David Pyott and Jim Mazzo talk newly formed Ophthalmology Foundation

Posted on

Mark Dlugoss: Hello. This is Mark Dlugoss, Senior Contributing Editor for Ophthalmology 360. Welcome to the Ophthalmic Project powered by Ophthalmology 360. Today, The Ophthalmic Project looks at a recently formed nonprofit organization called the Ophthalmology Foundation. Joining me now to discuss this new foundation are 2 industry veterans many of you know very well. First is David Pyott, who is President of the Ophthalmology Foundation. And Jim Mazzo, who is the organization’s Vice-President. As listeners may recall, David Pyott was the president of Allegan from 1998 to 2015. And Jim Mazzo recently served as President of Carl Zeiss Meditec. Before that he was CEO of both Advanced Medical Optics and Avellino, and he was also Executive Vice President of Abbott’s Ophthalmology Business. Jim is currently Executive Chairman of Neurotech. Gentlemen welcome to the Ophthalmic Project.

David Pyott: Nice to be working with you, Mark. And we were reminiscing that we’ve been doing stuff like this for almost 20 years together.

Mark Dlugoss: It’s really funny we talked about that. Because I looked back at all my interviews, I think I’ve interviewed you both. Both David and Jim, both of you I’ve interviewed probably more times than anybody else in the industry.

David Pyott: Yeah. That’s probably a sign of how long we’ve been around for.

Jim Mazzo: I liked when you call us industry veterans. That’s a nice word. Thank you very much for that word.

Mark Dlugoss: I think that works very well. Okay. Let’s start talking about Ophthalmology Foundation. It’s a relatively new nonprofit organization. In fact, it’s so new. It’s like what 3 or 4 months old.

David Pyott: Yeah. Not even, not even.

Mark Dlugoss: Can you give me a background of how this organization came about and how it got started.

David Pyott: Yeah, so really the predecessor of the Ophthalmology Foundation was the International Council of Ophthalmology Foundation. And as many people probably know, that’s a U.S– using our language, a 5013C, a not-for-profit organization. And the ICO, which has been around for over a century was actually a Swiss-based association. So they were always somewhat separate and as happens in lots of corporate and organizational life, you know, things evolve and people start to notice maybe the priorities and the direction start diverging. And because we were already rather separate, we reached a point last year and this was really Bruce Spivey, who of course needs no introduction to anybody given the fantastic work he did for the ICO. And before that, even the AAO and Jim and I kind of put our heads together and thought, you know what, there’s a moment reached where we can probably get more done if we just stopped on our own. So, we negotiated a very amicable separation from the ICO. Also hence why we came up with a brand new name and actually will be incorporated in Delaware. Not that that makes much difference than San Francisco. So we remain a U.S not-for-profit organization and I’ll let Jim talk because he’s a real expert in all that we’re doing as well. Overall arching, it’s all about education, educating colleagues. We’ll talk a lot more about an education group and what’s conceived to happen in that area. And then we’ll talk about international fellowships and really the beneficiaries of most of this work is our colleagues in what’s known as the lower and middle-income countries. So how can we in the United States, North America, Europe, and so on and Japan, you know, really go about this. And as you can imagine, you know, COVID has been a kind of challenging time for most organizations. But you have to sort of ask yourself, what are we really about? What are we good at? And so on. And really in creating this new organization, we really tried to step back and say, how would we start with a white sheet of paper. You know, capture the good ideas from the past, bring on people with the experience of the old organization, but then bring on lots of people that are very well known in international ophthalmology, but can bring new ideas, new initiatives, and so on. And so this is how we ended up with my view and it certainly, was only a small part due to my contact source so thanks to Bruce and Jim and others, we’ve ended up with a wonderful board of trustees of 35 members. And it was pretty tough trying to come up with who are the best of the best. And of course, speaking, just of our local area, meaning the United States, we have great people like Julia Haller from Wills, Peter McDonnell at Willmer, Paul Leah at Kellogg, and Eddie Alfonso in Bascom Palmer in Miami. And you can imagine, around the world, we have people of this caliber representing, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and then also Africa who can give us good advice given, they’re the true recipients. So some of the benefits of our programs. So let me stop there. Cause hopefully that sort of gives you the history of where did we come from and who are we? And then I’m sure we’ll talk more about the programs.

Mark Dlugoss: Another question, Is the International Council of Ophthalmology Foundation, are they still working with you and in this new format or they’ve just pretty much gone their separate ways?

David Pyott: Yeah, actually because we really operated the so-called ICO foundation literally any day now, when California does the last box-ticking exercise, it will actually be dissolved. So legally, no longer exists. We are able to transfer almost all of the assets over from the old foundation to the new one. And of course, when I got all enthusiastic about talking about our ophthalmologists’ colleagues, I should, of course immediately add basically all the members of industry who used to be on the old board are now members of the new board plus a couple of extra. So here we have the real leaders and of course beyond their interest in what we’re doing, of course, very important, they’re going to bring their checkbooks or their [inaudible] instructions with them, Jim, anything to add.

Jim Mazzo: I would just add, it’s, it’s great to work with David and Bruce on this. And it goes back to, first off our ability to give back to an industry that’s been very good to a lot of us and be able to give back to locations that don’t have some of the luxuries that we’re used to, especially a lot of your readers probably are used to. So lower to middle-income countries where we can go in and help train. And David, we’ll talk more about the training program, but also train the trainer too. Don’t just jump in and then leave. That’s the critical element. We go in, we train the departments and then we come back. And when David talks about the industry, you know, I’m very pleased because we kind of added a couple of new ones like Shervin from BVI. BVI really was never involved before. And now we have new people like Jag at Allergan, Warren at AMO. So it’s a nice breath of new air. Mike Ball is staying on from Alcon, so it’s great to have industry, but also new industry leaders because we need to continue this Mark. We talked about our heritage with you, but you know, we know our time will be over. So I love that we’re bringing in some new, like Beatrice Cochener from France. So I think your audience needs to understand that this is actually a continuation, but, but equally or more important, it’s going to have a beautiful flow for the future. And by the way, I think you put in your article, but it’s ophthalmologyfoundation.org. If they need any more information that David and I missed.

Mark Dlugoss: You both as well as Dr Spivey who serves as your secretary and treasurer are well-established individuals in the Ophthalmic World. And you volunteer your time and efforts in many organizations. What makes the Ophthalmology Foundation unique that motivates you to give your time to this organization and what makes this organization different from other nonprofit organizations?

Jim Mazzo: I’m going to start with that one first because it’s part first off I mean it sincerely, David Pyott is one of my closest friends in life. And anytime I can have the opportunity to work with Dave and work together on something, it’s always fun because it moves from just doing it as a business opportunity to a personal one. So, COVID separated us a lot from being able to see each other, but this actually got me even more time with my best buddy there, David. It also, I would just say kind of what I talked about, we get involved because this industry has been very good to us. I can talk to personally my 42nd year in the industry, Mark and it’s, it’s a great industry. And the only other part that I would say, what I love about this it’s global. I mean, I love the United States and I love other parts of the world that I’ve lived in, but this is truly global in markets that just don’t have the access to the technology. And I think that is really the critical element, David.

David Pyott: I think compared to other organizations which are very much humanitarian and alleviating blindness in specific countries, and of course we kind of know all of these organizations, whether it’s Fred Hollows, you know, based in Australia could be Sightsavers based in the UK. It could be Light for the World based in Vienna, Austria. It could be Christian Mission for the Blind, which originally was a German charity, but is operated out of England and so on. But those and Seva would be another out of Canada SEE International, Santa Barbra. I mean, basically, we know all the organizations. They’re very much programmatic, whereas we’re all about education. And even more specifically, it’s more about teaching educators how they can impart knowledge to residents and colleagues. So it’s not so much about the, what, i.e how do I improve my knowledge of glaucoma treatment or retinal surgery or whatever. It’s how do I transmit and impart my knowledge? So this is a real fulcrum kind of a flywheel effect. So that’s the education side of the house. The other side of the house really builds on the heritage of what your readers and listeners will know as what was called in the past, the ICO fellowships. And they’re mainly 3-month fellowships, but also a couple that are 12 months, such as the one offered by the Retina Research Foundation, which was founded by another industry. I mean, she’s just a giant, even though she happens to be short and stature, and I’m talking about Alice McPherson, a dear friend to so many of us and she offers the Helmerich award. So basically stepping back, what we did was, ere was a German foundation set up by one of the leaders of the ICO now over 20 years ago in Switzerland and his close colleagues in Germany. And so this group is called the International Ophthalmology Fellows Foundation. And as part of this transition and change, in fact, his group, the same people, the same administrator came across to work with us, at The Ophthalmology Foundation. And so I’m really pleased that for something that’s brand new, we will actually be able to offer over 70 fellowships this year, COVID permitting. So, n important date for your listeners and readers is plications by the 31st of August. You can either go on The Ophthalmology Foundation website, or you can go on IOFF.org, which is the German website. Don’t worry. It’s not all in German. You can do it that way if you want, but it’s also in English. So these are very concrete examples, how a brand new organization is already offering concrete benefits and offering new services.

Jim Mazzo: Also, Mark, I’ll just add that new geographies as well. You mentioned the company, Avellino, that I’m associated with taking that company public in Korea and they’ve provided fellowship in Korea. So we’re also expanding into new geographies that we weren’t in before.

David Pyott: Yeah, I think another thing that’s interesting is it’s not only what’s known in the world of economic development North-South contacts. It can also be so-called South-South, you know, were represented on our board. We have the CEO of Aravind in India, which is probably the largest along maybe with the Chinese,yecare provider in the world. And of course, they can train and do train ophthalmologists from surrounding Asian countries, but also more and more from Africa who teaches them ways of doing things with a lot less consumables than we would be used to in North America or in Europe. And another good example would be the chief medical officer of the Singapore National Eye Center is another very accomplished, but also very energetic and wonderful person represented on our board.

Mark Dlugoss: So basically the mission and goals of The Ophthalmology Foundation is basically education. Correct.

David Pyott: That’s correct.

Mark Dlugoss: And getting it out there to ophthalmologists, fellows residents throughout the world? Correct.

David Pyott: That’s exactly right. And I think what’s really exciting in these early days is many people who have content say to us, how can we link up with you so that we can make our content more readily available to the people you’re addressing? So David Park and I are having interesting discussions about that, you know, how do we link up with what’s known as ONE, the Ophthalmic Network of Education that I’m sure is very familiar to just about everybody. Or how do we make some of the material available on their new app and available to the rest of the world. And in fact, I know cause I’m involved with the AAO very deeply as well. There’s more readership outside the U.S than even inside. We get similar offers from CRS, thanks to representation by Beatrice Cochener and so on and so on. So this is where you can tell how excited we are for something that’s only maybe 3 or 4 months old. We have some pretty big ideas already.

Jim Mazzo: And Mark, let me also just add to this may be different than some other associations, when they go into these countries, you don’t always get the latest in technologies. You know, you’re trying to basically give them the base success. That’s not what’s happening here. You’re getting a premier educational effort through Karl. As well as the industry is providing the products that all countries can get, as long as it can be obviously developed and implemented, but it’s not lower-scale product lines. It’s the product lines to make sure we’re able to overcome these diseases.

Mark Dlugoss: What kind of response have you gotten from the industry in general just as a start?

Jim Mazzo: Everybody that was with us prior, continued. And then as I mentioned, new people, so like BVI now is part of it. Avellino is obviously part of it. And now we have new people. So everyone that was with us before is continuing and adding. So, very pleased with my industry partners.

Mark Dlugoss: As you’re discussing it, that the education being the central focus of The Ophthalmology Foundation, can you outline some of the important programs that are available through the foundation? And I listed a few, of the 12 months online series of ophthalmology teaching skills. Do you want to go by each one of them?

David Pyott: Yeah, we can talk about those because, of course, what we’re building upon is the heritage of what was known as teach the teachers during the ICO Foundation period. Of course, you know, due to the challenges of COVID, everybody’s been forced to say, you know, what was good and what needs to be different, and how do we move to a hybrid world? And so initially all of our programs will be offered virtually. And of course, we’ve all experienced this, that one of the advantages of virtual is you get even greater participation because the days of having to get into your car and battle the traffic to go somewhere, you know, it’s now you just got to get into your office or some quiet place and flip open the screen, and then off you go. But of course, we are planning to return to having in-person meetings that usually will be scheduled alongside whether it’s the American Academy or whether it’s the Pan-American meeting or whether it’s the Asia Pacific meeting and so on. I think we’re going to end up with a delightful combination of the two. And so I personally very much look forward to restarting what was known as the courses for the residency program directors, where you can really in an intense fashion help those people, who themselves are a little bit younger than Jim and I, but are learning the skills of how to really be the flywheel to impart not only their knowledge but how to learn to their colleagues who then, in turn, can teach the next generation. And of course, because of the online format, we’re going to come up with a whole series of teaching modules. And, the plan is we’ve already got sort of topics laid out for the first 12 months. Now, the whole story is learn to crawl, then learn to walk, and then learn to get into the marathon. But what’s really great is that we have the heritage of people like Karl Golnik, who’s the Chair of the Education Committee, well known of course, as a chair at Cincinnati, but also Eduardo Mayorga and Gabby Palis in Argentina who have done so much work in this area. As well as Helena Filipe, who happens to be from Portugal. So you can see there, you’ve got 3 languages right off the bat covered. And of course, to really build the power of this, they have recruited or are just finalizing the recruiting of another 50 volunteers of people who really passionately believe in teaching their colleagues. So this then starts to make sense, because you could say, well, all of these are busy people. How on earth can they find the time to donate their resources and their intelligence and their knowledge to such a task. But of course, when you’ve got another 50 people behind you and the opportunity to keep it going, you can see how this whole flywheel is built. And as it really comes along, we’re going to be very openly reaching out to both national societies to say, how can you plug and play with what we have that we are going to offer for free, of course, into your efforts. And maybe there’ll be some reciprocity at certain points where they say, well, looking through your curriculum and your offerings, we think we’ve got something better and greater over here. And we will say, thank you very much. We can make hard through our network and online capabilities, push it up the other way. And that will also continue to the Pan-American to other regional societies. So, you can see, you know, for something that’s this brand new, we have a lot of plans and a lot of really great people to make it happen.

Jim Mazzo: Let me just build on, I want to make sure, you know, David talked about it at the beginning and talked about Eduardo. He’s creating this global network of mentors that we were taught. That’s very important. I still want to make sure you, if you have content only going one way, that’s usually been some of the failures in the past of other areas. So having this global network of mentors that Eduardo is leading is really important because we’re going to have tools to assist in helping these trainees. So it’s really a 360 of what Karl’s doing. And to me as industry, that’s very important because if you parachute in and parachute out and you really don’t do the training and don’t have a mentor to discuss it that usually is the sign of failure.

Mark Dlugoss: You’re absolutely correct in that Jim, absolutely. Are there any other programs you guys want to talk about that you might want to give our audience?

David Pyott: I think in a way, you could probably tell and you probably know from our history that we’d rather go deep on a limited menu of topics versus running the temptation of going too broad. And, you know, I was about to give you the example of really building out this offering of the ones that are most frequent are the 3-month fellowships from the IOFF. And, you know, I know this so well, cause I’ve been involved for about a decade now, even during the time when I like to joke, I was still on the dark side, being one of the drug dealers of this space. And since I so-called retired, you know, I think I’ve been involved in 4 or 5 different eyecare charities because, I know a lot about it and happily I can also now support a lot of projects through my wife and my foundation, the David and Molly Pyott Foundation. And so, you know, you can really, where somebody has a great idea, you can say great idea, by the way, I’m going to come and pay for at least a good chunk of it. And then you’re on the hook because people say to me, you know, you’re in some ways a scarily knowledgeable donor. They know that’s just humor because I’m there to help them, not just with the money, but with ideas, with contacts, with connections. But back to the fellowships historically, most of the hosts, you know, the institutions receiving the fellows, typically from Asia, from Africa, from Latin America tended to be in the U.S Germany, Switzerland, Austria, just due to the way it started. Also a fair number in England I have to say. And given my brother as an ophthalmologist in Scotland, of course, I’ve been giving him a bit of VRA to say, and why aren’t there any posting institutions in Scotland. Is there a problem there, or aren’t they good enough? You know, you can imagine the rhetoric you know, he doesn’t stand a chance, right? But you know, here we are, thanks to the fabulous representation we have on our board where we can then say, where are the missing gaps? And everybody on that board has mentees because they tend to be senior and well-known and friends across the world. And so you can see how this is really going to expand in a way that is much bigger than ever was achieved before. And then on the other side, when we have more and more receiving institutions, of course, I’m going to shamelessly turn around to my industry colleagues and say, well, that looks like a fantastic program. So now how are we going to support it? And you can see it’s like a teeter-totter where you just keep building this thing up both ways. And of course, the net result will be in my dreams, it won’t be the 70-ish fellowships that we can offer this year is going to be 200. And this is absolutely fungible and around the corner. This is not somebody suffering from dementia. I can tell you.

Jim Mazzo: You know, and David talks about our board. One person I’d like to specifically spell out that joined our board is Peter McDonnell and, you know Peter very well, Mark. From previous lives and having Peter who’s leading one of the top, if not the top teaching institution in the world helps us because those types of people rotate across the globe. So he’s done a tremendous job of rotation. And then just in our own backyard here, I’m going there later today, the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, and working with Barry from Retina too, so the teaching institutions will play a very important role for us as well.

David Pyott: That was precisely another reason that when we deeply thought about who can we invite. I know this from my past, that the UK in London still plays quite an important role in the world of ophthalmology. So here we have the chairman of Moorefields and he happens to be from Southeast Asia by origin Sri Peng Khaw. And so he’s not just a great British ophthalmologist, but what’s known down there as an overseas Chinese person who really understands the needs of Asia and other parts of the world. Also Matthew Burton, who’s at the London school of hygiene and tropical medicine. And I was so delighted that he was one of the lead authors of the very recently published a Lancet Commission on Eye Health. And when I look at that, really that report was answering the question, what comes after vision 2020, and for anybody listening, who hasn’t yet read that report, it probably takes you only about 45 minutes to read it from cover to cover or online to online, beginning to end. And it really does point out exactly how we both in industry and we, as a profession can really alleviate preventable blindness. It’s fabulous. It’s uplifting.

Mark Dlugoss: So regarding the fellowship program, how can ophthalmologists in trying countries who don’t have the resources, how can these ophthalmologists, whether they’re residents or fellows how can they reach out and partake in this program?

David Pyott: So very simply this year’s important date is we just moved it back a little bit because of COVID travel restrictions this year the 31st of August, go on the ophthalmologyfoundation.org website, or on the German side, IOFF.org, and there you’ll find an application page. And equally for readers because of course, between the chairs of ophthalmology, whose names we mentioned, then of course, I used to attend the AUPO annual meeting. That’s the American University Professors of Ophthalmology Society. It’s always important to spell out all these acronyms. We know a lot of people and many people we’ve approached say, My goodness, we should be involved and we haven’t been, and I just go, who cares? You know, whatever yesterday was, if you’re interested, let’s make it happen. And so we’re just going to keep on building up this network to receive the people who we can identify in the countries of Latin America, Asia, Africa, and so on.

Mark Dlugoss: Are you getting a lot of participation from the ophthalmology professors?

David Pyott: Yes. It’s really good. We’re really pleased with the reaction. We sent out an email to the people we know well. And a program isn’t created in two days, but of course, when the chief says I’m interested and there’s a relationship with one of our board members, then usually somebody gets the marching orders to go make it happen. And of course, at the second level, we also know a lot of people. Those are the people who actually do the training and who are absolutely passionate about this mission. And of course, as we know these people who often occupied these posts, they probably will be the chairs 5, 10, 15 years from now. And so that’s again for the very long term.

Jim Mazzo: Both from industry and practitioners. That’s why this thing is going to continue way past our time as leaders right now.

Mark Dlugoss: It’s good to see you’re building for the future as well. Thinking of the board members let’s talk about such board members. You’ve got some real smooth hooves and shakers and movers. Can you highlight some of the members who are working with the foundation? You talked about some of them, but you got 35 of some of the biggest names.

Jim Mazzo: So you’ve got Eddie Alfonso, obviously, you know, we all know Eddie. I talked about Peter. We have Dr. Kinoshita, which who is extremely well-known. Hugh Taylor obviously some great heritage and Brad Straatsma. In industry Tom Burns Andy Chang from Zeiss, Hervin, as I’ve talked about. So it’s a nice blend of every major company. Alcons there, Allgeran’s there. Alice McPherson, as, as we’ve talked about. Paul Lee. It’s on our website and I use these names only because it shows the geographical reach that we have. I think I mentioned everybody. I was trying to get somebody from every major part, Rubens Belfort. Again, another part in various parts of the geography, which gives us the understanding the significance to be able to go into those markets, because when you have leaderships like that. So, his reach is great. I’m really pleased. And one thing I will add about that, some of these people came with us from the previous and we also were able to bring some new ones on. So that adds to the fresh eyes approach that we’re getting to the foundation as well.

David Pyott: I was just thinking in terms of industry members, obvi