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IU School of Medicine pediatric ophthalmologist Daniel Neely named senior medical advisor of ORBIS Cyber-Sight program

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Cyber-Sight was founded in 1998 by Eugene Helveston, M.D., now emeritus professor of ophthalmology in the Department of Ophthalmology, and became an official ORBIS program in 2002. Cyber-Sight connects eye care professionals in developing countries with volunteer doctors who assist with diagnosis and treatment of patients, and with formal and informal teaching courses. It has grown over the past 10 years with the help of another former ophthalmology department employee, Lynda Smallwood, who has been senior manager of the program since 2003.

“I can’t think of a better person than Dan Neely to take on the medical responsibilities of Cyber-Sight,” Dr. Helveston said. “His contributions to ORBIS have been outstanding for the past 10 years and will continue in his new role.”

ORBIS, a global nonprofit organization, sends volunteer physicians to teach eye doctors in developing countries. ORBIS is best known for its flying eye hospital, an airplane that has been fitted with an operating and recovery room, and a classroom for teaching, which can be used in addition to local hospital facilities.

Dr. Neely said the Cyber-Sight screening program allows participating physicians to triage cases electronically, selecting the best teaching cases for surgeries when volunteer eye doctors visit during a flying eye hospital or a local hospital-based program. This system allows patients with treatable but difficult cases to receive priority. Cyber-Sight also provides online resources and e-learning opportunities to physicians who are in remote locations and often without access to necessary books, courses and teachers.

Dr. Neely said the ORBIS model allows the physicians to learn difficult procedures and continue to perform sight-saving surgery long after the volunteers have returned home, giving the host doctors a program that offers capacity building and sustainability.

“Cyber-Sight allows ORBIS volunteer doctors to maintain contact in a process called extended presence,” Dr. Neely said, adding that the nonprofit has embraced Cyber-Sight as an empowering tool for the elimination of preventable blindness.

“It really is an honor to assume the responsibilities of this great program that Dr. Helveston built from the ground up,” Dr. Neely said. “He started this program with emails following a trip to Havana in 1998. It now allows doctors in developing cases to transmit patient information and digital images to volunteer physicians who can help with diagnosis and case management. There have been more than 10,000 electronic consultations and 40,000 individual messages sent since the program began.”

Dr. Neely spent his fellowship year at IU working with Dr. Helveston, who was then head of the pediatrics section in the Department of Ophthalmology. Dr. Helveston retired from the department in 2001Eugene and has spent much of his retirement working with the Cyber-Sight program, headquartered in Indianapolis.

Dr. Neely has been an ORBIS volunteer since 2002, traveling to Vietnam, Jamaica, India, South Africa, China, Peru and Uganda, and has mentored several foreign physicians, including Phara Khov, M.D., from Camboida, and two doctors from Vietnam, Do Quang Ngoc, M.D., and Kim Le Xuan, M.D., both of whom participated in pediatric ophthalmology fellowship programs at IU.