Teamwork Helps our Flying Eye Hospital Take to the Skies

As we celebrate our beloved aircraft's first return to in-person training since the pandemic, we want to highlight some of the amazing people who keep our plane running.

A World-class Team

The Flying Eye Hospital team is made up of highly-skilled staff and volunteers from all corners of the globe – Africa, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America and North America, including many from across Canada. This is a truly multi-national, multicultural team that shares one thing in common: a passion for saving sight. Scroll down to learn more about just some of the many people who make our work on the plane possible.

Director, Aircraft Operations

The Director of Aircraft Operations and his team are responsible for all aviation aspects of the Flying Eye Hospital, making sure the entire operation stays safe and efficient. The Director is deeply familiar with every part of the plane, down to the very last rivet. Every day is different, whether it’s working on the flight plan for the next Orbis program, managing a regular maintenance check, or negotiating with local airport authorities for every aspect required to land and operate safely in the local country.

Director, Flying Eye Hospital

The Director of the Flying Eye Hospital leads a dynamic team of eye health and NGO professionals dedicated to bringing medical education and treatment programs to partner hospitals worldwide. He works closely with every part of the team, from the flight mechanics to our staff nurses, and is responsible for the smooth delivery of every Flying Eye Hospital program. This includes visiting countries well before the plane lands and assessing the program after it leaves.

Volunteer Pilot

Orbis wouldn’t be able to carry out our sight-saving work without the 18 incredible FedEx pilots who volunteer their time to fly the plane – officially known as Orbis 1 – to its next destination. For pilots, the aircraft provides a unique experience – they meet children who can’t see one day and then get their vision back a few days later.

Senior Manager, Logistics & Administration

Our Senior Manager works to plan, coordinate and manage all of the logistics that go into each Flying Eye Hospital program. This includes oversight of the safety and security of our team and participants; coordinating and assisting with travel, immigration and customs; managing the supplies required by the team; packing and unpacking of the plane; and supporting the audiovisual and IT teams.

He's responsible for making sure all staff, participants and visitors adhere to plans and scheduling. The job requires a lot of active problem-solving since he must handle complex situations and multiple responsibilities simultaneously, mixing long-term needs with the urgency of immediate demands.

Associate Director, Clinical Training

The Associate Director of Clinical Training for the Flying Eye Hospital oversees all of the ophthalmic content for each program. This includes supervising the planning visits, the programs themselves, and the surgical case reviews. As the Head of Ophthalmology on the plane, she also manages the staff ophthalmologists and the Certified Ophthalmic Medical Technologists.

On top of that, she spends a lot of time making sure patients recover properly with post-operative care. This follow-up is critical in ensuring a patient’s full recovery. It’s amazing to see how people’s lives are completely changed by the gift of sight, even after just one day.

Staff Ophthalmologist

The Staff Ophthalmologist's role is to design the ophthalmology training projects that will be delivered in each program. The training projects are based on the needs identified in planning visits that take place long before the Flying Eye Hospital arrives in a country. Once a program has begun, Dr. Salamanca coordinates all medical and surgical activities.

You can often find him training local eye care teams using simulation technology, such as artificial eyes, life-like manikins, and virtual reality simulators, which help local teams practice their surgical skills and detect various eye diseases. This new technology allows local ophthalmology teams to learn complex skills in a controlled environment before operating on a patient. When patients receive ophthalmic care on an Orbis program, we turn it into an opportunity to teach local eye care teams how to deliver the same care in their community. With more skilled eye care teams, more people can live their lives free from avoidable blindness.

Anesthesiologist

Many surgeries to prevent and treat avoidable blindness, such as cataract surgery, can be performed on adults using local anesthetic. That’s not the case with young children, who need to have general anesthesia to correct problems, like cataracts or strabismus. Teaching safe practices in anesthesia is a vital part of Orbis training, and our expert shares his skills with local teams in the operating room. Part of the training involves simulation on a manikin called a Pediasim, allowing local anesthesiologists to learn how to respond to emergency situations that may arise in their hospitals.

Associate Director, Nursing

Our Associate Director of Nursing serves as the direct supervisor to the staff nurses on board the Flying Eye Hospital. She works to ensure the smooth running of the clinical area and safe delivery of patient care, and is committed to educating our local partners in patient care and recovery. She loves being able to share her knowledge with partners and members of her nursing team. This exchange of skills is one of the things that makes Orbis programs so effective.

Staff Nurse

Orbis has several staff nurses. A staff nurse's main role is to train nurses in the countries where Orbis works. This training can be during Flying Eye Hospital programs or hospital-based trainings.

Staff nurses work with local hospitals and share best practices in areas such as preparing patients for surgery, assisting in their recovery, helping surgeons during operations, properly cleaning and sterilizing surgical instruments, and ensuring the highest quality of patient care. They also assist in the operating room, creating an environment where local teams receive training on how to prepare patients for surgery and monitor them during an operation.

Staff Nurse

Another staff nurse works in the Flying Eye Hospital laser room where patients requiring laser surgeries receive treatment and where local eye care teams can learn about these procedures. She is also responsible for pre- and post-operative care of patients on board the plane.

This job requires a special touch to make patients feel comfortable, especially those who have never had an operation or been on a plane before. Respecting patients and treating them with care is a critical part of making them feel comfortable.

She works to train local nurses in delivering this quality of patient care, teaching them how to be compassionate and empathetic with patients. This extra step in training ensures not only that surgeries on board the Flying Eye Hospital are successful, but also that patients leave feeling confident and ready to embrace life with better vision.

Staff Nurse

Another staff nurse works alongside nurses from local hospitals and shares best practices in areas such as preparing patients for surgery, assisting in their recovery, helping surgeons during operations, properly cleaning and sterilizing surgical instruments, and ensuring the highest quality of patient care.

She and fellow nurses also assist in the operating room. They create an environment where local teams receive training on how to prepare patients for surgery and monitor them during an operation.

Biomedical Engineer

Taking care of high-tech medical equipment and ensuring it works well in a precise medical field such as ophthalmology requires special expertise. On board the Flying Eye Hospital, you’ll find a laser room and simulation center packed with machines such as surgical simulators and virtual reality devices. These are used to teach techniques to local doctors in a safe way before they operate on patients. Our biomedical engineer not only maintains this equipment, but also teaches others to manage and maintain the equipment that they have in their local hospitals.

Allied Health Technician

The Allied Health Technician for the Flying Eye Hospital teaches ophthalmic officers, technicians, nurses, and resident ophthalmologists everything from basic skills to the finer points of complex diagnostic testing. These eye care professionals often serve as a direct link between the patient and the doctor. Improving their ability and level of understanding leads to better patient outcomes.

Audiovisual Specialist

Our Audiovisual Specialist manages all of the broadcast capabilities on board the plane. His command center is the audiovisual room, where he controls the cameras that are in every part of the plane. Video from a unique 3D camera system built into the microscope in the operating room allows surgeries to be broadcast into the classroom at the front of plane, helping participants feel as if they are also looking down the microscope. A two-way microphone allows them to ask the lead surgeon questions in real time, and surgeries are also broadcast on our telemedicine platform, Cybersight.

Flight Mechanic

The flight mechanics fly with and help maintain the aircraft and all of the ground equipment that supports the Flying Eye Hospital. The MD-10 plane is entirely self-sufficient, with its own generators, water-purification system, and hospital-grade gases. All the team needs on arrival is a runway large enough to accommodate the plane, a water source, and of course, enthusiastic eye care teams to train.

Senior Manager, Aircraft Maintenance

The Senior Manager leads the team that provides aircraft maintenance support for the Orbis MD-10. She is responsible for safely getting the Flying Eye Hospital to its destination so Orbis can deliver hands-on training and sight-saving surgeries.

Before every program, it is also her responsibility to make sure the Flying Eye Hospital meets all hospital requirements for heating, cooling, water and medical gas. Getting all of this arranged for each program requires a large group effort. The whole team must come together to ensure everything gets done.

Program Manager

The Flying Eye Hospital Program Manager facilitates the development, implementation, and oversight of Orbis’s projects all over the world. This involves meticulous planning before every project, coordination with local hospitals, and helping patients plan for surgeries, such as arranging their transportation to the Flying Eye Hospital by ambulance. She works to ensure Orbis’s ability to fulfill its mission of training ophthalmic care providers to deliver quality eye care for their local communities.

Coming Together

Saving sight requires the dedicated teamwork of dozens of collaborators on and off the plane. We couldn't do it without the help of everyone above, as well as other Flying Eye Hospital staff, our in-country offices, partner hospitals, and of course you—our supporters! Thank you all for keeping us in flight.


Photography by Nick Wood

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