From the outside, the Flying Eye Hospital looks like a typical airplane. But by stepping on board, visitors can see that it is a state-of-the-art eye surgery teaching clinic.
The hospital’s mission is to teach community workers and physicians in developing countries techniques to treat and prevent visual impairment. On Wednesday, the Flying Eye Hospital arrived at the airfield at McClellan Park in North Highlands to conduct training exercises with UC Davis Medical Center physicians.
The Flying Eye Hospital has been the centerpiece of Orbis International, a nonprofit whose mission is to prevent avoidable forms of visual impairment, which affect an estimated 285 million worldwide. Several UC Davis faculty and staff have volunteered with Orbis for many years. In 2014, an official partnership was established between the two organizations to share knowledge, technology and best practices.
During the Sacramento-area stopover, Orbis and UC Davis physicians conducted training exercises on patient simulators, or mannequins, provided by the UC Davis Center for Virtual Care.
According to William Hammontree, program manager, the mannequins start out with a normal heart rate and breathing. They can then be programmed to turn blue, start wheezing and exhibit seizures, all of which indicate adverse drug reactions or other complications that may occur during surgery.
The Flying Eye Hospital complies with Federal Aviation Administration regulations and is an accredited U.S. hospital. It is outfitted with numerous safety features, including a back-up generator and early alert monitoring systems.
“With few exceptions, everything you expect in a land-based hospital, you can find on the plane,” said Len Sparks, director of operations at Mobile Medical International Corp., which designed and refurbished the plane.
The flying hospital, an MD-10 aircraft, was a gift from FedEx.
“It’s bristling with new technology,” said Jonathan Lord, Orbis’ global medical director. The plane consists of a classroom, examination room, operating room, and recovery room. Orbis can also conduct remote trainings and consultations using the onboard broadcasting and online technology.
Sacramento was the first stop after the plane was unveiled last week in Los Angeles. The Flying Eye Hospital will also visit Memphis, Tenn.; Newark, N.J.; Washington, D.C.; and Dallas. It will then embark on its first missions to Shenyang, China, in September, and to Medan, Indonesia, in November.
Since its first flight in 1982, the Flying Eye Hospital has served 92 countries.
In 2015, the Flying Eye Hospital trained more than 30,000 medical professionals and examined more than 2 million patients either on board the aircraft or at its partner institutions.
Robert Kuo: 916-321-1161