Inaugural Symposium, Jerusalem
St John Eye Hospital in Jerusalem, The Chapel, Tuesday 25 April 2017
In 2017, the St John Ophthalmic Association (SOA) was established by ophthalmic surgeons across the world to support the St John Eye Hospital Group (SJEHG) in Jerusalem. The inaugural meeting of the SOA European branch, formed chiefly of Moorfields consultants, took place at the Hyde Park Barracks dining room in London in November 2016, with the Americas and Asian-Pacific branches opening in 2017, the latter in Perth in October.
The aim of the Association is to broaden the ophthalmic expertise available to St John and its staff, and to include all physicians interested in supporting the work of the SJEHG. In April 2017. the SOA held its first scientific congress in Jerusalem, with a guest list of 60 ophthalmologists, which included doctors from St John, 25 Israeli colleagues from Hadassah, Shaare Zedek, Enaim, and Afula, and six members of the European branch of the SOA.
The event began with a symposium on ophthalmology in the Hospital Chapel, and was full to capacity with standing-room only. Eight international speakers, including three full professors, covered a diverse range of challenging ophthalmic subjects from state-of-the-art laser surgery, through complex adnexal tumour cases, ocular surface protection, inherited retinal disease, to new discoveries in corneal micro-anatomy. Of note, two St John doctors also gave excellent talks, setting the scene for a stimulating evening covering a wide range of ophthalmic pathology.
The symposium was followed by a three-course dinner in the Hospital Cloisters, prepared to the usual high standards by St John’s own chef, Nader, and his dedicated team. The evening provided an unrivalled opportunity for professional networking between St John doctors, visiting colleagues from Europe and Israel, and the SOA, with a clear commitment expressed by all parties to develop such intercollegiate links in the future. This event, the first of its kind, would not have been possible without the generous support of two Israeli pharmaceutical companies. Plans are now in progress to stage a pan-SOA symposium in Jerusalem on a larger scale in 2018.
The following morning, after a business meeting with St John’s research coordinator, Dr Mikki, the symposium guests enjoyed a Palestinian breakfast in the Hospital gardens before embarking on a walking tour of the Old City of Jerusalem. This included a privileged visit to the Dome of the Rock, and St John’s new clinic in Muristan, site of the original medieval hospice. With the Palestinian Ophthalmic Society hosting its third international congress that week, the St John doctors and visiting speakers left Jerusalem for Ramallah, where they met other colleagues from the region and further afield. A note of thanks goes to the two congress organisers, Dr Ala’a AlTalbishi and Dr Riyad Banayot, both from St John.
In summary, two successful congresses were held, involving a wide range of speakers from different countries and cultures, and emphasising St John’s reputation as a regional centre of expertise. The St John Ophthalmic Association, with its supporters across the Priories of the world, looks forward to further collaboration with St John in the years to come.
Mr Gerry Clare, Chief Medical Officer (Interim), St John Eye Hospital Group
Mr David H. Verity, Chair of the SOA-UK, and Trustee of the Board
Brigadier Tom Ogilvie-Graham, CEO, St John Eye Hospital Group