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World’s First and Only Flying Eye Hospital in Sacramento

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SACRAMENTO -- The world's first and only flying eye hospital was in Sacramento Wednesday.

The large aircraft is the physical result of a decades-long partnership with UC Davis and Orbis International, a nonprofit organization that aims to eradicate blindness in underdeveloped countries.

Orbis said there are currently 285 million people in the world that are blind,  80 percent who don't have to be. Four million of them are children.

"Of those 4 million children, 60 percent of them won't live to see their sixth birthday because of their blindness, and we can make a difference. It is possible to actually solve that problem and most of those children actually need a 30 minute surgery," said Dr. Jonathan Lord, global medical director at Orbis International.

Wednesday, UC Davis staff performed mock surgeries and tests to make sure when the time comes to use the mobile hospital remotely, everything goes smoothly.

"Orbis works with our department of anesthesia, nursing staff and technical staff, so can build an entire infrastructure in these countries," Dr. James Brandt of UC Davis said.

In the last five years, the organization has trained 10,000 doctors and performed 340,000 surgeries with their global partners.

With the help of UC Davis staff in this new flying hospital, Orbis hopes to improve access to quality eye care to people, even in the most remote parts of the world.

"This is not a one way street, or the Ivory Tower, coming in on a white airplane. This is about partnerships, training and establishing an academic relationship," Brandt said.

A relationship built on one clear vision -- to help people see a better world.

This fall, the aircraft carrying UC Davis staff will make its first stop in China then Indonesia.