ESCRS Welcomes New President
An interview with incoming president Filomena Ribeiro.
EuroTimes spoke with Filomena Ribeiro MD, PhD, FEBO, incoming president of the ESCRS, about her goals and aspirations during the next two years. She is head of the department of ophthalmology at Hospital da Luz, Lisbon, Portugal.
You are not the first Portuguese president or the first female president, but you are the first Portuguese female president, so congratulations on that distinction!
Thank you. I am honoured to follow Professor José Cunha-Vaz, who was ESCRS president in 2000. It is also wonderful to follow Marie-José Tassignon (2004) and Béatrice Cochener-Lamard (2018) in this position.
When did you first realise you wanted to be an ophthalmologist?
As long as I can remember, I wanted to be a doctor. When I began my medical training in Lisbon, I felt that what I really liked was surgery. So, my first thought was about general surgery. But then, once I had the experience of doing eye surgery, I knew I should be an ophthalmologist. It was such a beautiful experience performing eye surgery.
How did you become involved with the ESCRS?
I became active in the ESCRS in 2016 when I served as the Portuguese coordinator for the ESCRS Congress in Lisbon. Professor Cochener-Lamard provided a lot of mentoring as I became more involved with the ESCRS and became very interested in promoting all the goals of the Society.
When Rudy Nuijts became president in 2020, the COVID pandemic broke out, presenting many challenges to the ESCRS and the field of ophthalmology. Then, when Oliver Findl became president in 2022, he also had the pandemic to deal with, along with Ukraine and climate change. You have all those things to deal with, plus artificial intelligence, robotics, economic issues, and more. Are you ready for this?
Yes, it’s true. We are facing big challenges today, and these things directly affect the field of ophthalmology and our organisation. We have become a world Society, among the biggest in the world, and as such, we have to face the challenges facing the world in general. The ESCRS strategic plan provided us with a very good instrument that helped us prepare to face all these big issues. For example, we were in the process of developing digital ways of communication to provide educational opportunities to all Society members, which proved useful when the pandemic struck.
Are there any ESCRS projects you are personally interested in?
Education is my number one concern. We will continue to expand our learning opportunities for our members at our conferences and online. Our programmes span across continents, providing a platform for pioneering research, advanced surgical techniques, and continuous professional development.
Among the many challenges I would like to help with is the need to provide eye care in low- and middle-income nations. The ESCRS is collaborating with several groups to provide local teaching resources in underserved countries in different parts of Africa. The shift towards building local capacity is a cornerstone of ESCRS’s charitable strategy. For example, we are collaborating with Eyes of the World in Mozambique in a programme guaranteeing the right to eye health through equitable access to public health with a human rights and gender approach. I’m Portuguese, so I have an affinity with that country. We want to make sure women have equal access to sight-saving eye care. I will be there next year to see the progress of this project.
What can we look forward to in 2024?
I want to encourage our members to attend our conferences, the Winter Meeting in Frankfurt in February, and our Annual Congress in Barcelona in September. The Vienna Congress was a tremendous success both from an educational and a social point of view. It is such a pleasure to be able to meet and mingle in person again. We will continue to try some new concepts in presentation at these conferences as we did in Vienna. For example, in Frankfurt, we will focus on immersive learning experiences for residents and promoting fresh education and networking opportunities. We will have a new interactive ‘unconference’ format for sessions to allow members to share ideas during the presentations. We will also continue the emphasis on innovative and interesting formats in Barcelona.
In 2024, we are strengthening our commitment to sustainability by placing a strong emphasis on social responsibility and promoting inclusivity through various initiatives. We are collaborating with our partners to work towards zero waste to landfill, zero net carbon emissions, and becoming a role model for social responsibility. We are implementing measures to support the wellness of our attendees, contribute to local and global causes, restore ecosystems, and foster sustainability leadership in our industry.
Our vision for sustainability is ambitious but achievable, as we are not alone in this journey. We are collaborating with other organisations, institutions, and experts to learn from best practices and share our experiences. We are also engaging with our members, partners, and stakeholders to solicit their feedback and suggestions on how we can improve our sustainability performance.
I hope our readers will be able to attend these events and will also explore many of the expanding educational opportunities we are creating online.