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ODA Conference 2023 - A Huge Success

There’s nothing like an event to galvanise an industry, especially one that has been calling for a professional level of organisation that reminds optical dispensers – and the broader ophthalmic community – why they are often considered the lifeblood of the industry.

The first biennial Optical Dispensers Australia Conference was a resounding success, in many ways. The two-day program featured a strong calibre of speakers – with a nice balance of technical, fashion and sales topics – who spoke to a full and engaged room at the Sydney Masonic Centre.

The trade space included a diverse mix of industry suppliers, from frames wholesalers and lens companies, to equipment suppliers and optometry networks. A highlight saw everyone gather for the ODA Gala evening under the Sydney Harbour Bridge at Luna Park. This is where ODA held its first National Excellence Awards, recognising the achievements of outstanding dispensers. This dual event was combined with a graduation ceremony for Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing graduates from the Australasian College of Optical Dispensing (ACOD).

Speaking at the ODA Gala, ACOD director and senior trainer Mr James Gibbins, who is also on the ODA Advisory Board, said the combined prize-giving event was unprecedented in his 40 years within the industry. A record 260 newly-minted dispensers graduated from the latest ACOD cohort, with 54 of those attending the gala evening from all states and territories and New Zealand.

“This is the most significant gathering of optical dispensers in the history of our industry in both Australia and New Zealand,” he said. “With more than 240 people, this is the largest gathering we’ve seen, and includes industry leaders, corporate representatives, suppliers, educators as well as experienced optical dispensers and brand-new graduating dispensers.”

ODA CEO Ms April Petrusma concurred, saying it represented a major leap forward. Her organisation exists for several reasons, but one of those is to raise the profile of optical dispensing, which has seen highs and lows since the profession was deregulated many years ago.

“It is the very first time that an event of this magnitude has taken place in Australia to celebrate all things dispensing,” she said.

“Optical dispensers are absolutely vital to the success of optometry. They fulfil roles in many forms across manufacturing and fitting labs, specialist clinics and in retail practices. To our colleagues, we are an essential part of a clinical team and to our patients, we are the face of the practice in which we work."

“A qualified optical dispenser truly is a highly skilled, multi-talented professional and part of our objective at ODA is to elevate the perception of our profession both within the optical industry and in the eyes of the general community.”

A bumper program

Back to the conference itself: the conference floor was full and engaged on both days, with delegates enjoying a rich program covering a wide selection of topics, as listed below.

Seeing value: Managing commercialism ethically for the modern health professional

Prof Alexander Holden | UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY

Frame styling for your practice


Impact of artificial intelligence on the future of optometry marketing

Michael Nasser | OPTICARE

Paediatric vision, glasses & the balancing act


Understanding a customers occupational lens needs


The vision impaired patient: Beyond optical and clinical care


Contact lenses and the role of Dispensers

Danya AlKarbouli | GEORGE & MATILDA

Improving lens performance

Nicola Peaper | RODENSTOCK

Increasing practice revenue through upselling


The rise of Myopia

Jessica Kingsley | CARL ZEISS

A Dispenser’s guide to understanding prism

Chedy Kalach | ACOD

Frame branding


Troubleshooting progressive lenses: Scenarios and approaches to resolve them


Functional implication of clinical vision tests


Nupolar technology & benefits

Craig Johnston | YOUNGER OPTICS

If you missed the conference or want to read more about each speaker and their presentation, you can view the full ODA Conference Program of Events here.

ODA – an organisation on the up

Overall, Petrusma, said the turnout of ODA’s inaugural national conference exceeded expectations, so much so that part way through the planning process the organisation had to upgrade the space to use at the Sydney Masonic Centre.

“In the past, events like this have been rather sparse for optical dispensers and other practice support staff and I think the registration response we have had demonstrates just how much our profession values and desires educational development and networking opportunities of this type,” she said.

“Our delegates travelled from nearly every state of Australia to be here – with an extra special mention to our guests that are visiting us from New Zealand and Japan.”

The conference marked a new peak for ODA since its inception just 16 months ago, in January 2022.

In that time, ODA has also:

  • Grown to almost 2,000 subscribers with varying levels of memberships

  • Hosted 15 webinars and three ‘make your own eyewear’ workshops

  • Held its first sell out mini conference in Perth

  • Held its first sell out two-day conference in Sydney

  • Hosted a volunteer day in Brisbane visiting the Lions Recycle for Sight headquarters with its members

  • Gained the support of several big-name industry corporate partners.

ODA is grateful and proud of the industry connections we are making and would again like to publicly thank our ODA Conference Sponsors. The ODA Conference would not have been able to happen without the support of the following sponsors: ACOD, De Rigo Vision Australia, Hilco Vision, Hoya Lens Australia, Humanware Australia, Rodenstock, Tokai Optical Australia, Wiley X.

The ODA Advisory Board of 2023

Part of this article taken from Insight News - Myles Hume's write-up of the ODA Conference. To read his full article click here.


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