History

The Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology (AUPO) was founded in 1966 as an organization dedicated to research and education.  Through its mission,  AUPO is the voice of academic ophthalmology.  

Since the founding of AUPO, Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) has played a vital role in the establishment and continuation of AUPO.  RPB provided funding for our first meeting and has continued to provide annual grants totaling more than $3 million.

AUPO 50th Anniversary Video

Membership

Initially including only chairs of ophthalmology divisions or departments in medical schools, the membership was later enlarged to include chairs or co-chairs of departments or divisions with accredited ophthalmology residency training programs.  A category of associate membership was subsequently established for directors of accredited residency training programs in ophthalmology. Canadian chairs and their residency program directors became eligible for membership in 1996.  In 2006 and 2009 respectively, research directors and medical student educators in member departments or divisions of ophthalmology became eligible for associate membership. AUPO next expanded to include associate program directors in 2015 and department administrators in 2017.

Annual Meeting

A major focus of AUPO is its annual meeting.  At this four-day event, members and associate members gather to attend the program and network informally.  With the addition of new associate members, the meeting has become more relevant in terms of covering the three missions of academic departments:  research, education and patient care.  The meeting comprises a host of symposia, workshops, and sessions for chairs, program directors, research directors, medical student educators, administrators and program coordinators.

Educating the Educators, a one-day educational session developed by the program directors, was integrated into the annual meeting structure in 2008.  Incorporating symposia, papers, posters, and exhibits, this event is highly-anticipated and attended.  In 2012, Breakfast with Colleagues was initiated. This popular activity provides a good one-on-one interaction opportunity for members.  These breakfast networking sessions are an occasion for members to interact face-to-face with a group leader and other members at the table.  Each table has a theme ranging from finances to leadership to philanthropy.  

SF Match

The AUPO membership voted to introduce a national ophthalmology residency matching program in November 1977 with Dr. August Colenbrander serving as the program coordinator. In the 1990s, the San Francisco Matching Program (SF Match), under the direction of AUPO, became more electronic and less paper-driven.  Recently, further upgrades have made the SF Match a completely on-line process for both applicants and training programs. This has made the match, which includes both residency and fellowship training programs, more efficient and convenient for all concerned.

Organizational Leadership

Through 1989, an important position on the Board of Trustees was the Secretary-Treasurer, which was the predecessor to the Executive Vice President position. The eight individuals who served in this position were responsible for all correspondence to members including monthly newsletters, dues notices, meeting notices, dues and registration fee collection, and assisting the AUPO President with meeting planning and facilitation. In 1990, with a growing organization, the position of Executive Vice President, and association management services was formalized.

AUPO is governed by an eight-member Board of Trustees, led by a President. The leadership of AUPO is conscious of diversity in its broad membership. Many factors are considered in the trustee selection process: region of the country, gender, subspecialty, race, size of program, etc.  As such, our board is reflective of many different perspectives.

Associate members are represented by their own Councils. Through the councils, related educational and other diverse activities are planned and implemented. Starting in 2015 the Presidents of each council serve on an AUPO Steering Committee. In 2017, the Steering Committee will evolve into a new structure, the AUPO Council, with increased responsibility and input into the organization’s future growth and development.

The AUPO seeks to become increasingly more relevant.  For over two decades, the AUPO Board of Trustees has regularly conducted strategic planning retreats.  The basic themes of the retreats have been to enhance the value of AUPO to its members; represent academic ophthalmology in its three missions of research, education and patient care in the most effective manner; and increase the relevance of AUPO to academic ophthalmology.  Due to the rapidly shifting environment, the Board of Trustees holds “deep dives” into topics of strategic interest alternating with strategic planning sessions.  AUPO’s highest goal is to continue to represent and promote academic ophthalmology.

Advocacy

AUPO played a critical role in creating the National Eye Institute (NEI) and in 1993, a request was made to AUPO to contribute to the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR) / Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (AEVR). As an advocacy/educational organization devoted to vision science research and its funding, especially by the NEI, AUPO has maintained a commitment to this organization and provides an annual allocation. In recent years, the Executive Vice President of AUPO occupies a position on the Board of Directors of NAEVR/AEVR. AUPO is regularly consulted by prominent professional organizations regarding its positions on issues deemed important to academic ophthalmology. After Board review and approval, AUPO may agree to be a signatory on letters and white papers of especial merit to our constituency.

Leadership Development

A Self-Paced Management Development Program was initiated by AUPO in the early 1990s. Directed to chairs, administrators and management staff, the program involving independent study modules was discontinued. Instead, in conjunction with the UCLA Anderson School of Management, AUPO developed a management course for chairs, would-be chairs, and administrators.  Course topics included leadership, finances, strategic planning, time management and negotiations.  The course, held in June 1991, 1995, 1997, 2001 and 2003, was consistently rated outstanding by the participants, but was discontinued when the number of enrollees declined.  At the Annual Meeting in 2017, a pre-meeting Boot Camp for New Chairs was established to introduce a variety of administrative topics relevant to effective management and growth of academic ophthalmology departments. Mentoring programs for newly appointed chairs and program directors are offered. Through these programs, new chairs and program directors are paired with current or former chairs and program directors who provide advice and guidance in a broad range of subjects.

RPB Role in Enhancing AUPO Research Support Mission

In addition to the generous unrestricted annual donation to AUPO, RPB has funded a Resident and Fellow Research Forum annually since 2000. The goal of the forum is to nurture and recognize developing clinician-scientists who are critical to the future of all departments of ophthalmology. At our annual meeting, four papers are presented by residents or fellows and then discussed by experts in the field. RPB also joined with AUPO to match the donation of Bernard Becker, MD, initiating the Physician-Scientist Award, which was bestowed in 2001 and 2006. In 2018, the David F. Weeks Award for Outstanding Research in AMD will be bestowed along with the inaugural lecture. The award carries the name of and honors the contributions to the field of vision research by David F. Weeks, former President and Chairman of RPB, who was instrumental in the founding of AUPO. The award, open to MD, PhD, or MD/PhD researchers in the United States, will be presented annually at the Annual Meeting of AUPO and carries an unrestricted cash award. Without the active participation of RPB since its founding, AUPO certainly would not have reached its current level of importance.

AUPO Role in Enhancing the Education Mission

There is no doubt that the Straatsma Award for Excellence in Resident Education established in 2002 has been important in providing recognition for outstanding program directors, reinforcing the value that AUPO and academic departments of ophthalmology place on this position.  The outstanding program directors awarded this recognition are highlighted at both the annual American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and AUPO meetings. Financial support for this award was provided by AAO, AUPO, and a private donor in Los Angeles. Recognizing the importance of medical students to the future of academic ophthalmology, the AUPO and AAO jointly funded the annual Excellence in Medical Student Education Award in 2014.

The AUPO Fellowship Compliance Committee (FCC)  was created in 2005 to provide training requirements for ophthalmology fellowships.  It offers educational standards, protection of the public, institutions, and trainees, accountability and enforcement.  To date, six ophthalmic subspecialties, supported by eight ophthalmic subspecialty societies, voluntarily participate in the compliance program. The FCC represents a major achievement of AUPO.  A one-time loan from AAO, which was later forgiven, and a contribution from The Cornea Society facilitated the start-up. Funding for this important program is derived from three sources:  the programs themselves, the subspecialty societies, and the Central Application Service (CAS) which was created by AUPO for fellows.  The CAS was extremely important in and of itself because it made the fellowship application process so much more efficient and friendly for the applicants by requiring one, rather than multiple, applications.

At the 2009 and 2010 Association for Research and Vision in Ophthalmology (ARVO) Annual Meetings, a joint course was held between ARVO and AUPO entitled “Do You Want to Become a Chair of Ophthalmology?”  Both AUPO and ARVO shared the costs associated with the program which was well-received.

AUPO conducted three salary surveys in 2006, 2012 and 2017.  These surveys represent the most comprehensive compensation data in academic ophthalmology, taking into consideration region of the country, academic rank, subspecialty, as well as administrative, clinical and research positions.  Plans are to increase the frequency of the surveys to biannually.  

In association with UCLA and endorsed by ARVO, AUPO sponsored a biennial Introduction to Clinical Research course.  This course provided a comprehensive overview of issues pertaining to patient-based research, such as study design, pitfalls in data analysis, and interpretation of statistical tests.  Four such courses have been held in September 2006, March 2009, March 2011, and September 2013.  

For years, AUPO communicated with the membership through its print periodical, News & Views. Perceiving the need for enhanced and open communication of articles important to the AUPO constituency, the Board announced a cooperative agreement with Thieme Medical Publisher, Inc., to produce an online journal - Journal of Academic Ophthalmology (JAO) – in 2017.

Conclusion

AUPO has evolved from its roots as a forum for Department and Division Chairs in Ophthalmology to a more inclusive organization incorporating membership from research, education, patient care, and administrative constituents.  The communications continue to improve with an updated website and the initiation of a journal with high relevance to academic ophthalmologists in North America and internationally.  AUPO looks forward to its next 50 years as the one voice of Academic Ophthalmology.