They hope to reduce visual impairment in low-income regions.

(Press Release) New England College of Optometry and Orbis International (Orbis) announced their formal partnership to address the global unmet need for refractive and low vision services, with the goal of reducing avoidable visual impairment in low-income regions of the world. NECO prepares students for careers as an eyecare provider, educator and innovator through a rigorous curriculum and extensive clinical experiences. Orbis is an international non-profit committed to the elimination of avoidable blindness through healthcare provider training.

This partnership between Orbis and NECO will expand Orbis’ impact through its Flying Eye Hospital, hospital-based trainings, community partnerships and telehealth programs. Both groups will work together to help address the challenge of uncorrected refractive error, currently responsible for 43 percent of the world’s visual impairment. Refractive errors are caused by the shape of the eye preventing light from focusing correctly on the retina. Often, refractive errors are easily treated with eyeglasses, contact lenses, or refractive surgery to improve vision.

Through this collaboration, NECO will develop and implement optometry training as part of on-site joint programs with Orbis and online learning through Cybersight, Orbis’ virtual training and mentorship portal. NECO faculty now volunteer with Orbis’ hands-on, global educational training programs in hospital settings. These outreach programs are designed to help local doctors learn new techniques, analyze and diagnose challenging patient cases, and improve the quality of care they provide.

Additionally, NECO faculty and volunteers will provide online mentoring, telehealth consultations, and education through Cybersight, which leverages cloud-based technology to provide eye health professionals access to expert educators from around the world and online training tools such as live lectures and interactive case management.

This formal collaboration solidifies the growing relationship between NECO and Orbis International. It allows Orbis to significantly increase its impact in the world of vision care services and allows NECO to expand its influence in international eye care. In 2016, optometric faculty from the College participated in Orbis’s Flying Eye Hospital project to help local eye care practitioners in Shenyang, China, address the myopia epidemic by providing training in orthokeratology. In 2017, NECO faculty will be participating in other Orbis projects in China, Zambia, Cameroon, Bangladesh, and India to share their expertise in low vision, contact lenses, and pediatrics through direct training to local practitioners and medical experts.

President Clifford Scott, OD, MPH, notes, “The exquisite fit of these two respected organizations will provide a template for other vision and eye care training programs across the globe.”

Commenting on the partnership, Bob Ranck, president and CEO of Orbis International said, “We’re looking forward to working with NECO to help address the enormous but solvable challenge of uncorrected refractive error that affects so many people around the world.”