World’s First Symposium on Childhood Eye Cancer Hosted Aboard Airplane
MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE, Jan. 13, 2006 – Representatives from FedEx, ORBIS International, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the University of Tennessee Hamilton Eye Institute are meeting today in an unlikely venue – aboard the ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital, a DC-10 aircraft converted into a state-of-the-art ophthalmic teaching facility – to discuss how collaboration and technology can save the sight and lives of thousands of children worldwide afflicted with retinoblastoma, a childhood cancer of the eye.
“In developed economies like the United States, 97 percent of children diagnosed with eye cancer will survive and retain good vision in at least one eye,” reported Barrett Haik, MD, FACS, Hamilton Professor and chair of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center Department of Ophthalmology – an institution that, for the past two years, has been named one of the top 10 ophthalmologic departments for patient care in the country. “But in less developed countries, the prognosis can be grim. Six out of 10 children with eye cancer die, and those who survive are likely to have severe vision problems.”
To address this serious disease, which affects about 6,000 children around the world, Memphis-based FedEx, St. Jude and the UT Hamilton Eye Institute joined together to hold an international symposium on retinoblastoma aboard the ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital, which recently arrived in Memphis in preparation for its next international blindness prevention program. The world’s only
Hospital is stationed at a FedEx hangar on the grounds of the
Airport until January 17.
“Today is an historic day,” said Oliver Foot, ORBIS president and executive director. “Thanks to FedEx, the aviation and medical communities have come together for a shared humanitarian purpose: to deliver sight – and save lives – worldwide. We are deeply grateful to FedEx for hosting this symposium and supporting our vital work with children’s eye disease.”
The symposium will be broadcast live to auditoriums at St. Jude and UT, as well as to partner hospitals in
Honduras, which have made significant headway with blindness prevention programs. Connectivity with these other locations is being established by FedEx, with the assistance of ORBIS, St. Jude and UT.
With the technology link in place during the symposium, doctors at the Central American hospitals and childhood eye cancer experts at St. Jude and UT will be able to make live presentations on the treatment and management of retinoblastoma. They will also discuss a pilot project launched by St. Jude and UT in
Guatemala in 2003, which was designed to develop a sustainable program model for the diagnosis and treatment of children with malignant eye tumors.
Non-profit ORBIS contributed to the pilot program by donating laser treatment and cryotherapy instruments, in addition to a unique piece of ophthalmic imaging equipment, a RetCam, which photographs the back of the eye. Via an Internet portal, known as Cyber-Sight, it is now possible for doctors in
Central America to transmit patient data and digital images to experts at St. Jude and the UT Hamilton Eye Institute for assistance with diagnosis and case management.
The challenges and successes of utilizing Cyber-Sight is a key component of the symposium agenda. Participants will also address how to further replicate the program, which started in Central America but has already expanded to
Morocco and to other hospitals worldwide, so that this world-class medical expertise can benefit all children who need it.
“Most eye diseases, including retinoblastoma, are readily seen in photographs, which means that a doctor in a distant location can examine the patient as though they were both in the same room,” explained Eugene Helveston, MD, ORBIS International’s ophthalmologist-in-chief and founder of the Cyber-Sight telemedicine initiative. “We have a unique opportunity with Cyber-Sight to connect
Memphis expertise with physicians internationally to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of eye cancer in patients anywhere in the world.”
“This program has proven to be a wonderful collaborative effort, demonstrating that we should be able to achieve the same dramatic success in the treatment of retinoblastoma in the developing world as we have in the United States,” said Judith Wilimas, MD, a member of the St. Jude Hematology-Oncology department and medical director for Central America in the hospital’s International Outreach Program. The St. Jude International Outreach Program helps improve the survival rate of children with catastrophic diseases worldwide through the transfer of knowledge, technology and organizational skills.
After its visit to Memphis, the ORBIS plane will make a short goodwill stop in Palm Beach, Florida, before embarking on a sight-saving program to Kingston, Jamaica. FedEx is sponsoring the
Kingston program as part of its “Delivering Sight Worldwide” outreach initiative with ORBIS, and will provide complimentary transportation, logistics, aircraft and volunteer support on-site.
“By committing our vast aviation expertise, FedEx is assisting ORBIS in delivering the gift of sight to countless individuals throughout the developing world,” said James R Parker, senior vice president of Air Operations, FedEx Express. “As a global provider of reliable and time-definite transportation services, this partnership is a significant way FedEx can give back to the communities we serve.”
FedEx is a long-time supporter of ORBIS, St. Jude and the UT Hamilton Eye Institute. On an annual basis, FedEx provides ORBIS with more than half a million dollars in support of its
Hospital and medical programs. Throughout the years, FedEx has provided St. Jude with about $1 million annually in in-kind shipping and financial support. In November 2005, FedEx contributed $250,000 to the UT Hamilton Eye Institute to help with construction costs and clinical equipment for the new adult eye clinic, which celebrated its grand opening in September.
- Approximately 75 percent of blindness in the world is avoidable.
- The World Health Organization estimates that 37 million people worldwide are blind and an additional 124 million have low vision and are at great risk of losing their sight.
- Quality eye care is hard to come by in developing countries, where 90 percent of the world’s blind live.
- Retinoblastoma is the most common eye tumor in children and the third most common cancer affecting children overall. 90 percent of cases occur in the first five years of life. When detected early, the eye and vision can be saved and life is not threatened; when left untreated, there is no cure.
FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX) provides customers and businesses worldwide with a broad portfolio of transportation, e-commerce and business services. With annual revenues of $31 billion, the company offers integrated business applications through operating companies competing collectively and managed collaboratively, under the respected FedEx brands. Consistently ranked among the world's most admired and trusted employers, FedEx inspires its more than 260,000 employees and contractors to remain "absolutely, positively" focused on safety, the highest ethical and professional standards and the needs of their customers and communities. For more information, visit fedex.com.
About ORBIS International
ORBIS is an international nonprofit dedicated to preventing blindness worldwide. Since 1982, ORBIS has worked in 83 countries to restore sight to the blind and to transfer sight-saving skills to more than 93,000 doctors, nurses and other eye care professionals, who have in turn gone on to give an estimated 22.5 million people back their sight and their future. Endorsed by 70 heads of state, by the World Health Organization and by three Secretaries-General of the United Nations, ORBIS has been praised as a diplomatic ambassador promoting cooperation between nations and an effective organization in the fight against world blindness. To learn more about ORBIS, please visit orbis.org.
About St. Jude
St. Jude Children's
Hospital is internationally recognized for its pioneering work in finding cures and saving children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases. Founded by late entertainer Danny Thomas and based in
Tenn, St. Jude freely shares its discoveries with scientific and medical communities around the world. No family ever pays for treatments not covered by insurance, and families without insurance are never asked to pay. St. Jude is financially supported by ALSAC, its fund-raising organization. For more information, please visit www.stjude.org.
About the University of Tennessee Health Science Center
As the flagship statewide academic health system, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) is focused on a four-pronged mission of education, research, patient care and community service, all in support of a single goal: to improve the health of Tennesseans. Offering a broad range of post-graduate training opportunities, the main campus, with its seven colleges, is in
Memphis. The UT Graduate School of Medicine in
Knoxville and the UT College of Medicine in
Chattanooga also serve as major educational sites. The UT Hamilton Eye Institute’s new facility in
Memphis houses the Center for Vision Research, the
Center, the Freeman Auditorium, the
Center for Laser Therapy, and the Children's Foundation of Memphis Pediatric Eye Center. For more information, visit http://www.utmem.edu/.
Denise Lauer: FedEx Public Relations, +1 (901 )434-7030, firstname.lastname@example.org
Brooke Johnson: US Public Relations, ORBIS International, +1 (646) 674-5532, email@example.com
St. Jude Public Relations, +1 (901) 495-2295, firstname.lastname@example.org
Anne Manning: UT
Center, +1 (901) 448-4072, email@example.com