The HelpMeSee campaign has its beginnings in the late 1970s. It was then that Albert L. Ueltschi dedicated himself to fighting blindness in the developing world. He was convinced that training of local providers so they could serve their communities was the answer.
As founder and leader of FlightSafety International, the world’s foremost aviation training company, he thought that he had the skills and dedication to make a difference. Today, FlightSafety, is part of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. FSI is a global leader in aviation simulation technology training, providing more than 3,000 individual courses for 135 aircraft types, using more than 300 simulators to serve customers from 154 countries.
Al co-founded and led Orbis International for 30 years. It is best known for its “Flying Eye Hospital,” Al Ueltschi lead the effort to outfit the original McDonnell Douglas DC-8 airplane and later, it successor the DC-10 wide body. For the first time, volunteer ophthalmologists could reach out to all corners of the globe to treat avoidable blindness of all types and to strengthen eye care practices in developing countries through training.
Al realized that while the Flying Eye Hospital program continued to do great work, it lacked the scalability needed to provide access to the millions of cataract blind, which is, by far, the single largest cause of treatable blindness.
It wasn’t long into the new millennium when he began investigating the possible use of high fidelity simulation technology and other aviation instructional techniques to train highly skilled cataract specialists to solve the problem of cataract treatment access. Al co-founded HelpMeSee with his son, Jim Ueltschi, with a singular purpose: to eliminate cataract blindness.
He brought to HelpMeSee more than a half a century’s experience in simulation-based aviation training to successfully design and develop a virtual reality eye surgical simulator to train to proficiency 30,000 cataract specialists.
Al died in October 2012, but not before signing the Giving Pledge along with Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. As of this report, together with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the A.L. Ueltschi Foundation and the Jim Ueltschi Foundation collectively contributed the start-up cost to successfully launch the HelpMeSee campaign to eliminate blindness caused by cataract.
Half of all the blind people in the world could regain their sight tomorrow thanks to a surgery that takes as little as 5 minutes for an adult and 15 minutes for a child.
There are 20 million children and adults who are blind today – who could see tomorrow. Unfortunately, 99% of them will never receive this surgery and will never regain their sight because they are too poor to afford it.The mission of HelpMeSee is to make the miracle of sight possible for every blind child and adult in the world who needs it regardless of where they live or how under-served they may be.
HelpMeSee is a global campaign to ELIMINATE BLINDNESS caused by untreated cataract, which is by far the leading cause of blindness, making up 51% of all cases globally. Approximately 20 million people are bilaterally blind due to cataract, and an estimated 82 million suffer from cataract visual impairment. The vast majority of these people live in developing countries, where a lack of access to high‐quality service prevents them from undergoing a simple surgery that could restore their vision. According to a recently published Rand Health study, cataract blindness will increase to 32 million by 2020, costing the world GDP about $1 trillion each year.
To address this global health crisis, HelpMeSee was founded in 2010 with the goal of making cataract surgery possible for every blind child and adult in the world. Our goal is to deliver very low cost, high-quality Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgeries (MSICS) to millions of adults and children in the developing world. Working with 192 practicing partner MSIC surgeons in China, India, Nepal, Togo, Sierra Leone, Viet Nam, and Peru, HelpMeSee has saved or restored sight to more than 190,000 people. HelpMeSee anticipates surpassing 325,000 surgeries by the end of 2015.
Building on this record of success, HelpMeSee plans to increase our work exponentially over the next five years. Once the simulator is in operation, we will expand our reach to additional countries throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America. HelpMeSee will train 1,680 MSICS specialists by 2017, enabling them to perform 1 million surgical procedures with HelpMeSee support. By 2030, we expect to train a total of 30,000 MSICS-dedicated specialists and deliver 60 million surgeries.
HelpmeSee will train MSICS specialists using an unprecedented approach to surgical training - an innovative MSICS Virtual Reality Surgical Simulator. The Simulator recreates the human eye in all its visual and tactile details and, used in conjunction with sophisticated courseware, provide an endless supply of virtual eyes and unlimited opportunities for practice without endangering patients. This model can dramatically speed up the surgical training.