Mission: To mentor, train, and provide local healthcare providers with the skills and resources needed to fight blindness in their communities.
About the Organization: Orbis — "of the eye" in Latin and "around the world" in Greek — was conceived in the late 1960s by David Paton, an ophthalmologist at the Wilmer Eye Institute at John Hopkins University who recognized the lack of eye care and ophthalmic teaching in developing nations where blindness was widespread. Officially launched in 1973 as Project Orbis to provide ophthalmology training, the organization created the world's first fully functional flying teaching eye hospital in a converted DC-8 plane in 1982; added hospital-based training programs and fellowships for eye care professionals; and in 1999 created long-term country programs to build the capacity of local partners in Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, India, and Vietnam, with similar programs under way in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Current Programs: Since 1982, the organization and its volunteer faculty of more than four hundred ophthalmologists, nurses, anesthesiologists, and biomedical engineers has conducted training programs in more than ninety nations and has trained and mentored hundreds of thousands of medical professionals. It currently operates more than forty long-term projects in a range of countries, including India, Bangladesh, Nepal, China, Vietnam, Ethiopia, South Africa, Ghana, Zambia, Cameroon, Peru, Mongolia, and Indonesia. With a focus on rural areas and poor urban communities, local staff develop and implement multiyear projects designed to improve the quality and accessibility of eye care, with priority given to the treatment and prevention of childhood blindness, cataract, trachoma, and corneal disease.
In 2003, the organization introduced Cybersight, a comprehensive online resource that provides ophthalmic education, professional mentoring, and patient care consultation to eye care professionals in developing countries 24/7.
Website: Visitors to the Orbis site can learn more about the prevalence of avoidable blindness in the developing world; the gender disparity in blindness, which disproportionately affects girls and women; and the countries in which the organization works. Visitors can also keep up with the latest news and developments and support the organization by volunteering, making a donation, and/or becoming a corporate partner.
Funding: Orbis is supported by individuals, foundations, and corporate partners.