It is my honor and pleasure to nominate my colleague and friend Victoria M. Sheffield for the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness Vision Excellence Award 2020. I have known and worked with Victoria at the International Eye Foundation since 1990, and I cannot think of a more deserving person for the award. Victoria has accomplished many “firsts” in her career and brings a lifetime of experience to IEF’s and our collective community supporting global sight-saving programs.
Victoria began her career in international eye health program development in 1979 when IEF recruited her from Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, DC, to join an IEF surgical team to establish the “new Jordan Eye Bank” in Amman, Jordan. From this first experience, Victoria has never looked back. Soon after, IEF hired Victoria as Field Training Specialist with the Kenya Rural Blindness Prevention Project and a posting to Kenya from 1980-1983, where she developed primary eye care training programs, and trained Ophthalmic Clinical Officers.
In 1984, Victoria joined Hellen Keller International, developing their eye health training programs. Victoria worked with the Ministries of Health in Ethiopia and Sudan to combat vitamin A deficiency during the drought and famine era. She made lasting impressions in the refugee camps conducting xerophthalmia surveys, training health workers, and working with UNICEF and embassies to ensure milk powder was fortified with vitamin A.
Victoria rejoined IEF in 1990 as President & CEO, leading her team to accomplish a series of innovative programs over the next 30 years. Victoria was instrumental in introducing one of the first USAID-funded programs in Eastern Europe in the post-Communist era developing a public eye health program in Bulgaria. The program conducted the first blindness prevalence survey in Eastern Europe and introduced new child blindness initiatives that influenced policies that led to including eye care in new government insurance schemes.
Another first was championing sustainable eye care strategies beginning in 2000, starting the long conversation that continues to date on the importance of delivering high quality, efficient, and financially sustainable eye care services. Over the next 18 years, Victoria has been a steadfast advocate for IEF’s leadership, supporting sustainable eye care services resulting in assistance to 72 eye hospitals in 22 countries.
Finally, Victoria has provided significant leadership, time, and energy, promoting collaboration within the eye care community. Beginning as the Chair of the IAPB Partnership Committee, the forerunner of the IAPB Council of Members, meeting annually for six years at WHO in Geneva. She has activity attended every IAPB Global Assembly since 1982, was “in the room” for the planning and launch of VISION2020: The Right to Sight in Geneva in 1999, and has represented IEF at the key meetings including the development of the World Report on Vision, and was the founding Vice-Chair of VISION2020/USA. These efforts culminated in 2015 when Victoria was elected Vice President of IAPB, bringing her immense enthusiasm, knowledge, and experience.