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Silmo Academy Q&A with Elaine Grisdale, IOA Director of Development

The Silmo Academy is coming to Silmo Singapore ( this April so we thought we'd do a Q & A with Elaine Grisdale Director of Development of the International Opticians Association, to find out what it's all about...

You will be going to Singapore in April to bring the Silmo Academy (in the Silmo Singapore show) for its second edition. Tell us about the Silmo Academy and how the partnership with the IOA came about...

Elaine: SILMO ACADEMY was born in Paris in 2010. It arose from a realisation that opticians need to develop their skills and broaden their knowledge in the fields of vision and optics in order to meet their clients' visual requirements more effectively. SILMO opted to support professionals in this strategy by creating a dedicated training body and science symposium, aimed at all eyecare professionals wishing to enhance their expertise.

As a forum for improving knowledge and sharing experience in the various aspects of vision and compensation for vision loss, SILMO ACADEMY is recognised by many countries as a provider of Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

It has carved out a niche for itself as a forum for dialogue and information on the latest scientific developments in the vision and optics sectors, aimed at opticians and other vision specialists both in France and abroad. This was mainly European until last year when we took our first steps into the Southern Hemisphere, coming to Singapore. In 2022, SILMO ACADEMY partnered with the International Opticians Association to further develop training initiatives around the world. So far, we have concentrated on Paris, Prague and Singapore.

How do you choose topics and lecturers?

Elaine: This edition is very much directed by feedback from last year. People were excited about what they had heard and they came to me with suggestions which is very welcome and proves people are engaged with the event. Also, we have to think about subjects which are topical / of the moment, also ones which are pragmatic, proving useful to people in everyday practice helping them to serve patients better and build their businesses. Once we have an idea of themes, I then try and find engaging speakers who have a wide international experience and can deliver interesting content in a stimulating way.

Another attraction of this event is that the speakers are available and are willing to interact with delegates after the sessions, answer questions one-to-one, give advice, some are very well known and are sometimes asked for selfies! The aim is to have people come away from our sessions with greater knowledge, inspired by the experts we invite onto the programme. Hopefully delegates will leave with a renewed energy and enthusiasm to provide excellent vision and eye care.

Silmo invest a lot into this programme, not only in terms of expertise but also in terms of financial support to support the SILMO brand which is internationally respected, and which believes in providing a bridge between optical professionals and the eyecare industry. It’s very important for the survival of the sector and they show great leadership in doing this.

So what can we expect this year?

Elaine: Our audience is made up of two parts – people who are more interested in clinical subjects and research (optometrists, vision scientists and opticians) and then people who are interested in developing business and dispensing product (opticians, practice staff and optometrists). This is why we have two programmes running concurrently. One is Silmo Academy which is made up of clinical lectures and these will be CPD accredited for Australia, NZ and Singapore. We also have certificates of attendance for those organisations where you can provide evidence of self-directed study. The other topics are on a programme found in the middle of the exhibition area and this is known as Silmo Talks. This is less structured and people can come along and sit down to listen to something which piques their interest.

We have 2 days split over 3 days for the clinical conferences – 2 half days and a full day. The Silmo Academy is split into 4 half days exploring Under 45s, Over 45s, Contact Lenses and Ocular Health and Visual Well-Being. Silmo Talks runs over the whole 3 days.

As well as these 2 full programmes, we have added 2 workshops which are open to everyone (but need to be booked). These are a practical workshop which is led by ADONZ President Angela Mitchell and is repeated twice. The other workshop is a discussion workshop and this will be led by IOA Immediate Past President, Fiona Anderson, and again will be repeated twice.

I would urge anyone interested to go to the Silmo Singapore website on to check out the topics, and to look at for the dazzling array of international experts. We still have some surprises to announce!

Should we be thinking ahead and if so, is there anything we should be particularly concentrating on, or even worried about ?

Elaine: I think this is such a wide topic that it maybe warrants a presentation or article all on its own. I worked hard with Professor Daniela Nosch, a colleague from the Institute of Optometry in Olten, Switzerland a few years ago and we put together a presentation for a European Academy meeting about the future, to stimulate debate more than anything. I’m delighted to say, by-the-way, that Daniela will be speaking in Singapore about dry eye. Already a lot of what we said has come to pass or is being talked about and isn’t groundbreaking anymore. The world with the impacts of AI and telehealth is moving very fast.

We did have the chance to discuss the future for both optometry and optics at a European meeting last year and there were a lot of things that were discussed but some of the key messages that came out of the session and some we had highlighted a few years earlier were:-

Specialization and differentiation are going to be important to both dispensing opticians and optometrists. I’d even go further and suggest that specialization be bolstered by obtaining further qualifications in the areas of specialization to prove expertise. Certainly keeping up to date via events such as the Silmo Academy and other continuing professional development opportunities is vital.

Technology should be embraced and we should learn to use it as an aid to giving exemplary eye-care but the human element will still be essential.

Interprofessional working will become increasingly important.

The practice and the people will be brands that people will buy into – there are many ways in which we should be ensuring that patients become our number one fans and advocates.

We will have to learn how to communicate better – key staff members will be people who engage in social media and website management to bring the practice people and services closer to potential and existing customers.

Being aware of social and environmental issues will have greater importance and will spill over into having a practice policy, proving engagement through demonstrable targets and sourcing product or working with manufacturers who share the same concerns.

I know ODA are passionate about this subject and have done a lot of great work in raising its profile. A few of our speakers are very involved with policy making and international optical and optometric politics. The Silmo Academy is a great way to chat to them and to engage in the future of our professions.