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Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

Opportunities in International Ophthalmology

Opportunities in International Ophthalmology

Written by: Janet Tsui, MD
Reviewed by: Narendra Patel, MD

The University of Iowa
Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

Feb. 2, 2010, updated Apr. 18, 2011, Mar. 21, 2014, Feb 25, 2015, May 2, 2017, Jan 16, 2018

Although there have been great successes in the prevention and treatment of infectious ocular diseases, the worldwide burden of visual impairment remains a significant global public health problem. According to the World Health Organization Fact Sheet updated in May 2009,

  • About 314 million people are visually impaired worldwide; 45 million of them are blind.
  • Most people with visual impairment are older (82% of the visually impaired are 50 years of age or older), and females are more at risk at every age, in every part of the world.
  • About 87% of the world's visually impaired live in developing countries.
  • The number of people blinded by infectious diseases has been greatly reduced, but age-related impairment is increasing.
  • Cataract remains the leading cause of blindness globally, except in the most developed countries.
  • Correction of refractive errors could give normal vision to more than 12 million children (ages five to 15).
  • About 85% of all visual impairment and 75% of blindness is avoidable globally.

The leading causes of blindness in the world in order of frequency are: cataract, uncorrected refractive error, glaucoma and age related macular degeneration. Corneal opacities, diabetic retinopathy, trachoma, and pediatric ocular disorders such as cataract, retinopathy of prematurity and vitamin A deficiency represent other major causes.

Since the 1990s, the most influential factors in prevention have been the development of affordable specialized eye care centers, increased commitment to prevention from national leaders, medical professionals and private and corporate partners, higher awareness and utilization of resources by the general population, and implementation of effective eye care strategies to eliminate infectious causes of vision loss.

Because the largest burden of ocular disease is disproportionately found in developing countries, many ophthalmologic health care professionals may be interested in learning more about and participating in prevention and treatment strategies in these areas. Most of the more prominent organizations involved in these efforts, such as ORBIS, accept only professionals who have completed a residency or fellowship. One particularly useful resource for these individuals is the Eyecare Volunteer Registry, which can be found at the American Academy of Ophthalmology s website.

The Eyecare Volunteer Registry is a service offered by the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, which is designed to enhance eye care services worldwide, particularly in developing nations where the need is greatest. The Registry connects eye care professionals who are interested in becoming international volunteers with organizations and institutions seeking ophthalmic volunteers.

When one joins the Registry, individuals will receive information on volunteer sites posted by organizations and institutions that match their preferences. Organizations will receive information on potential volunteers whose self-identified interests and expertise match the organization's needs.

Individuals still in training are limited to fewer organizations, however, there still several ways to get involved as a resident or fellow. At the University of Iowa, senior residents in good standing may apply for a 2 week international elective. The requirements and expectations of the opportunity are available in the linked (pdf) document. Below is a list of organizations that will accept ophthalmologists in training. You may also find it helpful to contact alumni of from your home institution.

Global Directory of Training Opportunities

An online resource of training opportunities (such as an observership, fellowship or preceptorship) available to ophthalmologists practicing outside of the host country. The Global Directory is provided at no cost to ophthalmologists around the world by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. see


This list is a work in progress. If you are aware of any other opportunities that can be added, please let us know: contact form.

Aravind Eye Care System

1, Anna Nagar, Madurai - 625 020,
Tamilnadu, India
Phone: +91-452-435 6100,
Fax: +91-452-253 0984

Aravind s network of hospitals is one of the most productive eye care organizations in the world, in terms of surgical volume and the number of patients treated. With less than one percent of the country s ophthalmic manpower, Aravind performs about five percent of all cataract surgeries in India. Aravind s effective strategies cross barriers of distance, poverty and ignorance to create a self-sustaining system that now treats over 1.7 million patients each year, two-thirds of them for free.

Armenian EyeCare Project

Mailing address:
The Armenian EyeCare Project
P.O. Box 5630
Newport Beach, CA 92662
Phone: 1-949-933-4069
Fax: 1-949-675-5612
Contact Form:

Founded in 1992, the Armenian EyeCare Project's (AECP) mission is to eliminate preventable blindness in Armenia and to provide access to eye care for all those in the developing country. Since its inception, the AECP has been traveling to Armenia on twice-yearly medical missions — over 50 missions to date.

The volunteer Missions are typically held in June/July and in September/October. Leading the Missions is AECP President and Founder Dr. Roger Ohanesian. He is joined by anywhere from six to 12 ophthalmologists in various subspecialties.

While in Armenia, doctors work alongside Armenia's top physicians and teach at various AECP facilities. These include subspecialty clinics — Glaucoma, Retina, Corneal-Uveitis, Neuro-Orbital, Pediatrics and Low Vision — inside the Malayan Ophthalmological Center in the country's capital of Yerevan; the Center of Excellence for the Prevention of Childhood Blindness in Yerevan, which aims to advance eye care for infants and children in Armenia and eliminate preventable blindness from retinopathy of prematurity; the AECP Mobile Eye Hospital, which travels throughout Armenia to remote towns and villages offering care to those in the rural areas of the country and who are indigent; and the AECP Regional Eye Clinics, located throughout Armenia to offer eye care to the two million Armenians who live outside the country's capital. In addition, volunteer doctors visit schools, nursing homes, soup kitchens and polyclinics — anywhere and everywhere they are needed.

Medical Missions typically last two weeks.

Language requirements:
English is a requirement. Armenian and/or Russian is a plus.

Volunteers are responsible for all of their expenses while in Armenia including transportation, lodging and food. Volunteers arrange their plane fare to Armenia, hotel and transportation while in Armenia with assistance from the EyeCare Project. Physicians on Medical Missions stay in a local hotel as a group.

University of Cape Town

Department of Surgery
Division of Ophthalmology
J45 Rm.69
Old Main Building
Groote Schuur Hospital

The Faculty of Health Sciences at UCT has the oldest medical school in South Africa. Its core business is research in medical and allied fields, as well as teaching undergraduate and postgraduate students over a wide range of healthcare-related disciplines. UCT offers 2-4 week observerships in the Division of Ophthalmology, which is under the Department of Surgery. Contact Professor Colin Cook, Morris Mauerberger Chair of Ophthalmology, at for more details.

The Fred Hollows Foundation (Main offices are in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.)

The Fred Hollow Foundation
Level 3, 414 Gardeners Road
Rosebery, NSW 2018
Tel: 61-2-8338 2111
Fax: 61-2-8338 2100

The Fred Hollows Foundation is inspired by work of the late Professor Fred Hollows, whose vision was for a world where no one is needlessly blind. The individual offices in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom formed a global network to increase their collective impact in eradicating avoidable blindness around the world. Their hope is to restore sight to over one million people. The Foundation does not generally place volunteers in their international programs because their aim is to develop the skills and capacity of local workers in the disadvantaged communities in which they serve. However, there is one particular opportunity in Kathmandu, Nepal, where eye specialists for the time being may volunteer.

Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology

(incorporating The Fred Hollows IOL Laboratory )
Address: Bagmati Pul, Gaushala, Kathmandu, Nepal
Postal Address: PO Box 561, Kathmandu, Nepal
Phone: + 977 1447 4685 or + 977 1449 3775
Fax: + 977 1447 4685
Email: or

The Fred Hollows Foundations works with the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, which is an independent entity from The Foundation and has partnerships with several non-government organizations. The Fred Hollows Foundation mainly provides funding for the Institute s activities.

Led by Medical Director, Dr Sanduk Ruit, the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology is composed of the Surgicentre, the Fred Hollows Intraocular Lens Laboratory and an Eye Bank for the storage of donated corneas. Tilganga has screened nearly 1.5 million people and performed more than 74,000 operations in the Himalaya region since 1994. They have a strong infrastructure including outreach and community eye clinics, which help the Institute to achieve its vision of providing eye care services to the poorest of the poor, no matter where they live. The Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology also provides outreach services and training for surgical teams from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Pakistan, Sikkim, Tibet, Myanmar, northern India, North Korea and for other country programs coordinated by The Fred Hollows Foundation.

Senior residents, surgeons and ophthalmology professors from the United States and Tilganga Eye Centre teach sections of the academic material and provide extraordinary surgery mentoring opportunities. More information can be found under the Himalayan Cataract Project at The program is co-directed by Dr. Sanduk Ruit and Dr. Geoffrey Tabin (from the University of Utah). Write to

Hospital Italiano

Dr. Eduardo Mayorga
Head of the Eye Department
Hospital Italiano de Buenos Aires

El Hospital Italiano in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is a state of the art, private hospital in the capital of Argentina. The ophthalmology department receives complex referrals from all over the country and continent. They have specialists in refractive surgery, cataracts, cornea transplantation, strabismus, ocular oncology, retina, oculo-plastics, neuro-ophthalmology and glaucoma. Their residency program accepts 3 residents a year and welcome clinical observerships. Dr. Mayorga is considered one of the best in ophthalmologic education by his peers and would be willing to talk with any interested resident in creating a customized elective experience. A working knowledge of the Spanish language is highly recommended.

International Federation of Ophthalmological Societies (IFOS)
International Council of Ophthalmology (ICO)

Bruce E. Spivey, MD
945 Green Street
San Francisco, CA 94133
United States of America
Fax: +1 (415) 409-8403

Dr. Spivey is an alumnus of the University of Iowa and has graciously agreed to help residents from our program to find an international ophthalmology experience suitable to each one s objectives and goals. As President of the ICO, he has vast connections with educators from all over the world and is an invaluable resource for our community.

There are also opportunities to work directly with the ICO at the administrative level. Below is a description of the organization s history and mission.

The International Council of Ophthalmology (ICO) represents and serves professional ophthalmologic associations around the world. The formation of an international council began at the first World Ophthalmology Congress in 1857. In 1927, participants in the Congress formally founded the ICO in Holland.

The ICO s mission is to work with ophthalmologic societies, ophthalmologists and others to enhance ophthalmic education and the provision of eye care in order to preserve and protect vision for all people worldwide. Its goals are to:

  • Enhance ophthalmic education, particularly training of ophthalmologists and other eye care personnel to meet public needs in developing countries
  • Stimulate and support communication and collaboration among ophthalmologic societies and ophthalmologists globally and their involvement in initiatives to preserve vision
  • Define and disseminate proposed standards and guidelines in order to enhance eye care
  • Stimulate research to eradicate preventable blindness
  • Raise awareness worldwide of the economic, social and personal impact of vision loss and advocate for increased funding and other support for preservation and restoration of vision.

The ICO produces and supports several programs including the World Ophthalmology Congress, the Basic Science Assessment and Clinical Sciences Assessment for Ophthalmologists, the ICO International Fellowship, ICO International Clinical Guidelines, advocacy for the preservation of vision, Vision for the Future The International Ophthalmology Strategic Plan to Preserve and Restore Vision, and the Research Agenda for Global Blindness Prevention. Contact Dr. Spivey if you are interested in volunteering with the ICO.

Medical Ministry International, USA

PO Box 1339
Allen, TX 75013
Telephone: (972) 727-5864
Fax: (972) 727-7810

MMI is a Christian medical mission organization whose aim is to serve God by providing spiritual and physical health care in a world of need. Their vision is to care annually for 100 million of the world s needy by the year 2050. They are committed to meeting the need for medical care among the world's poor with lasting solutions through excellence in medicine, patient care, and health education. Their strategy is to mobilize volunteers on one and two-week medical projects led by physicians with long term relationships to the areas they serve and to establish and equip permanent medical centers.

Volunteers participating on short-term medical mission trips form the foundation of the ministry. As volunteers work hard to provide care and change lives, they, in turn, find that their lives are changed. Participants take one or two weeks of vacation time to go and minister to multitudes of people in developing countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas. Most projects are general medicine, surgery and dentistry. Eye projects may be surgical only or involve a full team of eighty including ophthalmologists, optometrists, opticians, nurses, techs, anesthesiologists, and general helpers. On their website, you can find a year-long calendar of projects.

Mettapracharak (Wat Rai Khing) Hospital

Puwat Charukamnoetkanok, M.D.
Director of International Affairs
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology
University of Pittsburgh
University of Illinois at Chicago
52 Moo 2
Raikhing District, Sampran
Nakornpathom 73210
Phone: +66 34-225818
Fax: +66 34-321243 (web site is not yet available in English)

Dr. Puwat Charukamnoetkanok (better known here as Dr. Puwat) is also an alumnus of the University of Iowa and is interested in hosting visiting residents and creating and resident exchange program. Anyone interested in this experience should contact him at

Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Mr. Paul Sulllivan
Director of Education
care of: Miss Jennifer Irish
PGME & Observers Administrator
Postgraduate Medical Education Centre
162 City Road
London, UK
Phone: +44 (0)20 7566 2428

Moorfields Eye Hospital is the oldest and one of the largest centers for ophthalmic treatment, teaching, and research in the world. The hospital accepts 1-2 observers on any one sub-specialty service at one time. The following services are represented at Moorfields: the Adnexal Service, Cataract Service, Corneal 7 External Diseases Service, Glaucoma Service, Medical Retina Service, Neuro-ophthalmology Service, Strabismus & Paediatrics Service and the Vitreoretinal Service. The minimum length of stay is 1 week and may extend up to 2 months (except for on the Glaucoma service, which has a 2-week maximum). A written application and a current copy of your CV are required. The cost is 150 per week, which is due up front and is non-refundable.

ORBIS International (Headquarters)

520 Eighth Ave., 11th floor
New York, NY 10018
Tel: (800) ORBIS-US, (646) 674-5500
Fax: (646) 674-5599

ORBIS is a non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve and restore sight by strengthening the capacity of local partners in their efforts to prevent and treat blindness. ORBIS operates the world s only Flying Eye Hospital delivering sight restoration, education and training to local ophthalmic communities throughout the developing world. Its training program emphasizes a multi-disciplinary and multi-national approach to medicine, nursing, anesthesia, and biomedical engineering practices for quality patient care.

As part of ORBIS commitment to cultivate the next generation of ophthalmologists committed to global blindness prevention and sight restoration efforts, they have created the role of the Associate Ophthalmologist. This program offers a structured environment for motivated young ophthalmologists-in-training interested in international ophthalmology and/or public health.

The Associate Ophthalmologist serves as a volunteer member of the medical team and has the unique opportunity to network with the program s participating Volunteer Faculty, screen and care for patients pre- and post-operatively as well as facilitate hands-on, didactic and wet lab training sessions.

The Flying Eye Hospital typically conducts six to eight (two week duration) programs in any calendar year, and can accommodate two Associate Ophthalmologists per program week. Acceptance is competitive and awarded based on availability.

To apply for consideration and selection, each Associate Ophthalmologist candidate must have a degree from an accredited medical school; maintain current medical registration/licensure; be at least a second year resident, and hold a valid passport. Associate Ophthalmologists will be expected to be culturally sensitive and respectful of local tradition and law.

The role of Associate Ophtalmologist is a self funded position. Each candidate will be expected to fund his/her own airfare, visa, meals, and other incidental expenses. ORBIS does provide on site accommodation at the same hotel where the ORBIS team stays. ORBIS travel department is pleased to assist each Associate Ophthalmologist in organizing their respective travel itineraries and visa.

After residency, one can apply to be a volunteer faculty member. ORBIS requires applicants to be board certified and have a minimum of four years experience post-completion of academic training. References from two current ORBIS medical volunteers are required.


The Carter Center

Office of Public Information
453 Freedom Parkway
Atlanta, GA 30307
Tel: (404) 331-3900
Fax: (404) 331-3900

The Carter Center s mission is to advance human rights and alleviate unnecessary human suffering. Its vision is to create a world in which every man, female, and child has the opportunity to enjoy good health and live in peace. The Carter Center, in partnership with Emory University, seeks to prevent and resolve conflicts, enhance freedom and democracy, and improve health. While the program agenda may change, The Carter Center is guided by five principles:

  • The Center emphasizes action and results. Based on careful research and analysis, it is prepared to take timely action on important and pressing issues.
  • The Center does not duplicate the effective efforts of others.
  • The Center addresses difficult problems and recognizes the possibility of failure as an acceptable risk.
  • The Center is nonpartisan and acts as a neutral in dispute resolution activities.
  • The Center believes that people can improve their lives when provided with the necessary skills, knowledge, and access to resources.

The Carter Center collaborates with other organizations, public or private, in carrying out its mission. In particular, The Carter Center supports the River Blindness Program and the Trachoma Control Program. Since 1996, The Carter Center has been a leader in the fight against river blindness in Africa and the Americas by working in thousands of communities in 11 countries. The Carter Center's River Blindness Program assists ministries of health to eliminate river blindness mainly through the distribution of ivermectin in the six countries in the Americas Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Venezuela through the special Onchocerciasis Elimination Program of the Americas and to control river blindness in five African countries: Cameroon, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Sudan, and Uganda.

Regarding the control of trachoma, The Carter Center works with its partners to implement the World Health Organization-endorsed SAFE Strategy: Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness, and Environmental improvement. The Carter Center and its partners, the ministries of health in Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Sudan, with the generous support of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and the Lions Clubs International Foundation, are working together to implement the SAFE strategy in order to eliminate trachoma from at-risk communities.

The Carter Center offers competitive 15-week minimum (10 weeks in the summer) internships to undergraduate, graduate and recent students in multiple disciplines. Interested individuals may apply on their website.

Christoffel-Blindenmission (Christian Blind Mission International)

Nibelungenstrasse 124
D-64625 Bensheim
Tel: + 49 6251 131 0
Fax: + 49 6251 131 249
Telex: 468334 CBMB D

CBM (Christian Blind Mission) is the oldest and largest ministry with the primary purpose of improving the quality of life for the blind and disabled living in the world's most disadvantaged societies. They provide preventative, medical, rehabilitative and educational services to millions of people each year. CBM supports more than 1,000 projects in 113 countries, and their aid is available to all people regardless of religion, nationality, race, or gender.

CBM's goal is to find, rescue, and rehabilitate these forgotten people giving children hope, taking whole families and communities out of grinding poverty, and building bridges between them and their communities.

The International Centre for Eye Health

Miss Marcia Zondervan
VISION 2020 Links Programme Manager
Lecturer/DCEH Course Organiser
International Centre for Eye Health,
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Keppel Street, London, WC1E 7HT
office telephone - 44 (0) 2079588335

The International Centre for Eye Health (ICEH) carries out research and education to improve eye health and eliminate avoidable blindness, with a focus on low income populations. ICEH is a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for the Prevention of Blindness and is based at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Courses include a 2-year masters program and Diploma in Community Eye Health and a few short courses (1-4 months). Some modules of the masters course can also be taken individually.

LV Prasad Eye Institute

Dr. Gullapalli N. Rao, Chair
LV Prasad Eye Institute
Kallam Anji Reddy Campus,
L V Prasad Marg, Banjara Hills,
Hyderabad 500 034
Andhra Pradesh, India
Tel: + 91 40 3061 2345 (30 Channels)
Fax: + 91 40 2354 8271

The LV Prasad Eye Institute is a non-profit organization governed by: the Hyderabad Eye Institute (HEI) and the Hyderabad Eye Research Foundation (HERF). The mission of the Eye Institute is to provide affordable and competent eye care to all sections of society. They focus on geographically and economically disadvantaged groups, including both the rural and the urban populations of lower socioeconomic classes and extend services to them through satellite clinics and rural affiliates. Since their establishment they have provided outpatient services to 4 million people and surgical care to over 400,000 patients - almost 50 percent of them free of charge.

There are a few 1-month fellowships available at the Eye Institute including:

  • 1 month Retina Laser training -- Slots for November & December 2009
  • 1 month ROP training -- Slots for 2009
  • 1 month SICS training -- Slots for 2009

These are the requirements of all international applications, in addition to other requirements mentioned in individual training and study program.

  • Complete and up-to-date curriculum vitae
  • A letter of support from the sponsoring agency
  • A 200-word summary describing their current skills in ophthalmology, future goals, current position in eye care in their home countries, and how the training they hope to receive at LVPEI will benefit them and their home country.
  • A letter of reference from the head of the department/institution in which they are currently working/training

International applicants must apply to LVPEI through their sponsoring agencies and include in their applications a letter from their sponsoring agency guaranteeing financial support. They are not eligible for stipends given by LVPEI, although they can receive a stipend from their sponsoring agencies. Your university and LVPEI should have a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for residents education and training. To obtain this MOU, the sending university s authorities may write to Dr.Prashat Garg, the Education Centre Director at

Living Costs: Accommodation is provided free of cost. The average cost of food at the campus canteen is estimated at Rs 1500 per month for Indian applicants and $2 per day for international applicants. Stipends are not provided to short term trainees.

Kilamanjaro Center for Community Ophthalmology

Tumaini University
PO Box 2254
Moshi, Tanzania
Tel: 255 27 2753547
Fax: 255 27 2753598 I

The Kilimanjaro Centre for Community Ophthalmology (KCCO) was established in Moshi, Tanzania in late 2001 as part of collaboration between the Executive Director of the Good Samaritan Foundation and Vice Chancellor of Tumaini University and Drs. Paul Courtright & Susan Lewallen of the KCCO. The KCCO exists as a centre within Tumaini University's Kilimanjaro Christian Medical College and is committed to:

  • Elimination of avoidable blindness through the integration of programs, training, and research focusing on the delivery of sustainable and replicable community and ophthalmology service.
  • Building the capacity of eastern Africans to provide high quality eye services to  meet the needs of their population
  • Developing internationally recognized educational programs.
  • Developing a teaching and research environment that promotes health care measures beneficial to Tanzania and surrounding countries.

Every year, KCCO takes 3-4 residents, MPH students or PhD candidates. Their program is most notable for their extensive training in community ophthalmology. As such, clinical, research, and community health related activities are readily available, however, surgical experiences are not.

Dr. Paul Courtright in the co-director of the KCCO and can be reached at if you would like to learn more about working with the program.

Operation Eyesight Universal

National Office
4 Parkdale Crescent NW
Calgary, Alberta T2N 3T8
Toll-free tel: (800) 585-8265
Fax: (403) 270-1899

This organization has some opportunities in Ghana, but they are undergoing some organizational changes and will have a more clear policy on accepting residents in 2010.

Other opportunities

Dr. Emad Zeiada
Observer Fellowship of 2-4 weeks
United Kingdom.

Dr. Zeiada is interested in hosting visiting fellows for an ophthalmology observership. If interested please contact Dr. Zeiada by email at Lnaguage requirement: English.


  1. World Health Organization. Blindness, 2009. [cited 2009 November 22]; Available from:
  2. World Health Organization. Visual impairment and blindness, fact sheet, 2009. [cited 2009 November 22]; Available from:
  3. World Health Organization. Global initiative for the elimination of avoidable blindness. 2007. [cited 2009 November 22]; Available from:
  4. American Academy of Ophthalmology Global Ophthalmology Guide. 2016. [cited 2017 May 2]; available from
See also

Batra R and Sinclair A. "Idiopathic intracranial hypertension; research progress." J Neurol. 2014 Mar; 261(3): 451-60.

See related article Wall M. "Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (pseudotumor cerebri)." 2015. Available at

Suggested Citation Format:

Batra NV, Parekh PK, Wall M. Weight Management in Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension: A Tutorial. July 28, 2016; Available from:

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