Long about Sunday afternoon, Moscone Center exhibit hall, we're setting up the cannon to test the proposed theory that you could fire one down the center aisle and no one would be injured, the admittedly unoriginal idea occurs to me: Is this meeting necessary?

No insult intended to our fine hosts from ASCRS. No insult intended to the AAO, where the scene (literally, as we're back in San Francisco) will likely be repeated in the fall. But these are basically the Two Big Meetings, and, IMHO, it's past time that they reexamined the wisdom of an annual meeting. (I exempt ARVO, AGS, ASRS, the subspecialty meetings, though they're welcome to conduct the same exercise.)

I don't presume to answer this question; that has to come from the physicians who are the heart and the purpose of the meetings. Judging from the number of them that apparently voted with their feet at ASCRS, a lot of them have already responded.

There are hundreds of management articles that address this question of meeting necessity on a local or company level. But the same principles may apply to national, professional meetings. One common set of questions:

   • Is there a clear purpose for the meeting?

   • Should we meet now?

   • Is there a better alternative?

   • What if the meeting is not held?

Even if you do answer these questions in such a way that you can justify the current frequency of meetings under normal circumstances, and I certainly allow that many people will, the next question is, are the circumstances of today normal? No matter what your criteria, I think the answer is no.

There's a war on. Two of them. The economy is in a shambles. All of us, well most of us, are at least considering the impact of our daily lives on the environment.

Would the world of ophthalmology be materially harmed if ASCRS and the AAO alternated bi-annual meetings? Given the sophistication of communications technology that has emerged since the annual occurrence of these meetings became habit, does anyone really believe that new, more effective methods of disseminating the useful information presented at these meetings can't be developed?

I love San Francisco. This has nothing to do with San Francisco. If both meetings were in my backyard, I would feel the same way, though I'd have to do some serious yard work.