For many thousands of people with eye diseases in Third World countries, hope comes in the form of a DC-8 jetliner.
The converted aircraft, which houses an eye hospital and mini-medical school known as Orbis, made an eight-country, 11-stop Asian tour last year.
"We feel good about the tour," said Penny Stables, spokeswoman for the project, now in its fourth year. "Every year we reach more doctors, who in turn reach more and more people--the Asian tour by any standard has been a massive success."
Orbis '85 began last January on the far western lip of Asia, in Izmir, Turkey. Seminars for local eye doctors were given in new cataract surgery techniques, and the library of the flying eye center picked up new and inexpensive methods developed in Turkey for treating glaucoma.
Since that first three-week stopover, the flying clinic has provided treatment and seminars in Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, China, Singapore and the Philippines.
More than 750 ophthalmologists from the eight host countries visited during the course of Orbis '85, boarding the specially designed operating room to observe or participate in various eye operations on selected local patients.
Medical 'Ripple Effect'
These doctors in turn are expected to pass on their newly acquired skills in a "ripple effect" to other doctors and medical students in the host countries, who will in turn teach others as well as practice in their local clinics and hospitals.
"The number of actual patients treated aboard Orbis is minimal," said project director Oliver Foot, "but the number of those who suffer from eye-related diseases and conditions that can lead to blindness who are eventually touched by Orbis is huge."