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ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital Returns to India For Two-Week Ophthalmic Training Program

ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital Returns to India For Two-Week Ophthalmic Training Program

Thursday 12 September 2013

ORBIS, a nonprofit, humanitarian organization dedicated to saving sight worldwide, prevents and treats blindness through hands-on training, public health education, improved access to quality eye care, and partnerships with local health care organizations, has announced that its Flying Eye hospital (FEH) program is visiting Kolkata, India for the fourth time to conduct an intensive and comprehensive training and skills exchange program aimed at strengthening ophthalmic services in Eastern and Northeast India. The FEH is a one-of-a-kind ophthalmic surgical and training center located within a DC-10 aircraft. ORBIS uses volunteer pilots from FedEx and United Airlines to transport the Flying Eye Hospital from one destination to the next.

Alongside its longtime sponsors, Fort Worth, Texas based Alcon, and FedEx, the ORBIS program is focused on improving the delivery of pediatric ophthalmic services in the region, including the development of a retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) referral system. The program will also help raise public attention on the eye care conditions and challenges faced in India.

The India Childhood Blindness Initiative (ICBI), a flagship program of ORBIS in India, was launched in 2002 to help ensure that India’s children have access to quality eye care for generations to come. In the last 10 years, 30 pediatric ophthalmology centers have been established across 17 states. The program is explained in this video:

Since the India Childhood Blindness Initiative was launched in 2002 more than 5.9 million children have been screened for eye problems, over 1 million have received ophthalmic treatment and over, 84,000 pediatric surgeries have been performed. The FEH program will complement the ongoing work of ORBIS India by helping to lay the foundations for the development of a retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) referral system in Kolkata.

“Through projects like the India Childhood Blindness Initiative and Save Your Sight campaign, ORBIS has been working to help improve the quality of ophthalmic services, influence policies and raise awareness around eye care conditions in India,” says Dr. Rahul Ali, ORBIS’s India Country Director. “ORBIS is grateful for the generous support of our sponsors Alcon and FedEx, and we thank them for helping us continue the work to eliminate avoidable blindness and deliver the highest standards of training.”

ORBIS works in some of the world’s most under-served areas to deliver sight by strengthening local eye care institutions, training staff, introducing ophthalmic technology, advocating for supportive policies and increasing public awareness about eye health. According to the World Health Organization, 285 million people worldwide are visually impaired — yet 80 percent suffer needlessly. Their blindness could have been prevented or treated. ORBIS is fighting blindness in developing countries, where 90 percent of the visually impaired reside, with long-term capacity building projects taking place in Bangladesh, Cameroon, China, Ethiopia, India, Jamaica, Nepal, Peru, Vietnam, South Africa and Zambia, staffed by local eye health professionals experienced in capacity building and global eye health care. Country offices oversee training in clinical and institutional development. Since 1982, ORBIS has carried out programs in 90 countries, enhanced the skills of more than 300,000 eye care professionals and provided treatment to more than 18.8 million blind and visually impaired people.

The ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital is the result of a unique and lasting alliance forged between the medical and aviation industries. The FEH’s specially designed and converted DC-10 aircraft –the world’s only airborne ophthalmic training facility — makes it possible for ORBIS to bring ophthalmic training to communities throughout the world. On board and in local hospitals, the ORBIS team and Volunteer Faculty provide hands-on training to local eye care professionals and convey the latest medical knowledge to treat patients and restore sight.

In the 48-seat classroom at the front of the plane, local eye healthcare professionals gather for lectures, discussions and live broadcasts of surgical procedures being performed in the Flying Eye Hospital operating room. If needed, surgeries can also be broadcast to an additional classroom outside the aircraft, for instance, at a nearby hospital. Large numbers of trainees observe the surgeries and ask questions of the operating surgeons via a two-way audio-visual system.

Prior to the start of a Flying Eye Hospital visit, ORBIS works with local partner hospitals to pre-select patients whose conditions are relevant to that program’s focus. Selected patients are then screened by ORBIS Volunteer Faculty members at the program site. Priority is given to children, individuals who are bilaterally blind, cannot afford to have the surgery otherwise, and represent good teaching cases. Local eye healthcare professionals maintain oversight of patients before, during and after surgery.

Alcon, which recently celebrated 30th years of partnership with ORBIS in restoring sight and eliminating preventable blindness across the globe, develops and manufactures medicines and devices to serve the full life cycle of eye care needs, offering a broad spectrum of surgical, pharmaceutical, and vision care products to treat many eye diseases and conditions including cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, retinal diseases, dry eye, eye infection and eye inflammation, ocular allergies, refractive errors, and other ocular health issues.

“For more than 30 years, Alcon has been a proud sponsor of the ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital medical programs. Our partnership with ORBIS is grounded in our shared vision of providing access to quality eye care around the world,” says Bettina Maunz, President of the Alcon Foundation. “Our support includes product and cash donations to perform cataract procedures as well as provide other much needed eye treatments, as well as Alcon volunteers who provide technical assistance on the ORBIS plane. The India program gives us the opportunity to partner with ORBIS and help deliver sustainable eye care solutions that can make a long-term impact and help prevent and treat blindness in West Bengal.”

In partnership with the Regional Institute of Ophthalmology, Susrut Eye Foundation and Research Center, Disha Eye Hospital and Sankara Nethralaya, the India Childhood Blindness Initiative and Save Your Sight program will provide Indian eye care professionals, including optometrists, nurses, anesthesiologists, and biomedical engineers, with continued medical education. Ophthalmologists will benefit from advanced subspecialty training in the areas of pediatric ophthalmology, glaucoma, neuro opthalmology, uveitis, cornea and surgical and medical retina. To read more click on this link.


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