Contact Lenses of the Americas Specialists Symposium 2022

CLASS is a specialist contact lens symposium that takes place in South America. The conference is organised by Contamac, a UK-based global manufacturer of rigid gas-permeable contact lens materials.  2022 is the third year it has taken place; the inaugural meeting was in Bogotá in May 2018, followed by Buenos Aires in November 2019. Due to the global pandemic, there was no CLASS conferences in 2020, and the event was hosted virtually in 2021. So this year was the first year back for some time.

The first CLASS in Bogota was a huge success and was attended by over 600 delegates, demonstrating an untapped thirst for specialist knowledge in South America. I have been fortunate enough to attend both the previous symposiums, so when I was invited to attend CLASS 2022, this time as a speaker, I accepted the offer straight away; I was, however, slightly daunted by the prospect of presenting to a large group of Colombian practitioners especially as I would share the stage with some big names in the specialist contact lens world.

I was asked to present on signs and symptoms of scleral toricity when fitting mini-scleral lenses; nothing too difficult, apparently! I spent a few weeks taking pictures and collating information, putting them onto PowerPoint slides and re-writing them several times until I was happy with the results. One thing that I needed to bear in mind was that there would be simultaneous Spanish translation, so the speed of delivery would be much slower than if it was in the UK.

After the program was published, I realised I would be on stage with Eef van der Worp, Karen Carrasquillo, and Marcela Soria. That immediately made me nervous, as I was quoting Eef’s research in my presentation.

CLASS was due to start on the 3rd of November. So, with overnight flights booked for the 1st, I headed off to Heathrow on a wet and windy Tuesday night, fighting my way through the normal M25 traffic, the flight took off on time at 21.45, and I settled down for the ten and a half flight to Bogota where I would change planes for the hour and a half flight to Cartagena where CLASS 2022 was being held.

The symposium opened with a speech from Carlos Mayoral, the Contamac key account manager for Latin America and organiser of CLASS. This was followed by an excellent presentation from Kai Mothes of Oculus, discussing the features and benefits of the Pentacam in specialist lens fitting. There were headsets available for us non-fluent Spanish speakers, and they were manned by some amazing simultaneous translators who translated the technical presentations.

Mauricio Pulido gave an excellent discussion on soft contact lenses for Keratoconus and other types of corneal irregularity, followed by Marcela talking about the design and adaptation of multifocal lenses.

There was a large exhibition room situated very near to the lecture theatre, and everyone decamped to meet friends and colleagues and chat with the exhibitors and sponsors; there were over 30 stands with companies like Coopervision Speciality Eyecare, Medmont, Oculus, Avizor and the Scleral Lens Society – something for everyone.

Dinner in the Old Town of Cartegena that night was great, and it was good to have a chance to meet with our new Colombian friends and talk about how different Optics is there compared to the UK. I also had the chance to catch up with Emmanuel Veillard from LCS, who is the designer of the Elements Hybrid lens; it was a very pleasant surprise to see him in Cartegena.

Friday was the day for me to join the speakers on stage. I was due on at 10 but needed to be ready for 9.30 to join the other panel speakers. Moira started by talking about the fitting and adjustment of mini-scleral lenses. Karen Carrasquillo followed up with an excellent presentation on how to assess mini-sclerals with OCT and fluorescein and how to use this information to adjust the parameters.

Then it was my turn to speak in this large auditorium in front of a few hundred delegates, always remembering to slow my speech down to allow the translators to do their job. I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable it was being on the stage and, in the end, how appreciative the audience was. Next up was Eef, who gave a great talk which dovetailed nicely with mine on scleral toricity and how to fit it.

After our presentations, we had questions from the audience and then it was time to get un-miked and return to the exhibition hall for a coffee and one of the lovely Colombian pastries.

Friday night was party night in downtown Cartegena. Carlos had booked a Latin American club for everyone to attend with fabulous music and a great vibrant atmosphere, a bit too much for an old fogey like me, so after an hour or so, I bowed out and returned to the hotel leaving everyone else to party until the small hours.

Saturday was the final day of watching a great lecture from Martyn Lewis and Reece Hughes of Contamac on material properties in one of the smaller breakout rooms. I always learn something new watching Martyn, and today was no exception.

and catching up with my good friend Chris Ferguson from Medmont before we attended the final event, which was the quiz. I think every delegate attended this as the auditorium was packed, and much fun was had answering the questions and distributing the prizes for the winners. After a closing speech from Carlos, we returned to the hotel and arranged a final dinner together. We were all flying the next day, some of the Contamac team were off to the United States for other meetings and some, like me returning to the UK.

After landing back at Heathrow at 2.30 in the afternoon, I drove home to unpack and prepare for my next domestic trip in a couple of days to Darlington; very happy to have attended another great CLASS symposium.

It was interesting to note both the similarities and differences with conferences in the UK.  The scleral lens content was excellent, and it seems that the approach to fitting these lenses is very similar in South America to ours in the UK.  However, there was almost no content on myopia management at CLASS this year, whilst in the UK this seems to be the current hot topic. 

I’ll be recording my CLASS presentation, ‘Scleral Toricity and Toric Periphery’ in the new year. We’ll let you know when it is available to view.

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