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Vision Excellence Awards: Suzanne Gilbert

Suzanne S Gilbert, PhD, MPH, is a respected innovator with 40 years’ experience designing and scaling comprehensive, equitable eye care services in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Dr. Gilbert is a cofounder of Seva Foundation, which, along with its partners in the Global Sight Initiative Network, has restored sight to more than 5 million people. Since Seva’s founding, Dr. Gilbert has played a variety of roles within the organization, as one of its first volunteers, Executive Director, and Program Director. She is currently the Senior Director for Research and Strategic Opportunities, leading the foundation’s effort to document scalable approaches to sustainable eye care.

She is always looking for innovative ways to bring quality eye care to more people around the world. A social epidemiologist by training, Dr. Gilbert has participated in the design and implementation of landmark community-based studies of the prevalence of blindness and associated factors beginning with a landmark blindness study in Nepal in the early 1980s. She scaled training of ophthalmic personnel worldwide and has built consortia to fast-track innovations in eye care service delivery. This work draws on her experiences in India, which began at age 20, leading to a Fulbright study and work in maternal and child health. Her focus later turned to blindness prevention, thanks to the influence of Seva co-founder Dr. G Venkataswamy of the Aravind Eye Care System.

Dr. Gilbert also played an instrumental role in the creation of the global initiative VISION 2020: The Right to Sight. Dr. Gilbert participated in the launch of VISION 2020 in Geneva, Switzerland in 1999, and has co-chaired the IAPB Human Resources in Eye Health Work Group for more than a decade. Dr. Gilbert serves on numerous boards and committees of global health and eye care institutions. She is President of the International Society of Geographical and Epidemiological Ophthalmology, as well as a member of the Global Outreach and Education Committee of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the International Committee of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons. She co-chairs the IAPB COVID-19 Work Group and recently co-authored an article on COVID-19 in the Indian Journal of Ophthalmology and represents North America as the IAPB chair of the region.

Her continued commitment to ending avoidable blindness over the past 40 decades has made an indelible mark on how community-based eye care is provided around the world. Seva is honored to nominate Dr. Gilbert as a visionary for the 2020 Eye Excellence award.