Press Release: New Virtual Training Takes on Leading Cause of Childhood Blindness

August 2021

Led by eye care nonprofit Orbis with support from Alcon, the training will build eye care professionals’ skills to treat retinopathy of prematurity in Latin America.

August 26, 2021 – NEW YORK – Today, Orbis International, with generous support from Alcon, launched a new virtual Flying Eye Hospital project that will train eye care professionals across Latin America to treat retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), the leading cause of blindness among children worldwide. Affecting premature infants, the potentially blinding condition has become increasingly common in Latin America as more babies survive early birth, but few hospitals have the skills and resources to deliver the care needed to prevent this disease.

The three-week virtual Flying Eye Hospital project launched today will enable participating ophthalmologists, neonatologists, pediatricians, nurses, low-vision specialists and others to grow their skills to detect and treat ROP while working together as a cohesive team. Training will be carried out in Spanish and will include panel discussions and live lectures delivered by Orbis’s Volunteer Faculty (medical experts).

Alcon, like Orbis, has always supported a continuum of care – working to help people at every stage of life see brilliantly,” said Melissa Thompson, Alcon Head of Global Corporate Social Responsibility and President of the Alcon Foundation. “Building off of our 42-year partnership, Alcon is supporting Orbis in training eye care professionals to tend to the youngest of patients and prevent ROP from robbing them of their sight.”

Orbis's 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 impact of COVID-19, Orbis reimagined its Flying Eye Hospital trainings as virtual ones in 2020 to ensure that eye care teams could still access critical training safely during the pandemic. Last year, Orbis’s virtual Flying Eye Hospital projects had over 850 enrollments by participants from 9 countries.

A Peruvian patient with retinopathy of prematurity

A Peruvian patient with retinopathy of prematurity.

The new virtual Flying Eye Hospital project builds on the “The Fundamentals of Retinopathy of Prematurity” course Orbis launched on its telemedicine platform, Cybersight, in 2020, with support from Alcon. Because of high demand for the course among eye care professionals in Latin America, where ROP is especially prevalent, Orbis is releasing a Spanish-language version of it in late summer.

Getting training to eye care teams means they can better help patients in their communities – and nothing brings training closer to home than virtual solutions,” said Derek Hodkey, President and Chief Executive Officer of Orbis International. “We could not do this work without the support of partners like Alcon that share our vision of a world where no one loses their sight because they cannot access the care they need.”

Alcon has been a generous supporter of Orbis for over 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.

As a standing partner of Flying Eye Hospital projects around the globe, and now as the Exclusive Title Sponsor of the newly launched virtual Flying Eye Hospital project, Alcon’s continued support is playing a vital role in preventing avoidable blindness around the world.

Orbis has been working in Latin America for more than three decades – conducting ophthalmic trainings for doctors, nurses, community health workers and others, and delivering services including pediatric eye screenings and surgeries in countries such as Bolivia, Chile, Guyana, and Peru.

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 ten 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. In 2021, Orbis earned GuideStar’s platinum Seal of Transparency. To learn more, please visit orbis.org.

About Alcon

Alcon helps people see brilliantly. As the global leader in eye care with a heritage spanning more than seven decades, we offer the broadest portfolio of products to enhance sight and improve people's lives. Our Surgical and Vision Care products touch the lives of more than 260 million people in over 140 countries each year living with conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, retinal diseases and refractive errors. Our more than 23,000 associates are enhancing the quality of life through innovative products, partnerships with eye care professionals and programs that advance access to quality eye care. Learn more at www.alcon.com.