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Vision Excellence Awards: Larry Schwab

Larry Schwab, MD

Dr. Larry Schwab has dedicated his life to improving the sight of people around the world. A rotation during his medical school internship in early 1967 reinforced his desire to work in the developing world. He had plans to work with the WHO Smallpox Eradication Program in Ethiopia when the Vietnam war intervened. As a non-combat medical officer serving with combat units in Vietnam 1967-1968, he almost lost his life and knew then that he would spend the rest of his life in service to others. After his military service and training in ophthalmology, Dr. Schwab joined the International Eye Foundation (IEF) and moved with his family to Africa spending 12 of the next 17 years attached to the Ministries of Health in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 1972-1975; Nakuru, Kenya 1976-1980; Blantyre, Malawi 1983-1985; and Harare, Zimbabwe 1986-1989. He trained ophthalmic medical assistants and clinical officers, nurses and non-physician cataract surgeons, and took part in national blindness prevalence surveys, mobile outreach and trachoma control. In Kenya, he established the first eye department at the Nakuru Provincial Hospital in 1976 where he served as the Rift Valley Provincial Eye Surgeon. As a referral ophthalmologist at the tertiary level in all four countries and with the eye health personnel he trained, Dr. Schwab had a huge impact on saving the sight of hundreds of thousands of people. After returning to the US, Dr. Schwab taught at West Virginia University, worked with the Veterans Administration hospitals, and served on IEF’s Board of Directors for many years.

Dr. Schwab’s textbook “Eye Care in Developing Nations” was first published in 1987 in English, French, Tibetan, Vietnamese, and Chinese. He presents at international conferences, academic institutions, professional societies and taught the ophthalmology section in a university global health course interacting with eye residents and medical students interested in global eye health issues.

With the Francis I. Proctor Foundation for Research in Ophthalmology, Dr. Schwab contributed to trachoma research in East Africa. He has published hundreds of articles on public eye health and ophthalmology contributing to the global eye health knowledge base.

Dr. Schwab’s work with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a significant cause of preventable blindness in war-torn countries, and his advocacy led IEF, the American Academy of Ophthalmology and other eye health organizations to formally endorse the Ottawa Treaty Landmine Ban in 1997.

VISION2020: The Right to Sight brought together an IAPB community of eye health development specialists including Dr. Schwab to WHO in Geneva to develop the initiative which led to the launch in 1999 with a view to eliminating the world’s leading causes of blindness over the next 20 years. Dr. Schwab is known and respected by his colleagues in the US and throughout the world, especially in Africa, for his kindness, friendship, teaching and mentoring and his passion for reducing unnecessary blindness in our world for over half a century.