Eye care professionals from Latin America came to Fort Worth, Texas, for two weeks of training on board Orbis International’s Flying Eye Hospital, a fully accredited ophthalmic teaching hospital on an MD-10 aircraft, which is currently at Fort Worth Meacham International Airport. This marks Orbis’ first training program taking place in the United States and it is the 97th country where the plane has provided training.

Orbis
Simulation training with Chilean and regional South America partners. Image credit: Orbis International

Over the next two weeks, Orbis's Volunteer Faculty (medical experts) will share their knowledge and skills with ophthalmologists, ophthalmologists-in-training and nurses – who are primarily from Bolivia, as well as from Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru – in ophthalmic skills that will help them meet the eye care needs of their local communities. For example, learning surgical skills for cataract removal will be a major focus of the training because the condition remains the leading cause of blindness across Latin America and the Caribbean, accounting for at least 50% of all blindness, despite being treatable with a 20-minute operation.

Participants will also learn to treat other conditions that threaten vision, including glaucoma and strabismus, as well as how to perform fundamental ophthalmic procedures, such as basic and advanced suturing.

The participants will hone their skills using Orbis's simulation training technology – like artificial eyes, virtual reality, and life-like mannequins – available on the Flying Eye Hospital. Simulation training allows eye care professionals to grow their confidence in a risk-free environment before moving on to real-life operations, which has been shown to improve outcomes for patients.

In addition to receiving training on board the aircraft, participants will also build their skills in the Alcon Experience Center, a training facility operated by Alcon.

Alcon has been a generous supporter of Orbis for forty years, donating ophthalmic equipment, surgical products, pharmaceuticals and supplies for Orbis's Flying Eye Hospital and partner hospitals around the world. Alcon's expert biomedical engineers also participate in Orbis programs, sharing their skills and knowledge to help training participants learn to operate and maintain critical medical technology.

"By hosting these international ophthalmologists, ophthalmologists-in-training and nurses over the coming two weeks at our Fort Worth campus' Alcon Experience Center, we are able to expand and supplement the Flying Eye Hospital's skills trainings with simulated practice environments, enhanced wet labs, and interactive learning technologies," said Melissa Thompson, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Alcon and President of the Alcon Foundation. "Together, Alcon and Orbis are providing eye care professionals with an environment where they can hone the skills needed in their local communities."

Globally, at least 2.2 billion people have a vision impairment or blindness, and in almost half of those cases, it could be prevented or addressed. That is the equivalent of about 1 in 6 people worldwide living with these conditions avoidably. The problem is growing worse. Experts have predicted that global blindness and vision impairment will triple by the year 2050, but the number of people in need of eye care is already outpacing the number of trained ophthalmologists. This is particularly true in low- and middle-income countries, where the prevalence of vision impairment is estimated to be four times higher than in high-income regions.

By providing training to entire eye care teams – from health workers in rural clinics to eye surgeons in urban centers – in low- and middle-income countries, Orbis works to ensure that everyone has sustainable access to quality eye care, no matter where they live.