Heroes of Orbis: Dr. Andrew Choyce

As Orbis Staff Anesthesiologist, Dr. Andrew Choyce plays a critical role on board the Flying Eye Hospital ensuring sight-saving treatment is delivered safely – while training countless eye heroes. Most recently, he has been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK, using his specialist skills to save lives, as well as sight.

Dr. Andrew Choyce first heard of Orbis back in 2005, through word of mouth while he was on sabbatical – and within a few months he was on his first project as a Volunteer Faculty member in Bangladesh. Since then, he has never looked back!

Dr. Andrew Choyce takes a patient-centered approach to his practice (photo taken pre-COVID in Ethiopia)

As an expert in anesthesiology, Dr. Choyce has shared his knowledge and skills with eye care teams across the globe over the past 15 years. And for the past decade, he has been working as our Staff Anesthesiologist, splitting his time between training programs and his work at King's College Hospital and the Maudsley Hospital – two large teaching hospitals in London, UK.

During this time, Dr. Choyce has visited many countries, including Bangladesh, Vietnam and Myanmar. Each time the Flying Eye Hospital touches down, the experience is different – and this is something Dr. Choyce relishes, meeting local eye care teams, sharing experiences and passing on his expert knowledge.

I'd been working on a floating hospital in Bangladesh and then finally, I came on with Orbis. And Orbis, of course, was completely different. It's a hospital on an airplane, as well as working closely with the local hospital at the same time. But I was blown away by how well organized it was, with the team of international volunteers that we worked alongside. So, of course I was immediately smitten with Orbis from the beginning!

Dr. Andrew Choyce, Orbis Staff Anesthesiologist

Screening day – meeting the patients and assessing them to see whether they are suitable for surgery or not – is one of the best parts of the job and a crucial part of the teaching process for Dr. Choyce.

“To see the patient only as an eye problem, is to miss the bigger picture entirely” he tells us; checking patients for underlying health conditions is crucial to understanding whether they would be at-risk from complications. Passing this knowledge on means more patients across the world are receiving safe sight-saving treatment, long after the Flying Eye Hospital has taken off.

The gallery below shows images of Dr. Choyce's work with Orbis over the years

His commitment to training and sharing his expertise with the next generation knows no bounds. As well as taking part in multiple Flying Eye Hospital programs and training partners in local hospitals, Dr. Choyce has been a regular on Cybersight – our award-winning telemedicine platform.

This has taken on new significance over the course of the pandemic, with the team shifting all training to virtual platforms. But, for Dr. Choyce, this isn’t all such a bad thing. The opportunities this will bring to complement future in-person training programs and reach more ophthalmology professionals around the world fits in neatly with our mission.

Orbis does a lot more than just treat a patient. We also train the doctors, we also look at building the capacity of the service… it's important that we work in the local hospital, where we can see at close hand what challenges our partners encounter and determine what opportunities exist for Orbis to improve capacity. And for me, that’s my favorite part of the job, and it's at least as important as the work that goes on inside the Flying Eye Hospital.

Dr. Andrew Choyce, Orbis Staff Anesthesiologist

Mentoring is something that comes naturally to Dr. Choyce, and for him one of the most important lessons he can convey to his mentees is the importance of empathy and putting the patient at the center of every decision made during their treatmentfrom communicating clearly to gaining informed consent for treatment.

On the frontlines fighting COVID-19

Safe anesthesiology is critical to top quality patient care – and during COVID-19 this expertise has never been more important, with Dr. Choyce working on the frontline of the pandemic overseeing emergency surgeries under difficult conditions.

“It's been a year that's like no other for me”, Dr. Choyce tells us “My work patterns, my work practice has changed a great deal.”

Dr. Andrew Choyce in PPE while treating patients with COVID-19 in the ICU

With in-person Flying Eye Hospital projects temporarily on-hold due to international travel restrictions, Dr. Choyce found himself on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK – saving many lives, by using his specialist skills to treat patients on ventilators.

Not only has he been treating patients with COVID in the ICU, but he’s also had to completely reimagine the training he and his team at Orbis deliver, by looking at ways to deliver the training remotely.

Out of adversity comes opportunity, and this has been an amazing opportunity to do something that I think is really important. And what that is — for me and my fellow Orbis colleagues — is to put together a comprehensive and appropriate program of education that will be central going forward to what we do on Flying Eye Hospital programs and hospital-based trainings. I really see the value of it now.

Dr. Andrew Choyce, Orbis Staff Anesthesiologist

By leaning into our history of innovation and technology, Dr. Choyce has been sharing his skills via our online telemedicine platform, Cybersight - creating a suite of learning tools for anesthesiologists around the world. Along with his colleagues and peers, Dr. Choyce developed a free online course called Principles of Anesthesia which highlights the need for international standards of care.

And thanks to his dedication to teaching and training over the years, anesthesiologists around the world have also been able to use their skills to help save lives in the fight against COVID-19 – something we are all very proud of here at Orbis.

We want to say a big thank you to Dr. Choyce for his unwavering commitment to our mission. Thanks to his dedication, more eye health professionals around the world are able to save sight in their communities, safely—even during a pandemic.

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