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ORBIS and Alcon Train China's Next Generation of Sight-Savers

Flying Eye Hospital Program to Train Ophthalmology Residents and Biomedical


NEW YORK, Aug. 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- ORBIS International's flagship Flying Eye Hospital has arrived in Harbin, China with its global team of volunteer eye care specialists and global Alliance for Sight partner, Alcon, Inc. (NYSE: ACL), the world's leading eye care company. Invited by the Heilongjiang Provincial Government, Heilongjiang Provincial Health Bureau, and the Second Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University, ORBIS is conducting an intensive two-week program (Aug. 25 - Sep. 5) focusing on training and equipping the next generation of Chinese eye care professionals and biomedical engineers. The ORBIS program in Harbin is being sponsored by Alcon.

At the request of the Second Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University, the Flying Eye Hospital program will only train ophthalmic residency physicians, marking the first time in the plane's history that it has been used as a venue for resident training. During the course of the program, the ORBIS medical team will transfer sight-saving skills to approximately 40 ophthalmology residents using hands-on surgical training, live surgical demonstrations, lectures and workshops. The program will concentrate on the treatment and management of pediatric strabismus, glaucoma and cataract - China's leading cause of blindness. Residents will also benefit from clinics on retinal disease and neuro-ophthalmology and from wet lab and surgical simulator sessions.

"ORBIS' approach is to tailor each of its programs to the educational needs of its hosts and the eye care needs of the local people," said Dr. Hunter Cherwek, medical director, ORBIS International. "This residency- specific program is an exciting new venture that will allow ORBIS to train the next generation of sight-saving doctors and help China further grow its pool of human resources for fighting preventable blindness in the region."

Fulfilling an Urgent Need

It is estimated that half of the medical equipment located throughout the world does not function properly, and the equipment in China is no exception. Compounding the problem is that few opportunities exist for biomedical engineers and technicians to pursue continuing education in ophthalmic equipment maintenance and repair. Most biomedical engineers must seek training in major cities like Beijing and Shanghai.

To this end, ORBIS and Alcon biomedical engineering staff will conduct a workshop to provide hands-on training to nine biomedical engineers and technicians in the management and maintenance of ophthalmic equipment. In the process, the Alcon biomedical technicians and workshop attendees will work together to repair many pieces of equipment critical to the delivery of proper eye care, such as microscopes, slit lamps, indirect ophthalmoscopes, phaco machines and ultrasound equipment.

"Having the knowledge and skill to maintain complex ophthalmic equipment is critical to the delivery of quality eye care, especially in underserved communities throughout the world," said Michael Goh, general manager, Alcon China. "Through ORBIS' skills-exchange program and partnerships with medical facilities worldwide, Alcon is proud to contribute our professional industry expertise to those on the front lines by helping train local biomedical engineers and supporting their critical role in the improvement of ophthalmic care."

Blindness in China

China has a blind population estimated at 5 to 6 million, which accounts for 18 percent of the world's blind. The major causes of blindness in China include cataract, childhood eye diseases, cornea diseases, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.

Of the roughly 24,000 eye doctors in China, 70 to 80 percent of them work in urban hospitals. Unfortunately, 70 to 80 percent of the country's blind people live in rural areas. Coupled with resource constraints such as a lack of equipment, this disparity has resulted in people from remote rural areas having little or no access to quality eye care services.

ORBIS and Alcon - Leading the Way to a World Without Blindness

For more than 25 years, Alcon has supported ORBIS' sight-saving programs and initiatives worldwide. In 2007, Alcon strengthened its commitment to ORBIS by renewing its global sponsor status for a further two-year period. This grant, of more than $2.7 million, provides cash and medical gifts-in- kind. It also increases Alcon's support of training initiatives in developing countries through a combination of Flying Eye Hospital programs, hospital- based programs, fellowships and online Cyber-Sight telemedicine consultations.

Over the years, Alcon has donated state-of-the-art ophthalmic equipment, pharmaceuticals and supplies for the Flying Eye Hospital and its partner hospitals around the world, making it possible for ORBIS volunteer ophthalmologists to teach advanced surgical techniques to doctors in the developing world. Additionally the Alcon Volunteer Biomedical Corps, a dedicated group of Alcon biomedical technicians, participate in ORBIS training programs and share their skills with those in developing countries.

About Alcon, Inc.

Alcon, Inc. is the world's leading eye care company, with sales of $5.6 billion in 2007. Alcon, which has been dedicated to the ophthalmic industry for more than 60 years, researches, develops, manufactures and markets pharmaceuticals, surgical equipment and devices, contact lens care solutions and other vision care products that treat diseases, disorders and other conditions of the eye. Alcon's majority shareholder is Nestle, S.A., the world's largest food company

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

SOURCE ORBIS International
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