Orbis and UC Davis Partner in Eye Health Training Program


By Christine Lee

DAVIS, CA– UC Davis Health and Orbis International, a non-profit focusing on eye care, teamed up to advance training for nearly 50 eye health professionals. 


Dr. Ravula, Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine and volunteer clinical faculty with Orbis, and Maurice Geary, the director of the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital speak on the impacts of this return to critical in-person instruction.


This two-week partnered effort took place on Orbis’s Flying Eye Hospital, an MD-10 aircraft donated by FedEx. The Flying Eye Hospital is meant to be a unique method to increase understanding for preventable blindness and has allowed mobility in providing solutions to the cause. 


“In April we were supposed to travel to Chile, Peru, and Bolivia to organize a two-week training program in their respective countries,” said Dr. Ravula. “As you know, because of COVID and COVID-related backlog that put stress on the healthcare systems in those countries, they said they could not host Orbis in their countries but they were in need of training their healthcare professionals.”


The range of specific medical treatments addressed ranged greatly, in hopes to combat issues most prevalent in the participant communities. “The ophthalmologists and ophthalmology residents trained on the Flying Eye Hospital and focused on cataracts, the leading cause of blindness in Bolivia and Peru,” said Maurice Geary via email. “Training participants also learned to treat glaucoma, strabismus, and macular degeneration, the other most common causes of blindness in the region.”


With participants from Spanish-speaking countries, UC Davis resources were able to help their professionals bridge the language barrier.


“Most of these healthcare professionals were Spanish speaking,” said Dr. Ravula. “At UC Davis we were able to tap into our teams who were comfortable in translating Spanish and speaking in Spanish. This also was a huge advantage for us in training at UC Davis.”


Abroad the flying hospital, efforts included cultivating experience through simulation devices. The Flying Eye Hospital was well equipped to provide realistic experiences that could happen during a medical procedure.


“They trained using virtual reality, artificial eyes, and life-like manikins, which allow for complex surgical or other procedures to be broken down into smaller parts, giving them the opportunity to practice each step as many times as they need to get it right, something that’s not possible with an actual patient,” Geary said. “This reduces the learning curve for difficult techniques and accelerates skill acquisition.”


The participants learned through lectures and demonstrations on various technical skills followed by hands-on experience in small groups. Afterward, instructors debriefed team members and gave feedback on performance in the simulated situations.


“We’ll give lectures on common things or situations that happen in the hospital,” said Dr. Ravula. “For example, how do you handle a patient who is unable to breathe, how do you handle a patient who has a cardiac arrest? The things that we teach are common but at the same time are high yield topics which can have a lot of impact when they are managed appropriately for patients.” There was the goal to educate on the physical tasks that happen in a procedure and emphasize the skills surrounding that task. 


“Another important component that we addressed was team dynamics,” said Dr. Ravula. “The big element in the room is we always think about clinical skills. The non-technical skills are also really critical when you work as teams. Non-technical skills like communication: how do members of the team communicate with each other?” Nurses had to prepare for emergency events in simulations, surrounding procedures such as patient recovery, operating room procedures, and sterilization practices.


“The nurses came in from different backgrounds,” said Dr. Ravula. “Some of them were operating room nurses, recovery nurses, floor nurses. Each of them had different expertise but our work was to train them in different situations and scenarios where they had the experience to handle any common medical problems when they go back to their home countries.”  


Biomedical engineers and technicians were prepared with their relevant fields, including instruction on ophthalmic equipment maintenance and repair. Biomedical engineers from Alcon, the largest eye care device company and long-time supporter of Orbis, provided workshops to further participants’ experience.


UC Davis Health contributed resources and personnel through training nurse and biomedical engineer participants at UC Davis Health Center for Simulation and Education Enhancement, an advanced facility focused on supporting interprofessional medical education and research activities, located in Sacramento, California. The efforts by Orbis and UC Davis Health to combat preventable eye blindness and overall raise awareness for eye care is a partnership that fights for a category of healthcare.


“Fortunately for us we were able to train 25 healthcare professionals from these three countries in two weeks,” said Dr. Ravula. “Which is a huge advantage because these professionals will go back to their home countries and now have all the knowledge and technical know-how to train multiple team members.”


“We are indebted to the many people at UC Davis Health who made this project possible,” said Geary. “Their selflessness and dedication to the mission was humbling for me to witness.”

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