Virtual training takes on sight-threatening condition caused by diabetes

Orbis, with support from FedEx, is offering training that will develop ophthalmologists’ skills to treat diabetic retinopathy in China.

With support from FedEx, Orbis International recently kicked off a new virtual Flying Eye Hospital project that will train eye care professionals across China to treat diabetic retinopathy

Any patient with diabetes is at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, and China has one of the world's highest rates of diabetes. About 10% of the country's population (more than 100 million people) has diabetes, while roughly 30 million people suffer from diabetic retinopathy and are at risk of becoming blind.

According to Orbis, the five-week virtual Flying Eye Hospital will enable participating ophthalmologists and ophthalmology residents to build their skills in identifying, managing and treating diabetic retinopathy in their patients. Training will be carried out in Mandarin through live lectures delivered by Orbis's Volunteer Faculty (medical experts).

The company noted that ensuring that communities have access to quality eye care, including routine eye screenings, is critical to curbing the uptick of diabetic retinopathy. The condition does not have symptoms in its early stages, and without being identified and treated in a timely manner, it can cause gradual vision loss or blindness that cannot be reversed.

"For the past four decades, FedEx has supported Orbis in preventing and curing blindness across the world," Eddy Chan, senior vice president and president FedEx China, said in a statement. "Being a responsible corporate citizen in China, we're committed to supporting local communities. We're glad that the new virtual Flying Eye Hospital project will improve the skills of eye care professionals and enable communities to have access to quality eye care for diabetic retinopathy.”

Orbis's Flying Eye Hospital is the world's only fully accredited ophthalmic teaching hospital on board an MD-10 aircraft. For nearly four decades, the Flying Eye Hospital has traveled the world delivering best-in-class training for eye care professionals in areas with the greatest need.

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Orbis reimagined its Flying Eye Hospital trainings as virtual ones in 2020 to ensure that eye care teams could still access critical training safely during the pandemic. Last year, Orbis's virtual Flying Eye Hospital projects had over 850 enrollments by participants from 9 countries. Orbis expects to reach 20 countries through its virtual Flying Eye Hospital projects this year.

"As people live longer lives, as the world's population grows, and as lifestyle changes cause an uptick in conditions like diabetic retinopathy, we are seeing a growing number of people around the world with sight-threatening conditions who need eye care," said Derek Hodkey, President and Chief Executive Officer of Orbis International. "Responding to this urgent need cannot slow down because of the pandemic. Partners like FedEx make it possible for us to continue getting quality ophthalmic training into the hands of the eye care teams that need it most."

For almost four decades, FedEx has played an indispensable role in helping Orbis achieve its mission, including the donation of the MD-10 aircraft that serves as the third-generation Flying Eye Hospital, and being a Global Title Sponsor of the Flying Eye Hospital since 2020 through its Delivering for Good initiative. Now as the Exclusive Title Sponsor of the newly launched virtual Flying Eye Hospital project, FedEx's continued support is playing a vital role in preventing avoidable blindness around the world.

Orbis has been active in China for nearly four decades, with the Flying Eye Hospital first touching down in Guangzhou in 1982. Since that time, Orbis began carrying out long-term projects in China that strengthen local eye care systems by providing training and equipment, focusing on improving children's eye health, alleviating blindness caused by cataracts and addressing complex emerging diseases, such as diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.

Over the decades, Orbis has carried out 220 projects in 25 regions in China, trained more than 20,000 health workers, conducted more than 4.5 million screenings and completed more than 130,000 sight-saving operations.