VHI was founded in 1985 to serve communities around the world with vision care. While much of our work over the years has taken place in Latin America, we added domestic field programs to our organizational portfolio in 2018. We are proud to serve underserved communities in the US and around the world. We provide high-quality, direct patient care to the communities we serve. Our services include comprehensive eye exams, life-altering surgeries, prosthetic eyes, dispensing of eyeglasses and protective eyewear, and more.
Strong partnerships are at the core of our work. We recruit volunteer ophthalmologists and other professional vision healthcare providers to participate in our field programs. We partner with at least one local organization for each field program; from local clinicians or physicians, to local governmental agencies, to local nonprofit organizations. We deliver services in local clinics or hospital facilities, often with the assistance of local personnel. Return trips to many program sites enable us to build long-lasting relationships with local partners and patients.
An integral component of our mission is capacity building for the international medical personnel with whom we partner; we deliver medical technology to medical professionals in communities we serve, as well as provide direct surgical training of medical personnel, pre- and post-operative care, specialized oculoplastic instruction, and patient exams.
How We Got Started
Dr. Rodney E. Abernethy recognized that even the most basic vision health care was out of reach for most adults and children in rural Latin America, where there is perhaps one ophthalmologist for every 250,000 people, and where unemployment, lack of health insurance, and the burden of poverty compound an already serious medical problem.
Beginning in 1985, Dr. Abernethy established a model and a mission for a growing band of dedicated volunteers with three successful surgical field programs to Ecuador. Sadly, this small group of doctors, nurses, and Peace Corps volunteers lost their inspirational leader in 1988. Thankfully, they never lost their inspiration.
VHI was incorporated in 1989 to honor Dr. Abernethy’s pioneering work in Ecuador and to continue his efforts to make vision health care services affordable and accessible for people in the developing countries of Latin America.