World’s Only Flying Eye Hospital Commences First Ever U.S. Training Program in Fort Worth

FORT WORTH (WBAP/KLIF)-The World’s only flying eye hospital makes its first debut in the United States, stationed at Fort Worth’s Meecham Airport.

The Orbis International flying eye hospital has been to 97 countries, providing hands on training to doctors and through certain programs, providing surgeries to help patients with limited access to eye care. The Flying Eye Hospital has an even further reach, with doctors from 180 countries world-wide who are logging into cyber site and watching live surgeries, attending webinars and taking courses that are available on board the plane so they can improve their skills. “Globally we see there are about 2.2 billion people who are living with blindness or visual impairment and in over half of those cases it can be completely avoided or treated,” said Kristin Thomas for Orbis International.

For the next two weeks Orbis International, a leader in the fight against avoidable blindness for nearly forty years, will provide its first-ever training program in the U.S.

Eye care professionals from Latin America have come to Texas to train on board The Flying Eye Hospital, a fully accredited ophthalmic teaching hospital on an MD-10 aircraft.  Since 1982, three generations of the Flying Eye Hospital have been bringing training to eye care teams in places with the greatest need so that they can restore vision in their communities, but this is the first time that Orbis has brought participating eye care professionals to the plane. “We are thrilled about this program – and not just because it’s the first of its kind for us,” said Dr. Danny Haddad, Chief of Programs at Orbis International. “The Orbis story is full of examples of re-imagining how we ensure that the highest quality training reaches the eye care professionals who need it most. We’re excited to see how the participants with us in Fort Worth will go on to transform lives with the skills they develop here.”

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 ChileColombiaMexico 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 cutting-edge 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 state-of-the-art training facility operated by Fort Worth-based Alcon, the global leader in eye care and ophthalmic training.

Alcon has been a generous supporter of Orbis for forty years, donating state-of-the-art 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 training 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.”