ORBIS International Performs Uganda's First Corneal Transplant
New York, NY, August 17, 2006 - The ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital brought its sight-saving mission to another new country - this time Uganda. At the inviation of Uganda's Ministry of Health and the National Prevention of Blindness Committee, the ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital team conducted intensive sight-saving and eye-care training programs in Entebbe and Kampala. More than 40 patients underwent surgery to have their sight restored.
"Blindness is one of the world's most devastating challenges," said Oliver Foot, ORBIS president and executive director. "The vast majority of Uganda's blindness can be treated or prevented with existing therapies and eye care resources. That's where ORBIS, the Ministry of Health and the National Prevention of Blindness Committee come in. By working together, we can deliver education, training and treatment where it's needed the most."
ORBIS tailors an ophthalmic program to local needs
An international team of ORBIS doctors and medical specialists worked with eye care professionals from Uganda July 17 - 28, 2006, focusing on cataract, corneal diseases, pediatrics, glaucoma, oculoplastics, retinal diseases and ultrasound.
As many as 420,000 people in Uganda are blind, yet the country has only 39 ophthalmologists in government and non-government organization health facilities across the country - mainly in urban areas. The ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital program provided one of the few continuing medical education opportunities available to the ophthalmic community of Uganda.
During the two-week program:
- 11 local ophthalmologists, six nurses and six nurse anesthetists received hands-on training at the Flying Eye Hospital, working side-by-side with ORBIS volunteer specialists.
- 75 ophthalmologists and ophthalmic residents, 38 nurses and 40 anesthetists participated in wet-lab sessions, lectures and symposia at Kampala's Mulago Hospital.
- 50 biomedical engineers attended lectures and workshops on equipment maintenance and medical technology management.
Uganda's first corneal transplants performed
Another ORBIS "first" took place during the program. Volunteer faculty member Dr. Troy Elander of Santa Monica, California led the surgical team who performed Uganda's first ever corneal transplant.
Dr. Elander left the United States with four corneas for transplant, but upon arriving in Uganda, was thrilled to learn that two more corneas had become available. The corneas had been donated to the Flying Eye Hospital team days earlier during the ORBIS program in Ethiopia as a goodwill gesture to the people of Uganda.
At the end of his one-week stay, Dr. Elander expressed enthusiasm for the Ugandan ophthalmologists he had worked with. "They had never done cornea grafts before, but they wanted to learn how to do them," Dr. Elander said. "Not only that, but they also wanted a strategy as to how they could bring eye banking to their country and make corneas available for their patients."
Dr. Francis Mulwanyi, an ophthalmologist from Kampala, participated in the ORBIS corneal transplant training programs. "This week has demystified corneal transplantation for me," Dr. Mulwanyi said. "I thought it was beyond our reach, but now I think there is hope."
Minister of Health to petition Parliament to establish eye banking
The Honorable Dr. Richard Nbuhura, Ugandan Minister of State for Health, toured the ORBIS flying Eye Hospital and pledged to bring the issue of corneal transplantation before Parliament.
"I have been informed that there are legal implications," Dr. Nbuhura said. "But if this is the only way we can have people's eyesight restored, then we shall go to any lengths to do so. The laws need to be ammended so that we can establish eye banks and allow the legal donation of corneas."
The ophthalmologists who worked alongside Dr. Elander have already formed a cornea working group to keep the momentum going. The ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital has now moved from Uganda and will be conducting treatment and surgical training programs elsewhere in Africa until mid-September.
ORBIS International is a global network of care dedicated to saving sight worldwide. Since 1982, our volunteers and staff have directly restored the vision and transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in more than 80 countries.
Notes to Editor/Producer:
- Professional photos available. For an edit of images by Matt Shonfeld, visit http://archive.mattshonfeld.com and click link to Saving Sight.
- Broadcast quality B-roll footage available of cornea transplant patients (before, during, and after surgery).
- Interviews with Dr. Troy Elander can be arranged through ORBIS International.
Ann Marie Gothard, Public Relations, ORBIS International, +1(646) 674-5581, email@example.com