Formation of Two New Ophthalmic Societies
The formation of a medically affiliated Society gives indication
that we are a special facet within a chosen profession.
Such is the case for the two special groups that were founded
more than thirty years ago. There is a coexistence
created out of the need and support for one another.
The American Society of Ocularists (ASO)
was founded in 1957 when a small conglomeration of stock
eye fitters and several prominent glass and plastic eye makers
met with a handful of young, foresighted eye research doctors
and ophthalmic plastic reconstructive surgeons. A number
of these providers of prosthetic services realized that the
medical/surgical advances (motility implants) had passed
their technical skills and it was time to become organized.
These eye specialists were located in several of the larger
teaching hospitals, and were responsible for the designing
of a variety of moveable orbital implants since mid to late
forties. Each of which required a more completely customized
impression moulded prosthesis, rather than those being offered
by the empirical stock eye fitters and eye makers.
It was with this in mind that prompted them to seek out,
initially for themselves, a limited number of skilled plastic
eye prosthetists (including ocularists from the W.W.II Army
Dental Corps). At the onset, it was a medical/technical
team where the ocularist observed both the primary (enucleation)
implant insertions with integration of the eye muscles, and
the more complicated secondary procedures (acquired anophthalmos)
where tissue probing was necessary to locate the four rectus
muscles. This one-on-one team lead to an exchange of
ideas for implant modifications for better adaptation to
the mobile ocular prosthesis.
Case presentations at the AAO
and articles in newspapers and magazines, also increased
the demand for moveable implants, and this in turn required
more ocularists knowledgeable in the proper fitting procedures.
It was now their intention to help support and organize these
talented and more experienced ocularists to form a society
where they could disseminate their knowledge to the other
artificial eye makers in the larger and smaller urban areas,
in both the United States and Canada.
To form such a society was a difficult task at first.
There were a limited number of new generation plastic eye
technicians, and the older group of glass eye making companies
(New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco) all of
whom were competitive, but splintered. There was no
organization, no society meetings, and no communication whatsoever.
It was with reluctance and possibly self-survival that they
became involved in making the plastic eye, but then remained
steadfast to adhere to their century old empirical method
of trial and error fitting for both there custom and stock
eyes. Initially, there was no conflict with this conversion,
since the majority of general ophthalmologists were still
using ball type implants at the time of enucleation,
not the newer motility types.
Eventually, the impressionist and empiricist eye makers,
and the stock eye fitters met on March 30th and
31st, 1957. The discussions were heated
over custom fitting procedures and the use and sale of stock
prostheses. In the end, the custom eye makers prevailed.
There would be no future for stock eye fitting in this new
age of motility implants, or within this soon to be formed
society. The remaining glass artisans and plastic technicians
realized they could learn more of what was needed to keep
up with this new trend in plastic prosthetic eye fabrication
and fitting techniques within an organized educational society.
Guidelines were established, and by September of 1957, dates
were being arranged for their future meetings to coincide
with the American Academy of Ophthalmology, for joint sessions
with the young group of eye surgeons (the future ASOPRS).
The American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic Reconstructive
were the innovators and designers of the first 'state of
the art' integrated, intra-orbital moveable (plastic, tantalum
and mesh) type implants. Each of these implants had
the (recti) eye muscles (integrated) attached to them to
allow for more responsive movement within the eye cavity.
This in turn would allow the artificial eye to simulate synchronized
motility with the sighted eye. This was a tremendous
breakthrough from the first reported unattached embedded
hollow glass ball implant (Dr. Mules sphere) that was introduced
a little more than a half century earlier (1898). The
sole purpose of the embedded ball was to assist the glass
eye maker reduce the sunken-in appearance (enophthalmos)
which was a common occurrence following the (enucleation)
surgical removal of the eye.
The doctors (especially Dr. Albert D. Ruedemann, Sr.) that
prompted formation of the ASO were part of the nucleus that
formed their own society in 1969. It became the American
Society of Ophthalmic Plastic Reconstructive Surgeons.
The formation of the ASOPRS is another group that can give
credit to the magical word PLASTIC!