Humanitarian Work - ORBIS
The ORBIS DC-10 aircraft is the world's only flying hospital.
Every year, volunteer American eye surgeons donate their time to work with ORBIS in developing countries. Since 1982,the volunteer doctors have restored sight to thousands of blind patients and have taught American medical standards to thousands of doctors and nurses worldwide.
Local Doc Saves Chinese Kid's Sight
Beth Israel Medical Center eye surgeon Dr. H. Jay Wisnicki just returned from Kunming China, where he volunteered for a medical mission with ORBIS International.
Working mainly on the ORBIS DC-10 – the world's only flying eye hospital – Wisnicki, a pediatric ophthalmologist, performed sight-saving surgery on Chinese children while teaching his skills to a large group of host-country doctors.
Working with the international humanitarian organization, Wisnicki spent a week aboard the high-tech flying eye hospital, teaching his host-country counterparts surgical procedures for the treatment of strabismus (crossed eyes) in children.
"It was sort of like being on a NASA mission," said Wisnicki, "working inside the plane with everything being monitored by all the video cameras. It was great."
The fully equipped operating room is monitored by strategically placed video cameras, allowing visiting medical personnel to observe the surgical procedures while interacting through the live audio feed. While one patient benefits from the surgery, hundreds of doctors and nurses benefit from the training and educational skills passed on.
Fighting blindness through education is the basis of all ORBIS medical missions.
"I was impressed by the amount of advance planning done by ORBIS," commented Wisnicki, who heads the Ophthalmology Department at Beth Israel. Each medical program is specifically tailored to the developing country's needs and training requirements.
Wisnicki spent his first day at a local Kunming hospital, screening over 50 young patients for curable eye problems. Working along side him were members of the international traveling staff of ORBIS: staff ophthalmologists, nurses and the medical director.
"ORBIS really creates awareness in the country," said the doctor. "Without proper treatment, some of these children literally wouldn't be able to see in a few years. It was gratifying to be able to teach so many Chinese doctors the skills that they can continue to use long after we have left."
Almost 20,000 patients have had their sight restored on the ORBIS plane. Through these educational medical programs, ORBIS doctors have also taught sight-saving skills to 32,000 doctors and nurses in 71 countries.
This was the second time ORBIS has visited Kunming. This was Wisnicki's first time volunteering with ORBIS.
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Bringing a Vision To World's Children: Eye doctors take flight to help nonprofit
by Sheila McKenna Staff Writer
Dr. Jay Wisnicki doesn't claim to be a miracle worker. He considers the time he spends traveling around the world repairing and restoring the eyesight of children just part of his life's work. Since 1996, Wisnicki, 45, a pediatric ophthalmologist and chair of the department of ophthalmology at Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan, has been a volunteer for Orbis International, a nonprofit, humanitarian organization whose mission is to preserve and restore sight through training, education and improved access to quality opthalmic services. Yesterday, the organization's pride and joy, the DC-10 SightFight, billed as the world's only flying eye hospital, was on a one-day visit to Kennedy Airport before departing for a six-month trip to China, Mongolia and India.
The trip is part of a two-year initiative made in part through a $1.3 million grant from Ronald McDonald House Charities. Showing a visitor through the plane's operating and laser surgery room, Wisnicki talked about why he chose to get involved and how effective Orbis is. "The number of pediatric ophthalmologists in this country is relatively small, less than a thousand. So when asked, I had to say yes," Wisnicki said. "That and the fact that childhood blindness throughout the world is common. "One of Orbis' missions is to help eradicate, or decrease, preventable blindness through teaching local doctors how to do the procedure," he said.
Also on hand were members of the Orbis DC-10 medical and flight crew, including Jim Nugent, 63, who was a pilot for United Airlines for 33 years and now volunteers with Orbis. "Orbis is a great cause with an outstanding crew," Nugent, who has volunteered with Orbis for the past year and a half, said during a tour for third and fifth graders from the Churchill School, a private school on the Upper East Side. "It's just something that I wanted to be a part of."
Since it was started in 1982, Orbis has carried more than 400 programs to 80 countries, including China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Ethiopia. It has trained 54,000 ophthalmologists, nurses, biomedical engineers and other health care workers who in turn provide treatment and training in other countries. Orbis' president and executive director, Kathy Spahn, noted that "90 percent of all blindness cases occur in developing countries where there is limited access to technology and medical training."
Ken Barun, president of Ronald McDonald House Charities, beamed with enthusiasm while reminding those present what it is all about. "More than 500,000 children worldwide go blind each year, most of which could be prevented with the proper care," Barun said. "Through our partnership with Orbis, we intend to reverse this trend."
© 2000 Newsday, Inc
Reprinted with permission
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Letters from ORBIS
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