Aboard the Flying Eye Hospital: UC Davis Doctors Volunteer Skills to Save Sight

Eye specialists from UC Davis brought sight-saving surgeries and training to Zambia.

Patients leaving the Flying Eye Hospital. (Credit: Orbis International)

Imagine going blind from a condition that could easily be treated with surgery. For many in developing countries, this heartbreaking situation is a reality. Two doctors from UC Davis are working to change that through their partnership with the nonprofit Orbis International.

Ophthalmologists Dr. James David Brandt and Dr. Jeffrey Caspar recently traveled aboard Orbis’ Flying Eye Hospital — a plane equipped as a full hospital — to provide surgeries and training in Zambia. They examined over 100 patients and performed dozens of sight-restoring operations. More crucially, they trained local eye doctors on critical procedures so they can continue saving sight long-term.

The need is immense in Zambia, which has only 38 ophthalmologists for 17 million residents. Treatable conditions like cataracts and glaucoma cause around 2% of adults and 1% of children to go blind. Drs. Brandt and Caspar taught complex modern techniques that reduce complications and speed recovery. For example, Dr. Caspar guided a novice surgeon through an advanced cataract removal procedure normally taking American trainees a full year to learn.

UC Davis and Orbis have partnered for over 40 years to bring quality eye care across the globe. Over 200 countries and regions have benefitted from sight-saving surgeries and training from Flying Eye Hospital volunteer teams. These dedicated doctors donate their time because they understand the immense, life-changing impact of restoring vision. As Dr. Brandt says, “Training someone on how to do a procedure and taking them through each step is very rewarding.” Through skill-sharing, they maximize the number of people who can access transformative treatment.

Two weeks volunteering on the Flying Eye Hospital leaves a legacy of healed patients and empowered local specialists. By teaching others their expertise, UC Davis ophthalmologists Drs. Brandt and Caspar spread healing across borders. After they depart, their work continues saving sight in communities with the greatest need.

Read the complete article by Monica Stark in The Davis Enterprise.

Read more about the Zambia mission in this Orbis article.

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About Angels in Medicine

Angels in Medicine is a volunteer site dedicated to the humanitarians, heroes, angels, and bodhisattvas of medicine. The site features physicians, nurses, physician assistants and other healthcare workers and volunteers who reach people without the resources or opportunities for quality care, such as teens, the poor, the incarcerated, the elderly, or those living in poor or war-torn regions. Read their stories at www.medangel.org.

Interested in writing for Angels in Medicine? Know about an Angel we should interview? Drop me a note at harry@medangel.org.

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