HelpMeSee is a non-profit organization committed to ending the global health crisis of untreated cataracts, the leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide. The organization’s mission is to train local cataract specialists in Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS) in significant numbers, to meet the increasing demand for surgical services in the communities most impacted by cataract blindness. HelpMeSee supports the training, qualification, and practice readiness of these cataract specialists in partnership with health institutions, governments, philanthropies, and market ventures.
To successfully fulfill this mission, HelpMeSee develops and deploys high-fidelity eye surgery simulators, adapted from the successful experience of commercial airline simulators. This is to provide the resources needed to educate cataract specialists. HelpMeSee’s goal is achieved when all communities living in austere conditions have access to the essential cataract surgical care they require – care that provides the best quality outcomes that are focused on patient safety.
This organization understands the complexity and large-scale change needed to reach marginalized populations but understands that the organization cannot achieve this goal alone. For this reason, HelpMeSee is working to build a sustainable model with partners and place training centers in each of the poorest regions with the highest rates of vision loss to make the largest impact on this issue.
Today, HelpMeSee is led by Saro Jahani, who left a career on Wall Street to join the global organization. He took the reins as president and CEO of the organization after having served as Head of Global Innovation and Technology. Jahani brings decades of experience in digital transformation and agile product development to the organization. In March of 2020, he and his team had a deadline of just months to complete the remaining 80% of the development of the eye surgery simulator.
Facing unforeseen global challenges, supply chain issues, and a need to improve lead time and drive high performance, Jahani led this team through a complex engineering and software design to complete the healthcare simulation process for the cataract procedure. Uniting a team of professionals across three continents, eight countries, and multiple time zones, they successfully launched the world’s first virtual reality high fidelity MSICS simulator with an instructor-led curriculum in just a few months.
Cataract Surgery Simulator
Unveiled on “World Sight Day” in 2020, HelpMeSee unveiled the organization’s new Cataract Surgery Simulator. Equipped with sensory touch feedback and realistic virtual graphics, the HelpMeSee Eye Surgery Simulator, incorporated within the HelpMeSee Training Program, supports the training of cataract specialists on the Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS) procedure, a solution that could help end the global cataract blindness crisis.
“The HelpMeSee Eye Surgery Simulator overcomes the traditional restraints of cataract surgery training with unlimited virtual practice opportunities. It also offers the benefits of remote simulation-based training during the COVID-19 pandemic, limiting the risks of exposure to coronavirus infection,” said HelpMeSee President and CEO Saro Jahani.
HelpMeSee Simulator and Courses
HelpMeSee also offers MSICS Simulation-Based Training Course (MSTC), which is a proficiency-based training course for cataract surgeons in Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS). Drawing on virtual reality, the Simulation-Based Training program offers an authentic experience of live surgery, allowing for the scalable training of large numbers of cataract specialists, with unprecedented speed and skill.
Further, the training builds competency, reducing cataract surgery training time, with better outcomes than traditional surgery methods. Such training additionally allows cataract specialists to practice surgery and learn to address complications through simulation, rather than the human eye with a live patient.
“Individual customization of training is a significant advantage, as the data on surgical steps can be tracked on the system,” explained Jahani. “The simulation-based training and curriculum provide an authentic experience, allowing for errors without risks to patient safety.”
HelpMeSee Company History
The inspiration for the HelpMeSee campaign began in the late 1970s when Albert L. Ueltschi dedicated himself to fighting blindness in the developing world. He was convinced that training local ophthalmologists who remain in their own communities was the answer.
As founder and leader of FlightSafety International (FSI), the world’s leading aviation training company, Ueltschi 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.
Ueltschi also co-founded and led Orbis International for 30 years, a global non-profit best known for its “Flying Eye Hospital,” and led the effort to outfit Orbis’s original McDonnell Douglas DC-8 airplane and later, its 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 strengthen eye care practices in developing countries through training. Ueltschi realized that while the Flying Eye Hospital program continued to do great work, the technology lacked the scalability needed to provide access to the millions of cataract-blind – the leading cause of treatable blindness globally.
Thus, he brought to HelpMeSee more than half a century’s experience in simulation-based aviation training to successfully transition the design and develop a simulation-based Eye Surgery Simulator with the goal of training to proficiency 30,000 cataract surgeons over time.
Ueltschi passed away in October 2012, but not before signing the Giving Pledge along with Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. The A. L. Ueltschi Foundation and the Jim Ueltschi Foundation are joined by the Skowronski Family Foundation, the Eye Surgery Fund, The Wyss Foundation, and the Commonwealth Charitable Fund to collectively contribute to the costs to launch and develop the HelpMeSee campaign. The campaign endeavors to eliminate blindness caused by cataracts, through the training of cataract specialists in Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS) using the HelpMeSee Eye Surgery. Learn more on the HelpMeSee website or by reading the articles below.