Orbis Flying Eye Hospital project opening ceremony in Vietnam

Vietnam Flying Eye Hospital Project Wrap-Up

Our 2019 Flying Eye Hospital Project in Hue, Vietnam, has now drawn to close. The three-week project was a resounding success, thanks in no small part to the commitment and enthusiasm of our local partners from the Hue Eye Hospital.

The Flying Eye Hospital was a 'home away from home' for 16 of our Volunteer Faculty over the past three weeks. Our team was made up of leading experts from all over the world specialising in glaucoma, oculoplastics, surgical & medical retina, anaesthesiology and paediatrics.

Orbis Flying Eye Hospital staff and volunteers in Vietnam for a three week sight-saving project

The Flying Eye Hospital is a 'home from home' for our staff and volunteers

All of our team and crew were impressed by our partners from the Hue Eye Hospital who certainly made the most of the training opportunity. Orbis Volunteer Faculty Dr. Wai Ching Lam, Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Hong Kong told us:

"I think the unique thing about our Vietnam projects are the people. These trainees were very enthusiastic, they love to learn. You can see that in their passions and learning both in the surgery as well as in the lecture format. One thing that I've observed is that the trainee doctors have so much enthusiasm."

Slidehow: Dr. Wai Ching Lam was very impressed with the local doctors

We have a long history of working in Vietnam, stretching back to 1996 - ten years before the plane first touched down. By 2000 we’d help set up a number of long-term projects and by 2003 we’d established a permanent office in Hanoi. In 2018 alone our Vietnam team helped train 1,750 eye health professionals, screen 200,000 children, prescribe 40,000 pairs of glasses and perform 9,000 eye surgeries.

Hue is the capital of Thua Thien–Hue Province, located in central region where the prevalence of blindness is found to be the highest. In Hue alone it is estimated that 4,900 children are blind, 50,000 children have some type of strabismus and 500,000 children have refractive errors - something which can be corrected with a simple pair of glasses.

There is an urgent need for paediatric eye care as there are only a limited number of trained ophthalmologists equipped to deal with the complications that come with operating on children's eyes.

Slideshow: the team pack up the plane after an amazing three weeks

One of the local doctors we worked with on this training project, Dr. Tran Thi Bich Hai, has trained with us a number of times. She is 30 years old and was looking forward to working alongside her mentor Dr. Doug Fredrick, Professor of Ophthalmology and Paediatrics at the Icahn School of Medicine, Mt. Sinai, New York, NY.

Dr. Hai told us: "This hands-on training program is unique in the sense that it directly offers us clear guidance and instructions on techniques - and even on how to improve our weaknesses in examining, treatment and patient follow-up. It is very beneficial to us doctors because it provides us with valuable and realistic experience."

Thanks to our online telehealth platform, Cybersight, Dr. Hai was able to expand her knowledge even further by discussing some of her cases with our online mentors, and sitting in on some of her colleagues' cases:

"Cybersight enabled me to discuss complicated medical cases with leading experts in this field. Cybersight also allows me to take a look at my colleagues’ topics and cases, through which I have gained great experience in examining patients and performing surgeries."

Slideshow: Dr. Hai improved her pediatric skills thanks to your support

Thanks to Orbis training programs, both on board the plane and in her local hospital, Dr. Hai has been able to learn the additional skills needed to operate on children:

"Prior to joining the Orbis program, I was mostly treating eye diseases for adult patients. After undergoing Orbis programs, I have specialised in paediatric ophthalmology, including examination, diagnosis and treatment, which covers both internal treatment and surgery. It was my privilege to have studied under many doctors from Orbis - to be able to learn directly from such experienced experts has really helped me fine-tune my skills in this field."

It is always great to know that the local doctors have made the most of the state-of-the-art equipment and world-class mentor, but what this is really about is helping people to see who would otherwise lose their vision.

Brave Thanh, 3, was born with a condition called ptosis, or drooping eyelid. For children it is often caused by an underdevelopment of the muscle that lifts the upper eyelid. As well as being a cosmetic problem, drooping eyelids can obstruct the child's visual field and lead to amblyopia - poor visual development - and eventually blindness.

But this isn't the case for young Thanh anymore.

Slideshow: Thanh and his mother on board our Flying Eye Hospital last week

Slideshow: Thanh and his mother on board our Flying Eye Hospital last week

As you can see Thanh's mother was grinning from ear to ear after surgery, now Thanh can live his childhood free from the potential risk of losing his sight.

We'd like to say a big thank you to our wonderful supporters, generous partners and world leading Volunteer Faculty for making these projects possible.

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