Women’s History Month: Honoring #VisionaryWomen of Orbis

March 2021

Join us to celebrate Women's History Month. In March, we are profiling some of the courageous women at the heart of the Orbis family. They are leading the way in the fight against avoidable blindness — and making it possible for the next generation of women and girls to reach their potential.

DR. MURAT: FIGHTING CHILDHOOD BLINDNESS IN MONGOLIA

Marla plays with a toy held up by Dr. Murat

Globally, 112 million more women and girls live with vision loss—including blindness—than men and boys. Orbis-trained pediatric ophthalmologist Dr. Shamsiya Murat is making progress towards gender equity in eye care.

She performed cataract surgery on Marla, the youngest person in Mongolian history to receive this procedure. If Marla had not received this surgery, she wouldn't be able to see today. Now, Marla is just one member of the generations of girls who can grow up to lead independent lives with healthy sight — thanks to Dr. Murat!

PENN STAPLES: VITAL IN HELPING ORBIS TAKE OFF IN THE 1980s

Orbis wouldn't be where we are today without the visionary leadership of Penn Staples. Penn joined Orbis in 1981, taking on the role of Director of External Affairs.

Thanks to her proactive approach, she secured front-page coverage for Orbis around the world. We were soon working with dedicated global partners like FedEx to sponsor our projects. The employees of FedEx would go on to donate our most recent aircraft, the modified MD-10 third-generation Flying Eye Hospital.

Penn bravely paved the way for other #VisionaryWomen of Orbis. And because of her tireless work, millions of people can see the world today.

DR. MOLINARI: A MENTOR, TRENDSETTER AND PIONEER IN LATIN AMERICAN EYE CARE

Dr. Andrea Molinari is helping the next generation of women and girls reach their potential. In the 1980s, she was one of the few ophthalmologists with pediatric expertise in rural Ecuador.

When Orbis launched the telemedicine platform Cybersight, she became one of its earliest users. If cases were difficult, Dr. Molinari could get rapid responses from doctors around the world. Dr. Molinari has since authored Cybersight lectures and lessons, many of which are still used today!

Through her years of mentorship, Dr. Molinari has helped train generations of ophthalmologists.

CHHAYA AND CHHAVIA: TWINS & OPTOMETRISTS BREAKING GENDER BARRIERS IN INDIA

Chhaya and Chhavi Tiwary are twin sisters and optometrists breaking gender barriers and saving sight in India

Twin sisters Chhaya and Chhavi are saving sight and paving the way for girls in India. The sisters never dreamt they’d have a rewarding, professional career. In many communities around the world, girls and women do not have the same opportunities as their brothers and fathers.

But the sisters were given a remarkable chance, thanks to an innovative vocational program for girls at Orbis partner Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital. Access to this training program ultimately led them to become optometrists!

These incredible young women used their determination to reach their potential — and now they are role models for future generations.

BEKELECH: HELPING TO TREAT MILLIONS FROM TRACHOMA'S SPREAD IN ETHIOPIA

Bekelech, a Health Extension Worker in Ethiopia, helps treat 7.5 million people in just a few weeks to prevent trachoma's spread.

In communities across the world, women and girls are at increased risk of trachoma, an infectious cause of blindness. Repeat infections can lead to trichiasis, a painful condition that can lead to permanent vision loss.

70% of people with trichiasis are women. Bekelech, a Health Extension Worker in southern Ethiopia, is on the frontlines fighting to end trachoma. In December, she was part of the Orbis team that treated 7.5 million people in just a few weeks. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the team couldn't carry out the project in a community setting. Instead, they went door-to-door safely delivering the medicine. Bekelech's devotion to fighting trachoma is helping people live a life free from preventable blindness.

DR. GANESH: TRAINING THE NEXT GENERATION OF EYE SURGEONS IN INDIA

Dr. Suma Ganesh is a global leader in pediatric ophthalmology and a woman dedicated to training the next generation of eye surgeons.

Dr. Ganesh has been working alongside Orbis since 2001 when she came to Manhattan for an ophthalmology fellowship. Back then, she was a trainee. But now she is one of the leading experts in her field at Orbis partner Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital.

Working as a mentor, Dr. Ganesh trains eye surgeons from around the world. They learn from her and then take their skills back to their home countries to treat patients. Her extraordinary leadership has dramatically improved access to eye care in India and worldwide.

DR. TRÚC: LEADING THE FIGHT AGAINST AVOIDABLE BLINDNESS IN VIETNAM

Dr Trúc receiving hands-on training on the Flying Eye Hospital

In a small city like Hue, Vietnam, there are very few ophthalmologists specializing in glaucoma care. That's why it was so important to the community when Dr. Nguyen Thi Thanh Trúc decided to develop her clinical practice there. Her decision was the difference between people keeping their sight or going blind.

We first met Dr. Trúc in 2015 during a Flying Eye Hospital training project in Vietnam, where she received world-class training on her chosen subspecialty of glaucoma. Dr. Trúc's leadership means that more people in her local community can look forward to a brighter future!

YOU CAN HELP BUILD ON THE WORK OF THESE #VISIONARYWOMEN

Please help someone #SeeHerPotential with a donation today. Your gift will help give women and girls equal access to eye care to create brighter futures for themselves — and improve our world.

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Will you please give the gift of sight to help a someone #SeeHerPotential?

Some photos were taken before the COVID-19 pandemic.