Blog submitted by Jina Moon
Jina Moon is a public relations volunteer in the ORBIS New York office. Her talent for media relations has landed ORBIS feature news and magazine articles across the United States.
“It’s cool, it’s awesome, it’s amazing!” This is the response I got when talking to Catalina Velasquez, a sixth grader from PS 102 in Queens, about what she thought about the ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital—I couldn’t agree with her more.
As a PR volunteer, I’ve pitched my share of stories about the amazing volunteer faculty and crew who contribute to the ORBIS cause. However, today, while the ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital made a brief stopover in New York City at LaGuardia Airport’s Marine Air Terminal, I had the opportunity to come and visit the ORBIS plane in person. It was great to finally see the plane and meet the wonderful staff in person.
During the plane’s brief stay in New York, we were able to host a group of sixth graders from PS 102 and eighth graders from the Community Health Academy of the Heights from Manhattan. Each class came to get a close look at the world’s only flying eye hospital and learn about the unique careers of the fabulous crew.
After getting a brief introduction about ORBIS and the Flying Eye Hospital’s mission, students visited the laser room where they spoke with Dr Srini, an ophthalmologist, and Tarek, a biomedical engineer. Both work full time aboard the plane, traveling from 8-10 months per year. In the laser room, students learned about the different lasers and what they’re used for. Some were even lucky enough to try the surgical simulator.
The students then marched along to the pre-op/post-op recovery area where nurse Jackie Newton explained the important role that the nurses play in the care of patients aboard the plane and in the communities. Students volunteered to play the role of patient and nurse, measuring blood pressure and getting hooked up to the heart monitor.
When the group moved on to the surgery room, Dr Hunter Cherwek spoke about what happens during surgery, emphasizing the importance of teaching local doctors by “showing how, not showing off” and answering the students’ various questions. A couple lucky volunteers put on surgical caps, masks and gloves and looked through the surgical microscope to get a feel for what it is like to operate on eyes.
Without a doubt, the students were amazed at what they saw, learned a lot about the different careers aboard the ORBIS plane and were pleasantly surprised that it was much better than they expected. As Catalina remarked, “I expected a boring hospital, but it’s so much cooler!”
For the students of the Community Health Academy of the Heights, this was a great opportunity to see health professions in a unique setting. For some, this visit helped to solidify their resolve in becoming healthcare professionals in the future. Following this trip, eighth-grader Anaury Pena is now determined to be a doctor, and his classmate Marianne Rosario wants to work with ORBIS once he graduates from university