World Sight Day Special Feature: Thirst for Knowledge Fuels Orbis Volunteer

October 2019

With nearly 60 Flying Eye Hospital and hospital-based training programs to his credit over the span of 18 years, Dr. Carlos Solarte has truly seen and experienced everything Orbis offers around the world.

Dr. Carlos Eduardo Solarte was exhausted. He had flown half way around the world to Ethiopia as part of an Orbis program and had spent much of the afternoon training residents at a local hospital in Addis Ababa in new eye surgery techniques. But even after hours of training, the residents weren’t ready to stop. By 6 p.m., Solarte had gone through all of the lectures he had prepared, but he was amazed and excited by the dedication of those in the room.

They wanted more! I was exhausted, I was tired, but they wanted to keep going. We ended up staying past eight o’clock and the residents, they kept engaged. Nobody left the room, they didn’t want to talk, they just kept drinking coffee and they didn’t want to stop. I think that was one of the most rewarding times I have ever had in my almost 18 years with the organization.

Dr. Carlos Solarte

Pediatric Ophthalmologist & Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, University of Alberta

For Solarte, the hunger for knowledge that he saw that day in Ethiopia continues to drive his desire to be part of the organization. The work Orbis does to train eye health professionals worldwide is a key part of the success of the programs—bringing knowledge to areas that may not otherwise have access.

Dr. Solarte with fellow Canadian Volunteer Faculty, Dr. Gordon Douglas (left), Dr. Peter Dolman (second from left) and Dr. Karim Damji (right) in front of the second generation DC-10 Flying Eye Hospital in Uganda in July 2006.

“When you are staff and then you work as Volunteer Faculty, you see the response of the people. You truly make a difference in somebody’s life,” he says of his decision to continue to work for Orbis even after leaving his staff position.

For Solarte, seeing how Orbis’s training of healthcare professionals allows the benefits of a few weeks of interaction to be replicated so many times through ongoing work with patients, is incredibly satisfying.

Most of us are educators by profession. Being in Orbis allows us to continue doing exactly that; to educate others on different techniques or different surgeries or different procedures. And that’s why we’ll keep doing it for years to come.”

All of the Orbis Volunteer Faculty are at the top of their game professionally. They offer leading edge training and education to the countries they visit and take pride in working with peers around the world. The healthcare professionals they work with may not always have access to the resources North Americans are lucky enough to have, but they are talented and remarkable colleagues who Solarte is happy to support. The goal, he says, is to work together, as part of their team, to bring them additional skills and training that can help them in their communities. “It’s just to bring them to the next level up from wherever they are.”

Dr. Solarte examining a young boy in Cameroon in 2017

For Solarte, who was leaving for an Orbis program in Mongolia when we spoke, his dedication to Orbis remains powerful – and he looks forward to a future with perhaps another 60 programs where he can share this excitement for education and knowledge with even more colleagues around the world.