Press Release: Orbis International Launches Virtual Flying Eye Hospital Training Programs

June 2020

Eye Care Professionals in Zambia to Receive the Inaugural Remote Training via Award-Winning Telemedicine Platform Cybersight amid Coronavirus Pandemic

15 June 2020, NEW YORK – Today, Orbis International launched virtual Flying Eye Hospital training programs through its award-winning telemedicine platform, Cybersight, which provides online training and mentorship for eye care professionals in low- and middle-income countries. The inaugural program has been designed for eye care professionals in Zambia who were due to receive in-person training on board the Flying Eye Hospital last month.

The Flying Eye Hospital is the world’s only fully accredited ophthalmic teaching hospital on board an MD-10 aircraft. For nearly four decades, the Flying Eye Hospital has traveled the world delivering best-in-class training for eye care professionals in areas with the greatest need. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Orbis made the difficult decision to postpone Flying Eye Hospital programs through the end of the year, including the one planned in Zambia, as well as ones in Cameroon, Mongolia and India.

While the Flying Eye Hospital may be temporarily grounded, Orbis’s mission is not. Orbis has crafted a remote curriculum tailored to the training needs of more than 100 Zambian ophthalmologists, ophthalmology residents, nurses, and biomedical engineers and technicians. In line with the goals set forth for the in-person Flying Eye Hospital program, participants in the virtual training will hail from Orbis's partner institutions in Lusaka, Kitwe, Ndola, and Chipata, and will be enrolled in customized Cybersight courses that include pre-learning modules, recorded lectures, and live lectures and discussion sessions.

“As health services become stretched in countries across the world, the need to protect eye health remains. It is critical that eye care professionals continue to have access to quality training, building their skills to meet the needs of their patients,” said Dr. Danny Haddad, Chief of Programs at Orbis International. “While we will miss the opportunity to connect with our Zambian partners on the ground, we’re thrilled that Cybersight is allowing us to continue our sight-saving training in a safe and socially responsible way.”

Orbis plans to continue these virtual Flying Eye Hospital programs for eye care professionals from other countries affected by the in-person program postponements throughout the course of the year. Generous support from the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital’s title sponsors Alcon, FedEx and OMEGA is making these virtual trainings possible. Once the plane can safely resume its schedule, these virtual programs can also serve as a new model to supplement in-person Flying Eye Hospital trainings, including ensuring that participants can maximize the time with their mentors and complete pre-work ahead of time.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shone an unprecedented light on the importance of and possibilities for developing virtual solutions to global problems,” shared Dr. Hunter Cherwek, Vice President of Clinical Services at Orbis International. “In April and May of this year, we have seen record-breaking demand for telemedicine and remote learning and are now serving more than 25,000 users across almost 200 countries on Cybersight. We are excited to continue expanding and maximizing the platform as more eye care professionals turn to it to stay connected and learning during this time – and into the future.”

This new virtual Flying Eye Hospital program is expected to connect people over great distances and build efficiencies in the delivery of quality ophthalmic training that improves patient care. Orbis hopes it will have a profound impact on the landscape of global health and truly change the way the world sees.

About Orbis International

Orbis is a leading global non-governmental organization that has been a pioneer in the prevention and treatment of avoidable blindness for nearly four decades. Orbis transforms lives by delivering the skills, resources and knowledge needed to deliver accessible quality eye care. Working in collaboration with local partners, including hospitals, universities, government agencies and ministries of health, Orbis provides hands-on ophthalmology training, strengthens healthcare infrastructure and advocates for the prioritization of eye health on public health agendas. Orbis operates the world's only Flying Eye Hospital, a fully accredited ophthalmic teaching hospital on board an MD-10 aircraft, and an award-winning telemedicine platform, Cybersight. For the past nine consecutive years, Orbis has achieved Charity Navigator’s coveted four-star rating for demonstrating strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency, placing Orbis in the top 3% of U.S. charities. To learn more, please visit orbis.org.