Oct 23, 2023

Virtual Reality: Good, Bad, or Indifferent?


Virtual reality (VR) is one of the latest buzzwords impacting all areas of our lives, from healthcare to the military, entertainment, education, meetings and athletics.

The possibilities with VR technology are “virtually” limitless. We could shop for a car virtually instead of visiting multiple car dealers for test drives. Maybe we will celebrate holidays with our families while wearing VR goggles instead of traveling for an actual visit. Still, my hope is that VR does not replace actually travelling and seeing the world.


I recently had the opportunity to visit the virtual world using a new metaverse platform (MetaMed) created by my colleagues, Eric Rosenberg, DO, MSE, Ranya Habash, MD, and S.K. Steven Houston III, MD.

After I designed my avatar (If I’m being honest, Eric did it for me), I was able to move around a virtual conference center, interact with friends and colleagues, ride a virtual elevator, sit in an “auditorium” and step on stage to the podium. Moving around the metaverse took some getting used to, but the excitement and the potential I imagined for future meetings was astounding and has been demonstrated in the last year.

Since the first ophthalmology Grand Rounds in the metaverse in June 2022,this brilliant and innovative group of physicians have hosted meetings, Grand Rounds and special interest meetings on the Retinaverse and Corneaverse. VR KOL dinner discussions and weekly RetinaVerse rounds are held where surgeons from across the globe come and chime in on 3D surgical videos. In early May, MetaMed held its first live-streamed surgery in the metaverse, where participants could interact with the surgeon while “virtually” attending and live-time viewing the surgery in 3D.

The interest in this technology for education, innovation and collaboration is so broad that Drs. Eric Rosenbergand John Kitchens founded the Digital Ophthalmic Society, which held its first meeting in the metaverse in August 2022. Also, ASCRS created the first Digital Subspecialty Day for this year’s annual meeting, which was held on May 5 in San Diego.


This support from the industry community speaks for the advantages they appreciate as well. The ability to reach more physicians without waiting for in-person meetings has the potential to expand their reach and increase revenue while decreasing the costs of sending staff and setting up a booth at every live meeting. This could allow for more money to be applied to research and development as well as education and reasonable product pricing.

The metaverse offers an engaging the atmosphere with the potential to expand the opportunity for education, communication and innovation while decreasing travel, which will allow for more time for us to spend with family, grow our practices and go on non-virtual adventures. One can imagine the environmental emissions impact of virtual meetings vs live meetings: fewer people traveling by plane and car, fewer taxi and Uber rides, and less water and electricity utilization by hotels and conference centers.

However, for every benefit, there is an equal and opposite potential undesirable consequence. What would happen to the conference-generated revenue so many cities depend on? The impact on the hospitality, travel and restaurant industries was no better realized than during the COVID-19 pandemic.


There will always be a need for live meetings. Human interaction is essential to build and maintain relationships. However, it is conceivable that live meetings in the future will be smaller (which I do prefer) and fewer (which would limit the impact on my family and work life).

Perhaps the metaverse will take overlive meetings someday. But, for now, I see it as a unique opportunity to meet colleagues, learn and watch surgery in a way that could expand my skills, accelerate my learning curve, and broaden my ability to effectively diagnose and treat patients remotely when necessary. Globally, it could give patients access to physician evaluations and guide surgeons around the world to increase surgical access.

For now, I am optimistic that we will find the balance between the virtual and the human world and not lose the connections between us.