The World Health Organization estimates that up to 80 percent of the world’s blindness is either preventable or treatable and Orbis International is on a mission to fight that statistic. To aid in this bold endeavor, the 30-year-old non-profit organization has just released their new Flying Eye Hospital, the world’s only ophthalmic teaching hospital located on board an MD-10 jet. Starting last week, the teaching hospital took a promotional tour through 6 US cities to demonstrate this new technology. The tour started off in Los Angeles and finished on August 12 in Google’s Moffett Field in Mountain View, CA before the non-profit hospital sets off on another tour through Asia.
While this MD-10 Jet donated by Fed-Ex is currently the world’s only of its kind, the first Flying Eye Hospital was released in 1982 by Orbis, a corporate partner and ambassador of Omega. Other mobile hospitals have been released since, but Orbis International sets itself apart by focusing on teaching doctors rather than providing treatment. Instead of providing a temporary stay in an area with high need before leaving again for another city, Orbis aims to provide knowledge and training to doctors all over the globe, allowing for experienced and competent professionals to remain in their own locales and provide expert treatment in their field.
Six years in the making, this new mobile hospital includes cutting-edge technology and an innovative system to broadcast surgeries in 3-D, a technology that even most major universities don’t yet have. Silicon Valley was proud to be the final stop on the Flying Eye Hospital’s tour as a center for technological advancement. “We came to the heart of technology because we have a lot of technology on the airplane,” stated Bob Ranck, CEO and president of Orbis International. Hoping to build relationships with the established and pioneering society of Silicon Valley and that of all cities on their US tour, Orbis chose their locations wisely to continue to improve and expand their daring mission. Since 2011, Omega has been a proud and avid supporter.
The plane’s operating room will allow for only a small number of doctors to have hands-on training, but with the new 3-D technology that has been introduced, Orbis hopes to extend that hands-on experience beyond the operating room. The 3-D equipment allows for trainees to experience the same precision depth perception that a microscope provides with the use of leading-edge 3-D glasses.
Located in such a large jet, it’s even easy for the staff to forget the entire operation is located inside of a plane. Head ophthalmologist, Antonio Jaramillo expressed that regardless of the unconventional quarters, “here, we have more than a normal ophthalmologist would have.” However, during training, the crew works simultaneously within the Flying Eye Hospital as well as within local hospitals, so doctors and technicians may have experience working with their own tools and in their own environment. While the highly advanced technology is ideal for instruction, it is not always representative of what a doctor in that location would be working with.
As a corporate partner of Orbis, Omega is proud to have their hand in treating the globe’s curable blindness. Any child patients received by the Flying Eye Hospital receive a teddy bear to comfort them before and after surgery, provided by Omega. The head nurse, Angela Purcell, even adds her own special touch to the already sweet sentiment from Omega: each bear gets an eye patch, just like the one its owner will wear after their life-altering surgery.
However small one new plane may seem when compared to the staggering in-need population, this is a huge step forward to preventing and treating the world’s blindness and Omega is proud to be a part of it.