Heroes of Orbis: Dr. Douglas Fredrick M.D.

Dr. Douglas Fredrick is a staff physician at Kaiser Permanent Medical Group in South San Francisco, CA, and has been part of the Orbis family since his first Flying Eye Hospital mission in 1998.

The Orbis Volunteer Faculty legend specializes in pediatric strabismus and has made it his mission to fight childhood blindness.

Skills & Expertise

Dr. Fredrick went to medical school at the Baylor College of Medicine, completing his residency in ophthalmology at the University of California and receiving fellowship training in pediatric ophthalmology from Boston Children's Hospital. He also pursued an internship in internal medicine from St. Mary's Hospital and Medical Center.

He served as the Deputy Chair for Education in the Department of Ophthalmology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and is now a staff physician at Kaiser Permanent Medical.

Specialties: Strabismus, Ophthalmology, Pediatric Ophthalmology

Teacher & Trainer

During his time with us, Dr. Fredrick has joined a number of projects on the Flying Eye Hospital and in our partner hospitals in Vietnam, China, Ethiopia, Peru and many other countries, working alongside local physicians of all levels of expertise.

We were extremely grateful to have Dr. Fredrick back on our 2019 Flying Eye Hospital Project in Hue, Vietnam, where he played a leading role in our training program.

Dr. Fredrick took some time out between training sessions and sight-saving surgical procedures to explain more about supporting Orbis and the long-term benefits training eye doctors from further afield can bring.

He said: “What is special about Orbis is the mission of the organization, which is to teach ophthalmologists around the world, their nurses and technicians, to help care for people in need.

"What is truly unique is the relationship between the Volunteer Faculty and the hands-on trainees and physicians, who are going to stay behind once we leave.

“In a short period of time - a week or two - we have the opportunity to teach them a new technique, to assess what they know, to figure out the best way for them to gain the skills and knowledge that they can use once we leave.

“What is great is that the knowledge is enduring - it lasts longer than the week we’re there, it lasts for a lifetime and the lifetime of their patients.”

Dr. Fredrick talks about his volunteer role in a video back in 2012

Dr. Fredrick went on to talk about seeing real improvements in eye care especially in a low to middle-income country like Vietnam.

“It’s extremely gratifying to see the progress a developing country can achieve in an utterly short period of time. My first mission in Vietnam was in 2002. At the time there were just two pediatric ophthalmologists who took care of neonatal children who were born prematurely and went on to have Retinopathy of Prematurity. Now there’s over 20 in the country."

“The number of pediatric ophthalmologists at the time was probably about 20, now it’s over 100. Many of the ophthalmologists I had the opportunity to work with 15 years ago now have gone on to teach other young ophthalmologists, who are assuming the mantle of being the professors for their own trainees.

“The knowledge that was passed on years ago is exponential in its effect on caring for children in the country."

Zhang Yu's strabismus surgery was facilitated by Orbis volunteer Dr. Douglas Fredrick

Zhang Yu was a teaching case to address intermitent exotropia facilitated by Dr. Fredrick.

As a pediatric specialist, he also warned why it’s necessary to take care of children facing vision problems by intervening early. He said: “When a child is born with a problem involving their vision such as a cataract or strabismus, taking care of that problem early in life is critical for them to ever have the opportunity to see as you and I would see.

“If the cataract doesn’t get removed, the eyes don’t get straightened. If the eye isn’t patched and therapy initiated, they will never have the chance to have normal vision so being able to help care for these children, to help local ophthalmologists care for these children is incredibly gratifying.

“The word blindness really strikes terror in the hearts of all of us. None of us could imagine a life without vision but particularly when you have a parent whose faced with a condition in their children that might lead to a lifetime of blindness, it’s especially harrowing.

“What it means is a lack of opportunity, it means not being able to enjoy education and gain an opportunity to live a life unfettered by the restraint of not being able to see imposes upon people.”

Dr. Fredrick thank you for helping to kick-start a legacy of training and skill sharing in Vietnam, and also reminding us why we need compassionate and skillful people like you fighting on the front lines against avoidable blindness.

Our Volunteer Faculty and medical staff are the heartbeat of our organization - we would be nothing without their skill and dedication to vision.

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