PAAO President’s Message

July 2022

Paulo E.C. Dantas, MD PhD
PAAO President, 2022-2025

Dear Pan-American friends,

This month we chat with Dr. Fernando Barria von B, president of the Chilean Society of Ophthalmology.

Dr. Barria has a long history of services and involvement with the prevention of blindness (PB) throughout Latin America as well as a long-term participation in the PAAO, working in the Prevention of Blindness Committee in cooperation with many PB agencies such as International Agency for Prevention of Blindness and many others.

Always good to hear from him!


Paulo E.C. Dantas, MD PhD
PAAO President



PD: What are your projects during your tenure as president of the Chilean Society of Ophthalmology?

FBvB: My term began in 2021 with the challenge of reversing the economic losses associated with the pandemic and the absence of events that are the main source of financing. That year an online congress was held (COCHIOF 2021) that allowed the long-awaited scientific exchange by increasing the traditional modules (eg youth chapter, scientific department, visual impairment, oncology, among others) and a direct invitation was sent to the members to participate actively in the congress.

Our project as a board of directors was to update the statutes of the Society (which were from the year 2000) as well as to generate regulations for subsidiaries (subspecialties), courses, elections (telematics) and declaration of financial conflict of interest.

In addition, we changed the administrative structure of our organization with a manager and facilitate the payment of fees and registration for courses online.

We are currently developing a solidarity fund for unforeseen events of members that prevent them from working and a rule to select the candidate for the PAAO leadership course.
Our final objective is that our society be attractive and participative for the members, for which the commitment of all the members is required.

Fernando Barría von Bischhoffshausen MD

Office: San Martín 1350, Concepción, Chile
Phone: (56-41) 225-9573
email: [email protected]

  • President of the Chilean Society of Ophthalmology
  • Chief Ophthalmology Department Hospital Clínico de Concepción
  • Advisor to the JUNAEB (school health) Program in Chile
  • Director of the Ophthalmology section, Digital Hospital, Chilean Ministry of Health
  • Chair of the Prevention of Blindness Committee of the Pan-American Association of Ophthalmology
  • Latin American Committee of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB)

Fernando Barría von B., MD

PD: What are the needs of the members of the Society regarding continuing medical education?

FBvB: In our society there is a training course where all residents of the country can access as part of their training, being a mandatory requirement to qualify for the specialty certificate. All active members in good standing also have access to this course.

We also have monthly online member meetings. I believe that the PAAO webinars are of high quality and we can help to spread them. I would only suggest that the objective of these should always be the education of the general ophthalmologist, leaving teaching topics as well as hyper-specialty ones for meetings of interest groups that could be through the same route.

We also appreciate the instances that have been offered regarding education to educators, which is an issue not addressed in our group. There is a project in development with Dr. Palis.


PD: Is there an initiative of the Chilean Society of Ophthalmology regarding eye health for the general population? Any specific issue related to a national need?


There is a visual health department that is in permanent contact with the Ministry of Health and they are currently evaluating the waiting lists in ophthalmology. Our intention is to carry out a massive operation in October, as the month of vision, in some area with a long waiting list and a lack of human resources of ophthalmologists, although we are always in contact with local colleagues to learn about their needs and generate support and not be seen as interference in their activities.

The reality after the pandemic is dramatic due to the lack of attention for 2 years and the waiting lists increased, which will generate an increase in visual impairment, especially in untreated pathologies such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy or involutional macular degeneration. The strategy of primary care units at the national level makes it possible to partially understand this reality, but due to its magnitude it is unmanageable in the short term without a transversal agreement, which requires the great challenge of generating strategies.

I will personally support this year, the school health program in a city far from the urban center, serving vulnerable children from public schools (prioritizing children 4-6 years old) who have not been served.


PD: In your opinion, how important is it to be affiliated with the PAAO?

FBvB: The importance is from both the academic point of view and professional exchange.

For my part, my relationship started with the leadership course that allowed me to get to know the reality of LA and meet other leaders from different countries (the problems are rather similar). It seems to me a very good initiative although I think that it has the economic limitation; to be more massive a San Francisco mini-course could be associated with the PAAO congress.

I think the initiative for the development of the youth chapter is excellent and hopefully it will expand even more with its own symposium in congresses and regional courses.