Our History

Turning an Idea into Reality

Orbis is the result of a unique and lasting alliance forged between the medical and aviation industries. In the 1970s, leaders of these two industries came together to create the plan that led to the foundation of Orbis. We knew that the high costs of tuition, international travel and accommodations prevented most health care professionals in low-resource countries from participating in overseas training programs. Even when they could afford to study abroad, their opportunity for direct clinical experience was limited because strict licensing laws often prevented them from performing surgery.

Mobile Teaching Hospital

The solution was a mobile teaching hospital. With a fully equipped hospital on board an airplane, health care professionals trained in the latest ophthalmic techniques (including pediatric ophthalmology). They could then bring their surgical knowledge and skills to health care professionals in low-income countries through hands-on training and lectures. A grant from USAID and funds from private donors enabled us to successfully convert a DC-8 plane into a fully functional teaching eye hospital. As replacement parts for the original DC-8 plane became more difficult and expensive to obtain, it became clear that a newer, larger aircraft was needed. In 1992, after a major fundraising appeal, we purchased a wide-body DC-10 to replace the DC-8. Within two years, we had converted the plane into an eye surgery hospital. Our inaugural mission was to Beijing, China.

Country Programs Emerge

Telemedicine: Cost-Efficient Online Consultation

The launch of a global telemedicine initiative, Cybersight, in 2003 provided long-term follow-up in the form of distance mentoring and education. This award-winning program extends training opportunities to health care professionals throughout the world by using the Internet. It connects local doctors with our volunteer ophthalmologists for professional mentoring, education, and real-time consultation on patient cases and eye care techniques. Cybersight is the world’s only comprehensive online resource which provides ophthalmic education, professional mentoring and patient care consultation to eye care professionals in developing countries, 24/7.