A day in the life of an Orbis medical volunteer

Volunteers’ Week takes place each year between 1 - 7 June, and is a chance for us to recognise the fantastic contribution our volunteers make and say a huge thank you. With this year’s theme being ‘Celebrate and Inspire’ we want to take this opportunity to celebrate our medical volunteer and Orbis UK trustee, Larry Benjamin.

Larry is a retired Consultant Ophthalmologist who has been volunteering with Orbis for 19 years. Last month he travelled to Vietnam to lead cataract surgery training using a simulator on board Orbis’s Flying Eye Hospital. Here he shares his experiences.

Touch Down

“I could see Orbis’s Flying Eye Hospital on the tarmac as I landed at Can Tho airport. I was incredibly excited to be back on board after the plane had been grounded during the pandemic. This would be my seventh time on the plane. It felt like being back home.”

Larry's photograph showing the Flying Eye Hospital on the tarmac as he lands in Vietnam

The Training Begins

I worked with two doctors each day across five days training with virtual reality and prosthetic eyes. We focused training on how to manage complications during surgery, as well as the more usual operative techniques.Throughout the week they all ended up doing things they hadn’t tried before which they really enjoyed. Two of the doctors even repeated a day which enabled us to go more deeply into simulations that they may not have experienced otherwise.

“There was no pressure as everyone could practise things repetitively, but also try simulations that are difficult to do on real patients and ask me questions as we went along.

“I had a translator with me every day who was a second year Ophthalmology resident. He also took part in the training too.

“Leading simulator training is harder than it sounds. You have to tailor each session to the individual needs of doctors with very different experiences. This is one of the aspects of simulator training that I really enjoy – working out who needs what and delivering training that enables them all to progress."

Larry's photograph onboard the Flying Eye Hospital where simulator training is underway

Practice Makes Perfect

“Throughout the week I tried to instil that no matter how experienced the doctors are, they can carry on with simulator training back in their own hospitals using prosthetic eyes.

“Whenever they learn a new technique they should always practise first on a prosthetic eye for the rest of their working lives.”

The Impact of Training

“When the surgical skills were embedded, the doctors were then able to move on to surgery the following week under the careful guidance of another volunteer. I flew back home but I understand the surgeries went well.

“I really enjoyed my time on the plane. Watching surgeons develop new techniques is always very rewarding. Seeing the “light bulb” moments is great! It is wonderful to be surrounded by a team of people all driven to raise standards across the world for the good of all people.”

Larry's photography showing him in the pilot's seat onboard the Flying Eye Hospital

Thank You to All Our Incredible Volunteers

Our work would not be possible without our global network of Orbis medical volunteers like Larry. By volunteering their time to provide training to eye care teams across the world they increase skills, improve services and the quality of patient care. This Volunteers’ Week we want to say a huge thank you to you all!

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