ORBIS International Brings World’s Only Flying Eye Hospital To Memphis


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ORBIS International Brings World’s Only Flying Eye Hospital To Memphis

By Shane Nolan

November 11, 2011 - ORBIS International, a leading global organization dedicated to saving sight worldwide, makes its final U.S. stop in Memphis as part of the North American Goodwill Tour. The tour kicked off earlier this year in Los Angeles with the announcement by FedEx of a new 5-year, $5.375 million commitment to ORBIS in the form of cash and in-kind contributions.

In addition, FedEx Express is donating an MD-10 cargo aircraft to ORBIS to be converted into the third-generation, state of the art Flying Eye Hospital.The current aircraft also visited Vancouver, BC, Burlington, Vt., Dallas Fort/Worth, and Indianapolis and will visit Toronto and Ottawa, Canada in November to raise public awareness of the need to eliminate avoidable blindness.

 Additionally, the ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital just completed its final medical program of the year in Trujillo, Peru, which was sponsored by FedEx. “FedEx team members here in Memphis and around the globe have supported ORBIS for almost three decades, one of our longest-running relationships with a nonprofit organization,” said James R. Parker, executive vice president, FedEx Express Air Operations. “Our pilots volunteer to fly the plane on its sight-saving missions around the world.  

“All ORBIS pilots train here in Memphis at the FedEx flight simulator. Our mechanics provide maintenance support and we donate the use of our unparalleled network and our aviation expertise. Why do we help this eye hospital fly to places in need? Because ORBIS significantly has improved the lives of millions of people around the world who will now experience the gift of sight.” 

The Flying Eye Hospital is the world’s only airplane with a fully functioning state-of-the-art eye hospital on board. ORBIS brings dedicated eye care professionals from across the world to developing countries to provide two to three weeks of training and state-of-the-art surgical demonstrations. ORBIS volunteer doctors train local doctors, nurses, biomedical engineers and technicians in the skills necessary to provide high-quality eye care to their communities---skills that will prevent and treat avoidable causes of blindness such as cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. 

Worldwide, there are 39 million blind persons, and 90 percent of them live in developing countries where there is a severe lack of proper medical care. At least 80 percent of vision impairment cases are preventable or treatable. Since 1982, ORBIS has conducted programs in 89 countries, impacting the lives of more than 15 million people.


“There are more than 39 million blind adults and children in the world today, 90% in the developing world.  The true tragedy of this global health crisis is that 80% of visually impairment can be avoided or cured,” said Dr. Barbara DeBuono, president and CEO of ORBIS International. “Thanks to the unwavering support of companies such as FedEx, hundreds of eye care professionals, aviation staff and pilots who have dedicated their considerable time and talents, we have been able to save sight for millions of people around the world.” 

FedEx has supported ORBIS for 29 years, providing millions of dollars of support in cash and in-kind contributions. The $5.375 million donation of cash and in-kind services announced in August and the MD-10 cargo aircraft donated to ORBIS to be the next-generation Flying Eye Hospital builds on an earlier $5.5 million, five year commitment that FedEx made to ORBIS in 2006.

In addition, FedEx and its team members donate the unparalleled FedEx Express global network and aviation expertise to help the Flying Eye Hospital fly.  FedEx Express pilots volunteer to fly the current ORBIS DC-10 to many of its medical program sites and train other volunteer pilots; FedEx Express mechanics provide maintenance support; team members around the world volunteer as part of the ORBIS humanitarian team as interpreters, welcoming and escorting patients to and from their surgeries and checkups, canvassing neighborhoods and assisting with patient screenings.

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