAAO, of Augusta, Ga., the 2014 Young Optometrist of the South; and Beverly Roberts, CPOT, ABOC, of Magee, Miss., paraoptometric of the south.

SECO’s partnership with the U.K.’s Association of Optometrists continued. The two organizations collaborated on a CE meeting in London in October 2013, and another event will be held Sept. 28 to 29, 2014. Other strategic partnerships include working with Vision Source to add four hours of practice management to co-brand the organizations, working with the Professional Eyecare Resource Co-Operative to bring their members to SECO, and a third year working with The College of Optometrists in Vision Development. Associate members include FEDOPTO, Trinidad & Tobago Optometrists Association, South African Optometric Association, World Council of Optometry, and AFOS.

At its annual SECO dinner, Review of Optometry presented the first two scholarships from the Rick Bay Foundation, which the media group first introduced at this event last year. The Foundation awarded a $10,000 scholarship to optometry student Lindsey Parker of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University, and another $10,000 scholarship to E. Maya Kohara, DO, of the Wills Eye Foundation in Philadelphia. In addition, at this year’s event, the media group also presented its first annual Visionary Award to Frank D. Fontana, OD, aka “Uncle Frank,” a 1949 graduate of the Illinois College of Optometry and industry icon still practicing at the age of 91.

SECO leadership passed from outgoing Southern Council of Optometrists (SoCO) president Darby Chiasson, OD, to new SoCO president, James Herman, OD. SECO membership has grown to encompass more than 25,000 members globally, according to Chiasson. “This number includes all state association and associate organization members,” he said. “It is nearly double what we’ve reported from previous years, but we are now accounting for all members, including our associate members.” Now in its 91st year, SECO is contracted with its Atlanta venue until 2025.