You couldn’t help but see the huge Orbis logo painted on the massive tail mounted jet engine of the MD-10 on the AirVenture grounds. Surprisingly, very few people in the United States are familiar with the Orbis story and mission. Through mutual acquaintances, the Lightspeed team was invited to a private tour of this amazing airplane by its equally impressive Sr. Manager of Aircraft Maintenance, Valerie Suberg. Every member of the Lightspeed team eagerly volunteered to get up the extra hour early to meet Valerie and the team before show opening hours for the tour.
“The Orbis tour proved to be one of the many highlights of AirVenture 2021 and we are grateful to have the opportunity to share the Orbis story with others”, said Teresa De Mers, Lightspeed Executive Vice President. “We love everything about AirVenture – reconnecting with friends and customers and meeting new ones, and each year we are also overwhelmed by the generosity of so many in the aviation community. The Orbis story is another great example of this”.
Here is the story behind Orbis.
Where it all began for Orbis
In the 1960s, the concept of Orbis Flying Eye Hospital began with a vision from Dr. David Paton, a renowned US ophthalmologist, who was a member of The Wilmer Eye Institute at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Dr. Paton recognized a strong need for eye care in developing nations, where blindness ran rampant and there was a lack of ophthalmic teaching due to low-income barriers for nurses and doctors in these remote areas of the world. Here’s a short timeline of what brought Orbis from concept to where they are now:
1973 – Project Orbis launched to deliver training to the eyes of the world. Fun Fact: “In Latin Orbis means “Of the Eye” and in Greek it means “around the world.”
1982 – The Flying Eye mobile teaching hospital takes flight to the first project in Panama. With support from donors, United Airlines, and USAID, Orbis converted a DC-8 plane into the world’s first fully functional teaching eye hospital.
1999 – To build the capacity of local partners, Orbis created long-term country programs in Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, India, and Vietnam – similar programs are also underway in parts of the Latin America and the Caribbean. These programs focus on treatment and prevention of childhood blindness, cataract, trachoma, and corneal disease.
Late 1990’s – The idea of Cybersight emerged, which is now, Orbis’s award winning telemedicine platform, created by Dr. Eugene Helveston. This idea was created by Dr. Eugene Helveston to provide training and continual teaching to local ophthalmologists in these remote areas around the world while also establishing long-term and long-distance partnerships to expand the program.
2003 – Cybersight officially launched. Today Cybersight provides long-distance mentoring and education, online courses and lectures, symposiums, and case follow-up to eye teams in 199 countries.
2019 – Cybersight has trained 7,600 eye health professionals alone from 183 countries. They have also added 8,000 new users and held 115 live events.
The Orbis mission is guided by their vision to transform lives through the prevention and treatment of blindness.
According to the Orbis website, “the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital is unlike any plane you’ve seen before. A state-of-the-art teaching facility complete with operating room, classroom, and recovery room – this amazing aircraft has been an example of the marriage between medicine and aviation since 1982.”
With tremendous support from volunteers and donors, the Flying Eye Hospital has been a call to action for better eye care around the world for over three decades and counting. On every mission, Orbis’s goal is to raise awareness, create change, and rally supporters – from local governments, global organizations, philanthropists, to the general public – to join the global fight to end avoidable blindness.
Where does Orbis Work
Headquartered in New York, NY, with fundraising Offices in Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong, Macau, China, and Singapore, Orbis works in countries around the world, including Latin America and the Caribbean (Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Guyana), Asia (Bangladesh, Nepal, China, India, Mongolia, Vietnam) and Africa (Cameroon, Ghana, Ethiopia, Zambia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda).
To learn more about The Orbis Flying Eye Hospital’s history, their mission, and where they travel to around the world to help remote communities and save lives, go to: https://www.orbis.org/en/what-we-do/flying-eye-hospital
Watch a great video tour by our friends at Social Flight below!