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1960’s: Direct Service

  • 1961: Dr. John Harry King, Jr., corneal transplant pioneer and ophthalmologist to the President of the United States, founds the International Eye Bank in collaboration with missionary Dr. Tom Dooley, under the auspices of CARE/Medico.
  • 1965: International Eye Bank changed its name to the International Eye Foundation and incorporated in 1969 after assuming a leadership role in public health ophthalmology.
  • Provided short and long-term volunteer ophthalmologists to train and develop fledgling eye care services in newly independent developing countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America/Caribbean and the Middle East.
  • 1968: Supported the establishment of the first Basic Science Course in Ophthalmology in Spanish at the University of Puerto Rico in collaboration with Dr. Guillermo Pico.
  • 1969: Society of Eye Surgeons established as IEF’s medical support arm.
  • Closed the decade having shipped 6,000 corneas from virtually every eye bank in the United States to 55 countries, and assisted in the establishment of 29 eye banks in 26 countries.

1970's: Training Program
and Systems Development


  • 1971-1984: when there were very few international ophthalmology meetings held globally, IEF’s Society of Eye Surgeons held global congresses in:
    • 1971: I World Congress, Washington, DC, USA
    • 1973: II World Congress, Athens, Greece
    • 1975: III World Congress, San Salvador, El Salvador
    • 1980: IV World Congress, Nairobi, Kenya
    • 1984: V World Congress, Cairo, Egypt
  • Programs established to train ophthalmologists and allied ophthalmic personnel within developing countries: Barbados, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Haiti, Honduras, Ivory Coast, Jordan, Kenya, Malawi, Puerto Rico, St Lucia, Philippines, and Zimbabwe.
  • Scholarships provided to foreign doctors to study ophthalmology in the US and Europe.
  • Ophthalmic nurse training programs established by Kathe Burkhardt, COT in Bangladesh and Indonesia.
  • IEF-US Navy exchange program establish to expose US Navy ophthalmology residents to the challenges of providing eye care in Africa and the Middle East, and provided fellowships for Ethiopian and Egyptian ophthalmologists to come to the US for training. Program directors: Dr. Lawrence M. King, Dr. John Sutphin, and Dr. Howard P. Cupples.
  • James B. Sprague and colleagues conducted Vitamin A deficiency control programs in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Indonesia.
  • Peace Corps volunteers trained on vitamin A deficiency prior to assignments overseas.
  • 1976-1984: established the USAID-funded “Kenya Rural Blindness Prevention Project”, considered a model for governments to use when improving eye care services for rural communities in Africa. The project included conducting blindness prevalence surveys of the nine major tribes in Kenya. The project conducted 5 of 9 blindness prevalence surveys of 9 major tribes in Kenya.
  • Designed and field tested the iconic “Red Eye Chart” taken up by WHO in the 1980’s and published in 13 different languages.
  • Held a series of six WHO/IEF Collaborative Regional Meetings throughout Africa to plan and develop blindness prevention programs.
  • 1977: Vitamin A Program with international experts conducted jointly at IEF Headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland and The Nutrition Rehabilitation Institute in Madurai, South India, funded by USAID.
  • 1978: at the founding meeting of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness ((IAPB), Oxford, UK, IEF founder Dr. John Harry King, Jr. is appointed as “alternate” to Group F, “Members ‘at large’ elected in recognition of the individual contribution which they can make to the work of the Agency”. IEF has participated in every quadrennial IAPB general assembly since 1978.
  • 1979: the “New Jordan Eye Bank” is established at the Jordan University Hospital in Amman and officially opened by the late King Hussein and Queen Noor. The IEF team with Jordanian colleagues performed 30 corneal transplants in the first week. IEF Team: Dr. Michael A. Lemp, Dr. Richard K. Forster, Nicole Todaro, COT, and Victoria M. Sheffield, COMT.

1980's: National Services
Expanded & alignment with WHO

  • Assisted Health Ministries to expand national eye care services in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
  • Trachoma control programs established in multiple countries in Africa and the Middle East.
  • US ophthalmologists posted to Caribbean and Central American nations since the 1970’s for one year: May Khadem, Dr. J.P. Dailey, Dr. Baxter McLendon, Dr. Elliot McGuire, Dr. John Distler, Dr. Stephen Pappas, Dr. Brad Shingleton.
  • 1980: Ophthalmic Assistant Training Program established in Malawi.
  • 1980: First technical assistance mission to Guinea Conakry, West Africa resulting in the posting of a French ophthalmologist, Dr. Jean-Paul Heldt, by IEF to help the only local ophthalmologist to develop the national eye care service.
  • 1985: IEF is the first eye care NGO to be awarded “official relations” status with the World Health Organization.
  • 1986: IEF founder Dr. John Harry King, Jr. passes away and was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
  • 1986: IEF establishes the first USAID-funded Vitamin A/child survival programs in Malawi.
  • 1987: IEF launches the Ethiopia Ophthalmic Manpower Development Program in collaboration with the Ministry of Health which includes a training program for Ophthalmic Medical Assistants.
  • 1987: Glaucoma survey of 3,000 people conducted on the island nation of St. Lucia in collaboration with Howard University in Washington, DC and supported by USAID.
  • 1987: first edition of “Primary Eye Care in Developing Countries” by Dr. Larry Schwab is published by Oxford University Press. Dr. Schwab lived and worked in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi and Zimbabwe with his family from 1972 to 1989.
  • Vitamin A Deficiency/Child Survival program established in Bolivia and Guatemala and extended in Malawi.
  • 1990: IEF pioneers community-based Mectizan® distribution programs to fight onchocerciasis (river blindness) in Guatemala, and with Africare in Nigeria.
  • 1990-1995: develops an innovative USAID-funded program known as SightReach® to recently graduated ophthalmologists in Central America to establish eye clinics in underserved urban and rural areas (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras).
  • SightReach® supports 21 young ophthalmologists to establish eye clinics in underserved rural and urban areas of Central America.
  • 1991: IEF is the first US NGO to receive one of the first USAID grants for Eastern Europe and establishes blindness prevention programs in Albania and Bulgaria.
  • 1991-1992: Conducted the “Sofia Eye Study”, a random sample blindness prevalence survey in Bulgaria in collaboration with Prof. Sheila West and Dr. Richard Geiser, the results of which were published in ophthalmology journals and presented at ARVO. Data from this study were extrapolated by WHO for other formerly communist countries in the region.
  • 1992: IEF establishes the “International Eye Bank Sofia” in collaboration with the International Federation of Eye Banks, now Kerlink in Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
  • 1992: IEF pioneers community-based Mectizan® distribution programs in Cameroon and Malawi.
  • 1993-1998: IEF’s President & CEO, Victoria Sheffield, chairs the WHO/IAPB “Partnership Committee of International Non-Governmental Organizations Dedicated to the Prevention of Blindness and Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind” which was reconstituted by IAPB in 2004 as the “Council of Members”. The Partnership Committee grew from 15 to 68 NGO members and observer organizations during the six years of her chairmanship.
  • 1995-2000: IEF’s pioneers the small grants program for USAID with its "Seeing 2000" program which provided 26 grants to 23 pediatric eye units in 15 countries worldwide to improve and expand eye care for children.
  • 1996, June 12: at the urging of Dr. Larry Schwab, IEF Senior Medical Director who is a leading advocate in the global campaign to ban anti-personnel landmines, IEF resolved to support the “International Ban on the Development, Production and Deployment of Land Mines”.
  • 1999: IEF co-sponsors the WHO/IAPB Scientific Meeting titled “Preventing blindness in children” held 13-17 April 1999 at the LV Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad, India. Report: WHO/PBL/00.77.

1999: IEF's SightReach®
Program evolves into
three specific program areas

  • SightReach® Public Health Programs
    Programs target the four diseases responsible for 80% of the world’s blindness – cataract, trachoma, onchocerciasis, childhood blindness.
  • SightReach® Management
    Increases efficiency and quality of eye care services by enhancing financial sustainability and improving management capabilities of local ophthalmologists, eye care providers, and eye care institutions.
  • SightReach Surgical®
    Social enterprise established to reduce the barrier of cost by providing high quality ophthalmic medical and surgical instruments, equipment, and supplies at the lowest possible prices to ophthalmologists and hospitals in developing countries in order to bring down the cost of eye care and surgery while maintaining an orientation to the poor.

2000’s: Expanding SightReach® Management partners

  • USAID grant support flagship program to support 7 eye hospitals in Malawi, Egypt, India, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
  • 2008: SightReach® Management partner Visualiza in Guatemala becomes an IEF mentor assisting IEF with new mentee hospitals in the Latin America region.
  • 2009: IEF is a founding member of VISION2020/USA, part of the IAPB’s VISION2020: The Right to Sight initiative. IEF’s President & CEO, Victoria Sheffield is founding Vice Chair.
  • SightReach® Management closes the decade having assisted 24 eye hospitals in 15 countries to improve quality and increase services.

2010’s: Expanding SightReach® Management partners

  • 2011: On the occasion of IEF’s 50th anniversary, the Honorable Chris Van Hollen, then Congressman and now Senator from the state of Maryland, entered a citation in the United States Congressional Record “Honoring the International Eye Foundation”, Monday, May 2, 2011, pgs. E777-E778.
  • 2012: SightReach® Management partner Clinica Divino Nino Jesus (DNJ) in Lima, Peru becomes an IEF mentor in the Latin America region.
  • 2013: Assists the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to improve efficiency and quality of services at government eye units in 5 countries in Latin America.
  • 2013-2018: IEF is the Technical Advisory Group to the USAID Child Blindness Program.
  • 2013: IEF President & CEO, Victoria Sheffield, is elected Vice Chair of the Advisory Board for the newly formed International Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus Council (IPOSC).
  • 2016: SightReach® Management partner, the Rotary Eye Hospital in Palampur, Himachal Pradesh State, India becomes an IEF mentor in India.
  • 2016: Guatemala declared “onchocerciasis free” by the World Health Organization.
  • 2016: IEF receives the “Collaboration Award” at the IAPB 10th General Assembly, October 2016 in Durban, South Africa.
  • IEF’s President & CEO, Victoria Sheffield, elected Vice President of IAPB 2016-2020.
  • 2017: IAPB Vice President, Victoria Sheffield, signs Memorandum of Understanding with Rotary International Secretary General John Hewko, for a service partnership bringing together IAPB member agencies with Rotary Clubs to build joint projects supporting eye hospitals in developing countries.
  • 2017: SightReach® Management network includes 55 eye hospitals in 22 countries.

Awards and Citations

1962 IEF recognized for its advocacy toward the passing of Public Law 87-656 by the 87th Congress, S.2321, September 7, 1962. “An Act: To encourage and aid the development of reconstructive medicine and surgery and the development of micro-surgical research by authorizing the licensing of tissue banks in the District of Columbia, by facilitating antemortem and post-mortem donations of human tissue for tissue bank purposes, and for other purposes.” Known as the “District of Columbia Tissue Bank Act”.

1963 Dr. John Harry King, Jr. receives the Citation of Award in Recognition of Distinguished Service Rendered to Eye Banks, May 1963.

1964 & 1965 Dr. John Harry King, Jr. receives a Certificate of Award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology (AAOO) for distinguished services.

1958 Dr. John Harry King, Jr. receives the award for best scientific presentation from the American Ophthalmological Society.

1968 Dr. John Harry King, Jr. receives the Gradle Medal for Teaching from the Pan American Association of Ophthalmology (PAAO).

1970s Dr. John Harry King, Jr. is made an Honorary Member of the Ophthalmological Societies of the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Egypt, Guatemala, Peru, and Turkey.

1971 IEF receives a commendation from the Department of State Agency for International Development.

1975 IEF recognized as a “private voluntary organization” by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

1985 IEF accepted into “official relations” with the World Health Organization (WHO).

1990 Victoria Sheffield receives the “Statesmanship Award” to a Non-Commissioner, Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (JCAHPO).

1997 Victoria Sheffield made an Honorary Member, Albanian Ophthalmology Society.

1997 Victoria Sheffield presents the Pangilinan Lecturer, West Virginia University.

1998 Victoria Sheffield receives a “Human Rights Award” from the United Nations Association/National Capital Area on the 50th anniversary of the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights".

1999 Victoria Sheffield receives an “Achievement Award” from the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).

2001 John Barrows receives a “Human Rights Award” from the United Nations Association/National Capital Area.

2005 Victoria Sheffield is made an Honorary Member, Union of Bulgarian Ophthalmologists.

2008 Victoria Sheffield receives a “North America Regional Achievement Award” from the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) at its 8th General Assembly in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

2010 Victoria Sheffield receives the “Prince Abdulaziz Ahmad Al Saud Prevention of Blindness Award” from the Middle East Africa Council of Ophthalmology at its joint meeting with the AAO in Chicago.

2011 On the occasion of IEF’s 50th anniversary:

  • March 1, 2011: Citation from the Honorable Martin O’Malley, Governor of the State of Maryland.
  • April 8, 2011: Citation from the Honorable Benjamin L. Cardin, US Senator from the State of Maryland.
  • May 2, 2011: Citation “Honoring the International Eye Foundation” on its 50th anniversary is published in the United States Congressional Record by the Honorable Chris Van Hollen, then Congressman and now Senator from the state of Maryland, pgs. E777-E778.

2012 John Barrows receives a “North America Regional Achievement Award” from the IAPB at its 9th General Assembly in Hyderabad, India.

2013 Victoria Sheffield receives a ‘Secretariat Award’ for her service to the Global Education & Outreach Committee from the AAO.

2014 Raheem Rahmathullah receives an “Eye Health Leader Award” from the IAPB at its Council of Members meeting, Paris, France.

2014 Victoria Sheffield receives a “Senior Achievement Award’ from the AAO.

2016 IEF receives the “Collaboration Award” from IAPB at its 10th General Assembly, Durban, South Africa.

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