MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA, USA – December 3rd 2019 – This Giving Tuesday, Orbis International announced the launch of its Silicon Valley Orbis Innovation Fund, which seeks to raise $8 million in donations to harness the next generation of technology that will revolutionize the future of equitable access to quality eye care and ophthalmological training. The Fund kicked off today with a $1 million donation from Silicon Valley philanthropists Susan and John A. Sobrato, held at Mountain View’s Computer History Museum.
The new technologies will include innovations in telemedicine, artificial intelligence, simulation and virtual reality (VR) that will increase access to training for eye care teams in low- and middle-income settings.
“Hundreds of millions of people go through life facing blindness and visual impairment simply because they can’t get the eye care they need. We have an opportunity to change that,” said Bob Ranck, President & CEO of Orbis International. “Training entire eye care teams – everyone from health workers in rural clinics to eye surgeons in urban centers – is the best, most sustainable way to ensure no one needlessly lives a life without sight.”
Experts predicted that global blindness and visual impairment will triple by 2050, but the number of people needing eye care is outpacing the number of trained ophthalmologists. This makes it an especially critical moment to reimagine how we train eye care teams and prepare them to provide quality care in their communities.
“We live in a remarkable time of innovation, but too often, technologies never reach the people who could most benefit from them,” said John A. Sobrato.
“I’m proud to invest in Orbis because it’s an organization that understands the power of making cutting-edge technology accessible to communities for whom it normally remains out of reach. Orbis’s vision for the future will shape the future of vision as we know it.”
Orbis, in collaboration with FundamentalVR, is developing a training platform for ophthalmology students to practice procedures without a professor present, on what feels like actual human tissue. It is the world’s first-ever technology of its kind to use low-cost, off-the-shelf hardware, available at a fraction of the cost of existing surgical simulators. The platform will benefit doctors in places where previous simulators were too big or expensive to be deployed, enhancing the quality of ophthalmology practice globally.
The first procedure available will be the surgical technique that is most commonly used in developing countries for treating cataracts, the world’s leading cause of blindness. Future developments will enable students to use the same hardware to complete VR training that improves their treatment of glaucoma, strabismus and other eye conditions.
Drs. David and Victoria Chang and the ASCRS Foundation have donated funding toward the development of VR surgical training tools. Gil Kliman, Managing Director of InterWest Partners and an Orbis Board Member, has also donated toward general support of the Fund.
Orbis is well-known for its responsible use of donor funds, with more than 92¢ of every dollar going directly toward the organization’s work to prevent avoidable blindness. Orbis has also been named one of Consumer Reports’ Best Charities and been given a four-star rating from Charity Navigator. Orbis’s fiscal responsibility has helped it make Forbes’s annual list of the largest U.S. charities, as measured by gifts received.
About Orbis International – Orbis works in collaboration with local partners, including hospitals, universities, government agencies and ministries of health, and provides hands-on ophthalmology training, strengthens healthcare infrastructure and advocates for the prioritization of eye health on public health agendas. Orbis operates the world’s only Flying Eye Hospital, a fully accredited ophthalmic teaching hospital on board an MD-10 aircraft, and an award-winning telemedicine platform, Cybersight.