Blog submitted by Karen Jaques.
Karen is the Corporate Fundraising Manager at ORBIS UK.
“We are the roadies and they are the rock stars” I quote Dr Hunter Cherwek, Medical Director, ORBIS International, playful analogy to describe the ORBIS DC-10 Flying Eye Hospital team.
When rock stars take to the road, the roadies manage their equipment, logistics and lives to support their rock concert performances. Roadies have one goal – they ensure that the rock stars perform at their best when asked to sing. What, you may well ask, does this analogy of concerts and roadies have to do with ORBIS, a global non-governmental organization committed to saving sight and fighting unnecessary blindness worldwide.
Dedicated solely to teaching and training of eye doctors, nurses and biomedical engineers to save sight, ORBIS maintains a team of twenty-two on the ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital; twenty-two highly trained roadies - medical staff, aircraft operations logistics and communications - who take this unique aircraft to developing countries around the world.
Eye diseases come in many forms, in men and women, in the young and the old. Doctors need to be able to diagnose and treat a huge range of conditions. Just as rock stars are asked to perform different songs, doctors tend to specialize and perform in one of two areas becoming experts in their chosen fields.
ORBIS has been invited to come and teach in Jaipur, Rajasthan in northern India. Partnering with two well-established local eye hospitals, ORBIS works alongside their ophthalmologic teams to build a highly structured teaching program that will benefit their staff through the transfer of knowledge and skills, from doctor to doctor. Parked at Jaipur Airport, the Flying Eye Hospital is set up in ‘hospital mode’ as the show goes on the road and the rock stars fly in to join the party.
And who exactly are the rock stars? They are the visiting ORBIS volunteer surgeons. Global experts in their special fields, they take time from their practices and hospitals to spend a week operating and teaching overseas using the Flying Eye Hospital as their stage, as a forum to teach and train. Rock concerts often have huge audiovisual screens to enable all those at the concert to see their performance firsthand. Just like a concert, ORBIS uses AV technology on board the Flying Eye Hospital to enhance teaching utilizing a live feed from the operating room into the 48-seat classroom at the front of the plane. The surgeons provide the ‘hands on training’ in the operating theater, clearly explaining what they are dong at each point during the surgery. The roadies make everything run seamlessly from live surgery to lectures between patient cases. Lectures are interactive with time for questions and answers between the visiting doctors and the attendees.
With 8 - 10 programs per year, the ORBIS DC-10 Flying Eye Hospital moves around the world. Chittagong, Bangladesh is next. The roadies on the plane are supported by equally keen fundraising and program departments in New York, London and Hong Kong - a global team that comes together to provide teaching. The concert is a medical program; the rock stars are eminent surgeons; their instruments are surgical tools and the roadies are a motivated team that holds it all together. The net result is a program that ROCKS with stellar teaching and interaction between those who want to teach and those who want to learn. The final performances are seriously surgical; the encore is the prevention of unnecessary blindness worldwide.