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Two Generations of Professional Custom Services

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)

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 Surgeons (ASOPRS)

The ASOPRS 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!




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50 Staniford Street, Boston, MA  02114, USA
Members American Society of Ocularists, Board Certified Ocularists