Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Merck & Co., Inc. Honored for Saving Sight

The inaugural IEF Promotion of Peace & Vision Award to a Corporation was given to Merck & Co., Inc. by Victoria M. Sheffield, President & CEO of the International Eye Foundation. Merck received the award for its outstanding commitment to controlling and eliminating onchocerciasis (river blindness) worldwide. IEF has partnered with Merck since 1988 when Merck began donating the drug Mectizan® to control the parasites that cause river blindness.

"Through the MECTIZAN Donation Program, and the commitment of partners such as the International Eye Foundation, significant progress is being made to control and even eliminate river blindness around the world," said Michael Rabinowitz, Global Brand Leader of Ophthalmics, Merck & Co., Inc., who accepted the award on behalf of Merck. “More than 80 million people are now treated with MECTIZAN every year, a testament to Merck's commitment to putting patients first."

Photo: Victoria Sheffield presenting 2009 Corporate Promotion of Peace and Vision Award to Michael Rabinowitz

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Malawi Celebrates 45th Anniversary

Her Excellency Hawa Ndilowe, Ambassador of Malawi to the USA, hosted a wonderful celebration last evening in Washington, DC to commemorate Malawi's "National Day". Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Mary Jo Wills, Acting Chief Executive of the Millennium Challenge Corporation Rodney Brent, and "Miss Malawi" Joyce Mphande who will represent Malawi in the Miss World competition joined some 300+ guests including representatives of embassies, NGOs, and corporations active in Africa. Ambassador Ndilowe, a member of IEF's Board of Directors, spoke about the significant progress being made in recent years, especially Malawi's 8% growth rate in GDP last year. "Investments in agriculture, health and education are moving Malawians out of poverty to prosperity". IEF congratulates Malawi on its 45th anniversary since independence noting that we have helped build Malawi's eye care services for 34 of those 45 years. Our recent blog posting noted that our colleague Dr. Moses Chirambo, a distinguished Malawian ophthalmologist, was elected to Parliament in May and appointed Minister of Health for Malawi.

Photo: IEF President Victoria Sheffield with Her Excellency Hawa Ndilowe

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Young Petia visits IEF from Bulgaria

"We don't have any ophthalmologists specializing in plastic surgery in Bulgaria, so this is fascinating for me to see" said young Petia Moutaftchieva, a medical student from Bulgaria. She is the grand-daughter of IEF's Bulgaria country representative Prof. Petja Vassileva, a distinguished ophthalmologist who also trains ophthalmologists in Sofia. This was her first time in the US. She visited IEF and was toured the private practice of Dr. Frank Ashburn and Dr. Paul Gavaris in Washington, DC. Petia observed two eyelid repairs performed by Dr. Gavaris and his daughter, Dr. Lauren Gavaris, at the Surgi-Center, "something I don't see very much in Bulgaria". A highlight was the tour of the National Library of Medicine on the NIH campus in Bethesda, MD where Petia got a library card and looked up many scientific articles on Publine authored by her grandmother! She also viewed the very special room of ancient medical texts dating from before 1501 AD, the oldest being an Arabic text on digestive diseases dated 1049 AD. We hope young Petia follows in the footsteps of her distinguished grandmother and great-grandfather and becomes an ophthalmologist. Whatever she decides, she has a bright future!

Photos: Left: V Sheffield, Petia Moutaftchieva, Dr. Frank Ashburn
Right: Dr. Paul Gavaris, Petia, Dr. Lauren Gavaris

Victoria M. Sheffield
President & CEO

Friday, June 19, 2009

Kathryn Leckey Thanked for Service on IEF Board

Kathryn Leckey is presented with the IEF "globe award" by Board Chair Dr. James P. Ganley at IEF's Annual Meeting of the Board of Directors on June 18, 2009. Kathryn has served IEF as a Board member for twelve years, chaired our annual gala the Eye Ball, and participated in many events that support our work. Dr. Ganley noted her "...dedicated commitment to IEF's mission of saving sight."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Onchocerciasis Treatment Continues in Cameroon.

IEF supported the treatment of 802,351 persons with Mectizan® during 2008 in two Provinces in Cameroon, reports Mr. Patrice Nkwelle, IEF’s Project Director in Cameroon.

With the generous support of the Mectizan® Donation Program (MDP), the Lions SightFirst Program, the Lions Coalition, Cameroon, and the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC), over 1.1 million persons living in hyper and meso-endemic communities in Adamaoua Province in the north and South Province in the south are targeted for annual treatment with Mectizan®.

During May and June, 802,351 persons living in 3,330 communities received over 2.27 million Mectizan® tablets through a network of 6,672 Community Directed Distributors (CDDs). Each Province has achieved 100% geographic coverage and an average therapeutic coverage level (total population at risk) of 72%. Among the population at risk and eligible to receive treatment, the coverage level averaged 87% for both Provinces. Adamaoua Province has finished its 10th and South Province its 5th annual distribution cycle under the APOC Programme. Congratulations to Patrice and his dedicated team and to the Lions Coalition Cameroon for their continued dedication and hard work!
John Barrows
June 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

IEF receives 4 stars - Charity Navigator

Savvy donors are demanding more accountability, transparency and quantifiable results from charities they choose to support with their hard-earned dollars. Charity Navigator, America's premier charity evaluator, has awarded IEF their coveted 4-star rating for sound fiscal management. This "exceptional" designation from Charity Navigator differentiates IEF from its peers and demonstrates to the public it is worthy of their trust.

In a letter from Ken Berger, President & CEO of Charity Navigator, congratulating IEF on achieving this, the highest rating, he recognized the Internation Eye Foundation for the way the organization executes its mission in a fiscally responsible way and outperforms other charities in America.

Wendy Codd
June 9, 2009

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Dr. Nam visits Washington DC

Dr. Namperumalsamy (Dr. Nam), Chairman of the Aravind Eye Care System, India was in Washington DC attending the Global Health Council meeting last week May 28, 2009. Dr. Nam accepted the Gates Award for Global Health in 2008 on behalf of Aravind. Raheem Rahmathullah, Sustainability Specialist (left) and John Barrows, Director of Programs (center) from IEF met with Dr. Nam (right) over lunch to "catch up" and discuss program ideas to address to growing worldwide problem of diabetic retinopathy.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

IEF visits KCCO in Tanzania

A group of IEF Board members and friends had our "eyes opened" at the Kilimanjaro Centre for Community Ophthalmology (KCCO) in March 2009. IEF helped establish KCCO in Moshi, Tanzania seven year ago. Founders and co-directors, Dr. Paul Courtright and his wife Dr. Susan Lewallen have worked with IEF for over 20 years. We sent Susan, an ophthalmologist, to provide eye care on the island of St. Kitts for a year in the 1980's, and Paul and Susan were IEF's co-Country Directors in Malawi from 1990-1995. They are two of the most experienced professionals in the global eye care community!

The KCCO staff described their strategies for reducing blindness from cataract and other diseases threatening the sight of Africans. It was hot and humid in Moshi and an afternoon thunderstorm knocked out the electricity for a while until the generators kicked in. All part of the challenges of living and working in rural Africa. The staff carried on and explained their strategies to reach people living in remote villages who can't get to hospital for eye care. Next door to KCCO is the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC). We toured the eye clinic and watched Dr. Anthony Hall, Director of the Eye Department, perform cataract surgery. Amazing!

The next day, we went with the KCCO outreach team to Mwika Village on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. It was a foggy morning and chilly at 6,000 feet up the mountain, but green and lush and the air was clear and sweet. The flame trees, bouganvilla and a myriad of tropical flowers were in full bloom - almost heaven. When the sun came out and warmed us up, we could see down into the vast valleys below. The team set up the vision and exam stations and over 250 people, elderly men and women, and children of all ages and their parents, came to get their eyes examined! School children in their brown, blue and green uniforms depending on their school, were excited to get their eyes checked. Many suffered from allergies and were treated right away, and some needed glasses which they received on the spot. Mary, a village elder in her 80's and dressed in a colorful sweater and "kanga" cloth, was one of the most memorable. She arrived late having walked a few kilometers with her stick and reached out to greet us with a hug and a big smile. She complained of poor eye sight although you'd never know it. It was clear that she is a tough old lady, and had lived a healthy life. Mary was diagnosed with cataract and was one of 13 who were transported back to KCMC that day for cataract surgery. With a new intra-oclular lens, Mary and the others were transported back to a clearer and brighter Mwika to return to their families with new vision for the future. It was a successful day and a most rewarding visit!

Victoria M. Sheffield

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dr. Susan Lewallen visits IEF

Dr. Susan Lewallen came to Washington, DC to make presenations at USAID and the National Eye Institute and visited IEF on May 22nd. Susan and her husband, Dr. Paul Courtright are the co-founders and co-directors of the Kilimanjaro Centre for Community Ophthalmology in Moshi, Tanzania. A group of IEF Board members and friends had the opportunity to visit KCCO in February and learn about the research and training being provided for eye care professionals from all over Africa. Susan's presentations focused on health care management and the challenges of eye research in Africa.

Photo L-R: Susan Lewallen with IEF's Raheem Rahmathullah, John Barrows

Victoria M. Sheffield
President & CEO

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dr. Moses Chirambo Elected to Parliament in Malawi

Our long time colleague, Prof. Moses Chirambo, MD was elected yesterday to Parliament from Rumphi District. Dr. Chirambo was the first Malawian ophthalmologist. IEF has supported Dr. Chirambo and the development of Malawi's eye care services since 1975. We established the Ophthalmic Assistant Training Program in 1980 and implemented successful vitamin A and river blindness control programs in the country. The eye clinics in Lilongwe and Blantyre were two of IEF's original sustainability partners. Dr. Chirambo has been a part of these successes all along the way. We are very proud of his achievements and thrilled at his election to Parliament. Congratulations Moses!

Photo L-R: Dr. Moses Chirambo, the secretary, Dr. Kirin Kumar (optometrist), Dr. R. Pararajasegaram in the IEF established optical service in Lilongwe.

Victoria M. Sheffield
President & CEO

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Gates Award Nomination

The International Eye Foundation – Gates Global Health Award nominee.

IEF was nominated for the 2009 Gates Award for contributions to improving global health.

It was a great honor to receive a nomination for this prestigious award, however, the award for 2009 went to another worthy institution – we congratulate them on being selected.

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine — the first academic institution to win the annual prize and the first British winner — was chosen by a jury of international health leaders for its efforts to build health systems and train health personnel in low-income and post-conflict countries while researching diseases that particularly affect disadvantaged people, including malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cap Haitien, Haiti

I just returned from a recent trip to Cap-Haitien, Haiti on behalf of VOSH/PA to assess how eye care is provided in Cap-Haitien in the North Department, Haiti. Dr. Guerline Roney and Dr. Marlyse Dominique, ophthalmologists at the Hospital Justinien, are providing tremendous leadership and have dramatically increased the number of persons served over a short time period at the hospital. The number of patients examined increased from 2,270 in 2006 to 16,715 in 2008 and over the same time period the number of surgeries performed increased from 67 to 682. Visits were made to the other eye care providers and optical shops in the city and an outreach screening clinic was observed too. Many visitors and organizations support Dr. Roney and Dr. Dominique and deserve recognition.

John Barrows, IEF Director of Programs

Hospital Justinien

Dr. Marlyse Dominique

Dr. Guerline Roney

Outreach screening

Down town Cap-Haitien

Painting of an eye chart

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Gender and Eye Health

Leading US-based eye care NGOs held a briefing, “Seeing Women: Taking on Gender Inequities in Global Blindness Prevention,” at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on April 30, 2009 exploring links between gender and blindness, poverty, disability and education. NGOs and groups advancing the rights of women presented case studies and effective strategies that work in improving access to eye care services for women and girls

“Globally, women bear a greater burden of blindness than men,” said Victoria Sheffield, President, International Eye Foundation. “Clear evidence from developing countries shows that women receive fewer eye care services in part because eye care programs are not tailored to meet the needs of women and second, cultural and social barriers exist at the community level.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

IEF's Spring e-newsletter is now available. Check out IEF's website at

Upcoming events will include an on-line auction to begin June 1 and run through June 21.