Heroes of Orbis: Dr. Monte Del Monte M.D.

Dr. Monte Del Monte first volunteered his world-leading skills with Orbis on the first generation DC-8 Flying Eye Hospital back in the 1980s.

Dr. Del Monte a leading expert in the field of pediatric ophthalmology and strabismus. He is Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and Professor of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases at the University of Michigan.

With 40 years of pediatric ophthalmology under his belt, Dr. Del Monte has clocked up an impressive 10 medical projects with Orbis. He has taken part in training programs both on board the Flying Eye Hospital and in local hospitals, including projects in Uruguay, Vietnam, India, Peru and Myanmar.

Orbis volunteer Dr. Monte Del Monte training doctors on our project in Mandalay, Myanmar 2019.

Dr. Del Monte has been involved with Orbis as far back as the 1980s

A trip to Peru also saw his undergraduate son, Derek, come along as a volunteer resident physician. Michigan Daily covered it in a web article in 2009. Inspired by his father, Derek is quoted in the piece as saying: “In medicine, a lot of who you become is the role models you have. I think he’s an excellent role model. He’s making me into the doctor I hope to be one day.

Skills & Expertise

Dr. Del Monte graduated from the John Hopkins School of Medicine in 1974, and completed his residency in Pediatrics at the Harvard Boston Children’s Hospital Medical Center and a residency in Ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute where he served as chief resident and assistant chief of service in 1982.

He also completed postdoctoral fellowship training in ocular biochemistry and genetics at the Wilmer Institute and in pediatric ophthalmology and strabismus at the National Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Washington D.C.

Areas of interest

  • Diagnosis and treatment of strabismus and amblyopia in adults and children
  • Lacrimal disorders
  • Glaucoma
  • Cataracts
  • Inherited eye diseases in children

Research areas include tissue culture and cell biology of ocular tissue, retinal degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, ocular inborn errors in metabolism, biochemical genetics, surgical and nonsurgical therapy for strabismus, amblyopia, congenital cataract and pediatric glaucoma.

Teacher and Trainer

We caught up with Dr. Del Monte during our recent Flying Eye Hospital project in Mandalay, Myanmar, in 2019, where we heard more about his experiences teaching and training eye teams and his thoughts on fighting preventable causes of blindness in communities where access to quality eye care is a challenge.

Orbis volunteer Dr. Monte Del with local eye physicians on screening day in Mandalay, Myanmar, 2019

Screening day in Mandalay in 2019

He told us: “I think the most unique thing about any of these medical missions, Orbis and all the other ones, is the chance to take care of people in a different way. At home in the United States, there are specialists scattered about. I’m in the University of Michigan and there's always somebody within 300 or 400 miles of me. I see a lot of patients from some distance, but there's always somebody else available who is skilled and qualified. In developing countries, there's nobody else. There’s sometimes very few specialists in an entire country. That essentially means that many people often don't get treated.

“And the satisfaction you get from being a part of this mission—it’s what we were trained to do. And to see the faces of the patient and their families. In the past, sometimes they would bring little gifts and things, even something they had cooked or whatever, and that’s just a unique kind of an experience.”

Orbis has always been the gold standard for medical mission work. I tell everybody that — if you want to really experience a medical mission the way it should be done, it's always been an Orbis program.”

Dr. Monte Del Monte

Orbis Volunteer Faculty

Dr. Monte Del Monte surgical skills with local eye doctors in Mandalay, Myanmar, 2019

Sharing surgical skills with local eye doctors in Myanmar in 2019

Dr. Del Monte also explained the impact of not treating strabismus or crossed eyes in a young patient in a timely manner, saying: "Many times they will develop a lazy eye, an amblyopic eye, because they don't use both eyes. They completely lose binocular vision, so that means low depth perception—the ability to do all kinds of fine task that you need both eyes for. And then there's the huge potential of psychosocial trauma to having badly lined up eyes—making it difficult to find spouses and partners and get married, find a job, get work. I mean, their whole lives.

The urgency to treat eye conditions like strabismus in low and middle income countries in recent years has increased too: "One thing we found is that pediatric strabismus used to be relegated as just nothing, really nothing important. The patient is not going to go blind, but now the popularity, around the world, has gained momentum and a lot of people want to learn how to treat it. It's one of the more popular mission types that have been done in Orbis in recent times. At least that's what I understand. In past years it’s been kind of disregarded in most developing countries, and now they're interested in catching up and learning about how to surgically treat it."

And what better volunteer to have on hand to train local ophthalmologists and build capacity for treating strabismus in patients young and old around the world than our very own Dr. Del Monte.

Thank you so much Dr. Del Monte for committing your free time over the past four decades to building the skills of eye teams and giving hope to so many children and families around the world. We're delighted to have you as part of our Orbis family.

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