New York, NY, January 26, 2009—ORBIS International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving sight worldwide, has received a donated PASCAL photocoagulator as part of a new partnership with global ophthalmic company OptiMedica Corp. Used to treat a variety of retinal diseases, PASCAL dramatically improves the physician’s ability to control the precision, safety and efficiency of the photocoagulation procedure, while minimizing treatment duration, treatment frequency and patient discomfort.
“We are incredibly thankful to OptiMedica for their generous donation. The addition of the PASCAL to the ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital will greatly enhance our technical capabilities to treat diabetic retinopathy, which is rapidly affecting a growing number of individuals around the world,” said ORBIS Medical Director Hunter Cherwek, M.D.
At least 171 million people have diabetes, and this figure is likely to more than double by the year 2030, to 366 million. After 15 years, about 2 percent of persons with diabetes become blind and about 10 percent develop severe visual loss. After 20 years, more than 75 percent of patients will have some form of diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes that results from damage to the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye, according to the World Health Organization.
Laotians first to benefit from ORBIS and OptiMedica partnership
The Flying Eye Hospital — a DC-10 aircraft converted into a mobile ophthalmic surgical unit — has begun the year in Laos, a country ORBIS has never before visited. Through the transfer of knowledge and skills, the Flying Eye Hospital program taking place in Vientiane, Laos is strengthening the ability of eye health professionals in the management and prevention of eye diseases. Diabetic patients selected for treatment during the January 19-30 program are the first to benefit from ORBIS’ use of the PASCAL Method of photocoagulation.
“OptiMedica is very proud to make this donation to the ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital because we strongly believe that the patients they treat and the physicians they train will benefit greatly from the significant advancements inherent in PASCAL technology,” said Mark J. Forchette, president and chief executive officer of OptiMedica. “Using PASCAL as part of this unique initiative, ORBIS will allow doctors from Laos and many other countries around the world to set a new standard in the treatment of diabetic retinopathy and other retinal diseases. We believe that the gains in treatment efficiency and patient comfort made possible with PASCAL will have a profound impact in the regions served by the Flying Eye Hospital.”
ORBIS retains a global cadre of more than 500 volunteer doctors who donate their time for one- or two-week periods to work with the Flying Eye Hospital team. Joining ORBIS in Vientiane is first-time volunteer Julia Haller, M.D., Ophthalmologist-in-Chief at Wills Eye Hospital, Professor and Chair of Ophthalmology, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and an advisor to OptiMedica in the early stages of PASCAL development. Working alongside the ORBIS medical team, Dr. Haller is instructing Laotian doctors in the diagnosis and treatment of diabetic retinopathy and other retinal disorders. An OptiMedica engineer is also attending the program to coach ORBIS staff ophthalmologists and biomedical engineers in the proper use and maintenance of PASCAL.
ORBIS program offers many their first chance for continuing medical education
Laos’ 25 eye doctors provide services to the nation’s 6 million people. With more than 30,000 people blind, the Laotian Ministry of Health has acknowledged human resources as the key impediment to solving the country’s problem of avoidable blindness, which is defined as blindness that could have been treated or prevented by known cost-effective means. Currently, there are no in-country subspecialty training programs for ophthalmologists, ophthalmic nurses or biomedical engineers.
Through the Flying Eye Hospital program, all 25 of the nation’s eye care providers are attending ophthalmic training sessions on board the aircraft and at the Vientiane Ophthalmology Centre, the national coordinating body for eye care services. To expand ORBIS’ impact and reach, 20 ophthalmologists from Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam are joining the program and benefiting from training in the clinical diagnosis of eye diseases, surgical decision-making, incision/laser surgeries and post-operative care.
The Flying Eye Hospital serves as a focal point for ORBIS’ educational programs and advocacy efforts. On board, eye care professionals from developing nations work side-by-side with the ORBIS medical team and volunteer teaching faculty to perform surgery, learn new skills and restore sight.
About ORBIS International
ORBIS International is a nonprofit global development organization dedicated to saving sight worldwide. Since 1982, ORBIS programs have benefited people in 86 countries, enhancing the skills of more than 195,000 health care personnel and providing eye care treatment for more than 6.8 million people. To learn more about ORBIS, please visit www.orbis.org.
Based in Santa Clara, Calif., OptiMedica Corp. is a global ophthalmic company dedicated to advancing the practice of ophthalmology for the benefit of physicians and their patients. The company holds the exclusive license to the PASCAL Photocoagulator technology, which was originally developed at Stanford University. Since its market introduction in 2006, PASCAL photocoagulation procedures have been performed on more than one hundred thousands patients worldwide. OptiMedica is funded by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Alloy Ventures and DAG Ventures. For more information, please visit www.optimedica.com.