According to the organization, the trip marks the 12th training project in Vietnam for the Flying Eye Hospital, including one virtual project on Cybersight, Orbis's telemedicine platform.
Orbis, with an assist from FedEx, on Monday kicked off its first surgical program since 2020 on board the Flying Eye Hospital, a fully accredited ophthalmic teaching hospital on board a plane.
Over the next three weeks, Orbis’s clinical staff and volunteer faculty of medical experts will lead in-person, hands-on training to 52 eye care professionals, including ophthalmologists, nurses, biomedical engineers, and anesthesiologists, from the Can Tho region, building their skills to treat the leading causes of blindness and visual impairment in their own communities.
According to Orbis International, this trip marks the 12th training project in Vietnam for the Flying Eye Hospital, including one virtual project on Cybersight, Orbis's telemedicine platform.
During this project, participants will develop their skills through a combination of simulation and hands-on training, as well as customized virtual learning courses before the plane arrives in Vietnam. Training activities will take place on the Flying Eye Hospital, currently located at the Can Tho International Airport, and at two partner hospitals, Can Tho Maxillo Dental and Eye Hospital and Can Tho Children Hospital.
During the first week of the project, the focus will be on simulation training, which allows participants to grow their confidence in a training environment before moving on to surgeries, resulting in better care for patients. The final two weeks of the project will focus on surgical training, where participants will get hands-on, real-life experience with world-class professionals at their sides.
Orbis noted in its news release the surgical training will focus on treating the leading causes of blindness and vision impairment for children and adults in Vietnam. Participants will train in pediatric cataracts, oculoplastics, and strabismus as well as adult glaucoma, oculoplastics, and medical retina. This project will complement Orbis's ongoing programs throughout the country and further Orbis Vietnam's ultimate goal: to fill the gaps and address the needs of local health personnel and contribute to the National Blindness Prevention Strategy, which was approved by the prime minister in 2016.
"We are so grateful to FedEx for not only sponsoring this program in Vietnam but also standing side by side with us for more than 30 years in the fight against avoidable vision loss around the world," Ngoc Pham, country director of Orbis Vietnam, said in the news release. "FedEx has played an indispensable role in helping Orbis carry out our mission, including donating the current MD-10 aircraft that serves as the third-generation Flying Eye Hospital."
Orbis International last year marked 40 years of innovation to fight avoidable blindness around the world, commemorating the debut flight of its Flying Eye Hospital, a fully accredited ophthalmic teaching hospital on board a plane that launched a legacy that has continued to define Orbis over the past four decades.
Since 1982, three generations of the Flying Eye Hospital have taken training to eye care teams in over 95 countries around the world, while Orbis has continued to innovate and grow its work beyond that carried out on the plane to achieve scalable impact.
FedEx has supported Orbis in its mission for over three decades and through more than US$22 million in donations and in-kind shipping. In 2021, FedEx announced its renewed commitment to Orbis's sight-saving mission with a $3.5 million donation to help provide financial, logistical, and operational support to the organization and its Flying Eye Hospital over the following five years.
In addition to providing aircraft parts, maintenance, and pilot training, the FedEx-donated MD-10 is flown by FedEx pilots who volunteer their time to navigate the plane around the world to Orbis projects. The sponsorship of this project in Vietnam is part of the FedEx Cares 50 by 50 campaign to positively impact 50 million people around the world by the company's 50th birthday this year.
"FedEx is proud to play a role in the global fight against avoidable blindness. As we celebrate our 50th anniversary this year, FedEx has been positively impacting lives and creating a Better World through connecting people to more possibilities,” Ee-Hui Tan, managing director, FedEx Express Vietnam and Cambodia, said in the news release. “We are committed to using our resources and our network to help address the social and economic needs of those in need in our local communities."
Orbis is grateful for its partnership with Airports Corporation of Vietnam (ACV) and Can Tho International Airport for their support. ACV has generously provided a secure location for the Flying Eye Hospital for the duration of the three-week project, a critical component to safely treat patients and train eye care teams.
Orbis in Vietnam
Orbis Vietnam is also marking a significant milestone this year – the 20th anniversary of the Orbis office in Hanoi. In fact, Orbis started collaborating with the eye health sector in Vietnam in 1996 by providing hospital-based trainings at the Vietnam National Institute of Ophthalmology. Since then, Orbis Vietnam and its partners have worked to increase the quality of care available by improving training and strengthening human resources, especially outside of urban settings.
In addition to hosting now 12 Flying Eye Hospital projects, Orbis Vietnam has helped establish screening and treatment centers for retinopathy of prematurity and other pediatric eye care, hospitals, vision centers, a wet lab, and an eye bank. In addition, the Orbis Vietnam team has contributed to developing national-level eye care policies, guidelines, and protocols, as well as collaborated with neonatal intensive care units to improve eye care for babies born prematurely.
Orbis Vietnam has provided eye screenings and examinations to nearly 5.3 million people, medical and optical treatment for over one million people, surgical treatment for nearly 140,000 people, and trained almost 33,000 eye health professionals.
The eye care community in Vietnam has fully embraced Cybersight and has accessed more virtual courses than any other country.
Orbis Vietnam continues to improve access to eye care across the country and will continue to focus on expanding quality pediatric eye care services, strengthening human resources for eye health and increasing the availability of community-led primary eye care services.
A Legacy of Innovation
Orbis launched long-term country programs in 1998 that are now training local eye care teams, building strong eye care systems and influencing national policies to prioritize eye care across Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America. Through these efforts, Orbis has supported the establishment or improvement of 60 tertiary hospitals, 280 secondary eye hospitals, over 800 primary eye care centers and health facilities, nearly 160 vision centers and more than 75 pediatric eye care centers that are ensuring more people can access quality eye care.
The organization also noted that it began investing in remote learning in the earliest days of the internet by creating Cybersight, an award-winning telemedicine platform that gives eye care professionals in areas with the greatest need free virtual access to training and other resources to better help their patients.
More than 56,000 users across more than 200 countries and regions are now registered on the platform. Cybersight allowed Orbis to quickly adapt and continue serving communities in need during the pandemic, including by launching virtual versions of Flying Eye Hospital courses.
More recently, Orbis has collaborated on the development of technologies like artificial intelligence and virtual reality tools that are revolutionizing how eye care professionals treat their patients and undergo training. The price points of technologies like these have too often kept them out of reach for the eye care professionals who could most benefit from them, which is why Orbis works to make them available for free for eye care teams in low- and middle-income countries.