GSLS 2017 Wrap Up

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend the Global Specialty Lens Symposium in Las Vegas Nevada at the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino from January 26-29th. The GSLS conference brought contact lens specialists from all over the world including, Germany, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, UK, Japan, Amsterdam, Canada, and Saudi Arabia. This conference has everything to offer on the spectrum of specialty contact lenses. If you have any remote desire or are even thinking in the slightest about offering specialty contact fittings as part of your future practice, then this is a conference that you should attend!

Specialty contact lenses have always had my interest since beginning optometry school and I have been fortunate, as a 3rd year student, to fit patients with varying degrees of corneal disease from those who are normal to those with serious corneal ectasias like keratoconus. It fascinates me that you can take a scleral lens and place it on an irregular cornea, and the patient can attain 20/20 vision. It’s very rewarding to be part of this process, one in which I am highly looking forward to after I graduate (and throughout school, of course).

Okay, back to the conference. So, why attend GSLS? This conference allowed me to think outside the box and realize the unlimited possibilities that exist in the contact lens industry. Each doctor I spoke with was on a different journey. Some have been practicing for 20+ years and are just beginning to fit specialty lenses, while other doctors have just graduated and are starting to work in specialty lens practices. Attending this conference allowed me to get a good look at all these different perspectives from different doctors and to add different ideas to my portfolio. You can do the same by interacting on a personal basis with these experienced doctors.

A majority of the conference was dedicated to educational lectures. Each morning and lunch hour there were manufacturer sponsored events. Most of this time allowed contact lens companies to showcase their newest technology and to advertise the benefits of using their equipment for your specialty lens practice, which were all highly impressive (even though I don’t plan on buying a topographer anytime soon). The rest of the mornings and afternoons were filled with various lectures from amazing speakers on topics like, “Keratoconus—What we now know about the Disease, Primary Care Diagnosis”, “Fitting Specialty Contact Lenses Based on Corneal Topography”, “Tips and Tricks to Incorporating Ortho-k into your Practice”, “Scleral lenses—What Do We Do When the Fit is Not as Expected?”, “Building a Scleral Lens Specialty Practice” and even “How to Culture the Contact Lens Patient”, for all those corneal ulcers that show up at your office.

By far, the most valuable experience gained from attending this conference was the networking opportunities and interaction with doctors who do specialty lens fittings on a daily basis in their practice. I met several doctors who I was able to talk with in depth about the ins and outs of contact lens practice, which solidified my desire to pursue specialty contact lens in the future.

If you have the chance to attend GSLS next year, or any year in the future, I would highly recommend it! Attending conferences as a student will help you realize which direction you want to take. So, whether you be interested in specialty contact lenses, vision therapy, disease, or neuro-rehabilitation, take advantage of these opportunities! After attending GSLS, I have solidified my passion for wanting to make specialty contact lenses a part of my future.


Kevin Drew
Western University of Health Sciences
College of Optometry Class of 2018

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