Heroes of Orbis: Dr. James Lehmann

This National Volunteer Week, we’re spotlighting the wonderful work of longtime Orbis Volunteer Faculty, Dr. James Lehmann. Dr. Lehmann kick-started his career with Orbis with a sight-saving trip to Xinjiang, China, in 2005, as a Flying Eye Hospital Staff Ophthalmologist on the DC-10.

Since then, he has volunteered his unique skills and expertise on dozens of sight-saving projects, all while carving out a spectacular career in ophthalmology.

Orbis Volunteer Faculty member Dr. James Lehmann gives a lecture on cataracts on the Flying Eye Hospital

Dr. Lehmann lecturing on a sight-saving training project in Shenyang, China, 2016.

Dr. Lehmann is a graduate of Seguin High School and the University of Texas at Austin. After finishing medical school in San Antonio, he completed his residency and fellowship at the UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. The Consumers Research Council has consistently named Dr. Lehmann as one of “America’s Top Ophthalmologists.”

You will find Dr. Lehmann saving sight and improving lives at his private practice in San Antonio, Texas. The dedicated and passionate cataract, corneal, and refractive error specialist also performs cataract surgery on a voluntary basis as part of his work.

In the fall of 2023, he led training for local eye doctors in advanced cataract removal techniques (Phacoemulsification) at our partner hospital, the Regional Institute of Ophthalmology in Trujillo, Peru. He told us it was a “very successful week.”

When he’s not traveling with Orbis or providing care to his own patients, Dr. Lehmann continues to improve the skills of eye teams around the world through webinars and live consultations via our telemedicine and e-learning tool, Cybersight.

Dr. Lehmann screens a patient during a project in Peru in 2023.

Dr. Lehmann knows a thing or two about the enormous impact eye health training has on our eye care partners. During his 20th Flying Eye Hospital project in Mandalay, Myanmar in 2019, he told us: “The benefit of an organization like Orbis that focuses more on training is that Orbis picks partners in which they can continue what we've taught them. So in some situations a doctor would come to the developing world and do a lot of cataract surgeries, but then they would leave and there would be nobody there to be able to replicate or do the follow-up for what needs to be done with those patients.

But Orbis takes a different take, and it's not about the volume of surgeries that’s done. It's about getting trainees to actually do parts of the surgery under the supervision of the surgeon so that they can continue the steps to be able to master this on their own and continue the surgeries after.

A male ophthalmologist and member of Orbis Volunteer Faculty with two trainees in Shenyang, China

Smiling after a successful week of training in Shenyang, China, 2016.

Dr. Lehmann recognizes the impact good vision care brings to his patient’s lives. Sharing his first-hand experience, he said: “A lot of the patients that we see are working age. And so, if you can't see, you can't work. We even see people in their 20s or late teens that have preventable type conditions that we can fix, and they can go on and have a normal life. So, I think it's huge. I mean, they're brought in by their family and they can't even navigate the hall and then they leave a few days later and they're able to start working again and get their life started.”

Dr. James Lehmann

Ophthalmologist and Orbis Volunteer Faculty member

They’re brought in by their fam­i­ly and they can’t even nav­i­gate the hall and then they leave a few days lat­er and they’re able to start work­ing again and get their life started.”
A U.S. ophthalmologist and Orbis Volunteer Faculty member teaches eye doctors new skills in Mandalay, Myanmar

Teaching the skills to save sight during a training project in Mandalay, Myanmar, 2019.

In a recent op-ed in the San Antonio Express News, Dr. Lehmann writes that the impact of sight loss extends far beyond the patient: “While it is obvious that restoring a person’s vision will improve their life, many may not realize there is a ripple effect on the family, community, and economy. The economic and social costs of vision impairment create obstacles for children to succeed in school, unemployment for adults, higher mortality rates, and the need for more care as a person with visual impairment ages.”

It’s thanks to dedicated volunteers like Dr. Lehmann that teams around the world are receiving a world-class standard of ophthalmic education to treat and manage preventable causes of vision loss. Because of his commitment and dedication to enhancing skills, many people experiencing vision loss can access the quality eye care they need to thrive.

No person should live with vision impairment that could be avoided or treated, and every person with chronic vision impairment should have access to health services that minimize the impact of vision loss on their overall health and quality of life.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, thank you for everything you do.

Donate Today

Help us train teams around the world and give people the eye care they need to thrive.

Close the modal
Sorry there was an error.
Try again