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Vision Excellence Awards: Allen Foster

Allen Foster

Professor Allen Foster. OBE. has been instrumental in developing the “VISION 2020 – Right to Sight” initiative and has tireless worked towards the success of the same in various roles. He is not only a well-respected ophthalmologist, but also a gifted teacher, researcher, and leader to the eye health sector.

Allen Foster was born in Ormskirk, Lancashire and obtained an Honours degree in Medicine from the University of Birmingham in 1973. Together with his wife he worked as a doctor at a small mission hospital in Tanzania for 10 years before returning to the UK in 1985. He specialised in Ophthalmology and combined an academic post at the Institute of Ophthalmology in London with overseas work as for CBM, first as Medical Director until 2005 and then as International President & CEO until 2013. At the same time, he served as a part-tine consultant in ophthalmology at the Ely Hospital in Cambridgeshire (1987-1989) and as an honorary consultant ophthalmologist at the Moorfields Eye Hospital in London (1989–2015). He joined the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) in 1999 and was appointed Co-Director (until 2019) and Professor of International Eye Health of the International Centre of Eye Health (present position) in 2002. His work at LSHTM has been to develop and lead the Disability and Eye Health Group which undertakes Research and Education activities to eliminate the causes of avoidable blindness and to improve access to health and rehabilitation services for persons with disabilities in low and middle income countries.

During his career, Professor Foster has been the chair and member of various drug donation and eye health programmes and still is a member of the WHO Alliance for the Global Elimination of Trachoma. He wrote two books, 14 chapters in books and has so far contributed to 248 publications. He has received numerous awards for his work and most importantly, had a tremendous impact on eye health around the world.

Professor Foster being one of the architects of Vision 2020 not only developed the initiative, but then also strengthened the capacity of countries to implement it. He has been a teacher and a mentor to a many of the national programme managers in different countries which, either through the teaching at LSHTM or through Prof Fosters programme work, had encounter him. This approach has let to multiplication in human resources and forming of peer groups thinking alike and therefore making an impact at the district level in their countries. Finally, Professor Foster has enabled many to reach countless persons with visual disabilities and thus impacting thousands of lives.

Professor Foster: “Over the last 20 years the world’s population has grown and aged; the pattern of blinding diseases has changed; however inequity in access to eye care continues to exist. The right to sight for all people remains the same.”