Virtual reality gaining acceptance in ophthalmic surgical training programs

New York University School of Medicine & ORBIS International use EYESI Surgical Simulator to Train Eye Surgeons in the US and Developing World

NEW YORK, July 5, 2006 Educators at NYU School of Medicine and nonprofit ORBIS International are among the first organizations to evaluate the effectiveness of the EYESI surgical simulator, one of the only ophthalmic virtual reality surgical training systems on the market, and to utilize this cutting-edge technology in their surgical training programs.

“Surgical simulators, when used with a proper instructional curriculum, have the potential for surgeons at all levels to acquire new skills and perfect their techniques in preparation for surgery on the human eye,” says Dr Lisa Park, Assistant Residency Program Director for NYU School of Medicine’s Department of Ophthalmology, one of the largest in the United States, and a volunteer faculty member of ORBIS International.

Working with ORBIS, NYU began evaluating the EYESI surgical simulator in January 2006. As the lead investigator, Dr Park is conducting an evidence-based study to determine the effectiveness and appropriate use of virtual-reality surgical simulation in ophthalmic training. “I think virtual surgery is absolutely the future of surgical teaching,” says Dr Park, “because practice makes perfect.” In November 2006, NYU will release the results of the study, which will be used to help ORBIS develop an educational format complementary to the basic educational tools already in use.

Under the current medical educational model, surgeons-in-training learn their craft during training periods known as residencies. This model of learning by doing, or “see one, do one, teach one,” has been the standard for more than 100 years and is dependent upon patient flow and the availability of high-quality instructors.  It fails, however, to guarantee that a trainee gains experience in all of the vital areas, nor does it provide an objective measure of a surgeon’s abilities. 

“While nearly all branches of surgery have embraced virtual reality training in one form or another, ophthalmology has the most to gain,” says Dr Park.  “Unlike other surgeries, eye surgery requires a surgeon to master microsurgical techniques.  If a complication arises during the procedure, there is no room inside the eye for a more experienced set of hands to intervene.”  

ORBIS, a nonprofit dedicated to the elimination of avoidable blindness worldwide, began field-testing the EYESI in June 2005 during hands-on surgical training programs for ophthalmologists in developing nations plagued by eye diseases and lacking an adequate number of eye doctors to provide treatment.  Designed to reinforce techniques, procedures, and manual skills, the EYESI is being used by ORBIS to give more ophthalmologists of various skill levels the opportunity to master sight-saving surgical techniques. 

“Virtual reality surgical simulation is ophthalmic training in the 21st century.  It is only natural that ORBIS, with 25 years experience training eye surgeons and an innovator in the field of blindness prevention, would be the first nonprofit to use this advanced technology to fight global blindness,” explained Dr Eugene Helveston, ORBIS Ophthalmologist-in-Chief. 

“Our goal is to use the EYESI as a tool for eye surgeons to gain confidence and competence in the way flight simulators are used by pilots.  It is vital to enhance the ophthalmic skills within the countries we work in to provide a long-term sustainable solution to avoidable blindness.”

The EYESI surgical simulator is produced by VR Magic Technology Group, a German company specializing in image processing and display technology. ORBIS currently owns three EYESI simulators.

ORBIS and NYU School of Medicine are responding to the ophthalmic community’s demand for virtual reality training tools and will be conducting a course in surgical simulator training at the 2006 American Academy of Ophthalmology in Las Vegas.  Continuing medical education credit will be awarded to participating eye surgeons.    

Notes to Editor

Medical treatments and timely interventions cure or prevent 75% of world blindness (World Health Organization)

37 million people in the world are blind, yet 28 million do not need to be, as the cause of their blindness is treatable or preventable (World Health Organization)

ORBIS works to ensure that surgical skills and medical knowledge are available in the developing world, where 90% of the world’s blind reside

About New York University School of Medicine

NYU School of Medicine, one of the nation’s leading centers of advanced biomedical learning, spans a history of excellence of more than 160 years in the education and training of physicians, in patient care, and in scientific research.  The School of Medicine’s mission remains the same as was at its founding in 1841: “The pursuit and delivery of the highest quality patient care, medical training, and scientific research must be accomplished in a setting of excellence at the highest level of human achievement.” Much of the teaching of students and residents at NYU School of Medicine takes place at Bellevue Hospital Center, the country’s oldest public hospital. NYU physicians have been providing care at Bellevue for more than 130 years.

About ORBIS International

ORBIS is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing blindness worldwide. Since 1982, ORBIS has worked in 84 countries to restore sight to the blind and to transfer sight-saving skills to more than 93,000 doctors, nurses, and other eye care professionals, who have in turn gone on to give an estimated 22.5 million people back their sight and their future.  Endorsed by 70 heads of state, by the World Health Organization, and by three Secretaries-General of the United Nations, ORBIS has been praised as a diplomatic ambassador promoting cooperation between nations and an effective organization in the fight against world blindness.  Visit



Ann Marie Gothard: Public Relations, ORBIS International, +1(646) 674-5581,

Jennifer Berman, NYU Medical Center, +1(212) 404-3532,


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