John Barrows

President & CEO


Years Active: 35

Education: MPH, Boston University, Boston, MA, 1989

John Barrows, President & CEO has over 30 years’ international development experience in a broad spectrum of blindness prevention programming in Latin America, Africa and South East- Asia, and is a strong advocate for changing how eye health programs build capacity to strengthen efficiency and financial sustainability in the developing world.

From 1981-1987, he lived and worked in Malawi, first as a US Peace Corps Volunteer working on primary health care and nutrition programs in collaboration with government, nongovernmental organizations, and UNICEF followed by four years with Save the Children/Malawi. Mr. Barrows earned a Master of Public Health degree from Boston University in 1989. He joined the International Eye Foundation (IEF) in 1989 to develop and manage nutrition and child survival programs in multiple countries in Africa and Latin America. From 1993-2013, he was made IEF’s Director of Programs and in 2013-2018, Vice President for Programs. His role is to oversee IEF’s blindness prevention programs including Onchocerciasis control, childhood blindness, and hospital sustainability management in multiple countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.

Mr. Barrows has been a force behind IEF’s SightReach® Management (SRM) sustainability program established in 1999 which has assisted 66 eye hospitals and clinics in 22 countries over the past 20 years. SRM addresses under-utilization of existing resources to build capacity for improved efficiency, productivity, quality, and revenue generation with a focus on leadership and management practices leading to organizational and financial sustainability.

He oversaw IEF’s SightReach Surgical® (SRS) social enterprise program from inception in 1999 through closure in 2018. SRS was a non-profit platform for ophthalmic products specifically targeted to helping eye care providers gain access to new, quality ophthalmic instruments, equipment and supplies at affordable prices to reduce the cost of providing care in developing countries. SRS changed the landscape of access to ophthalmic products from before the advent of the internet and the current opportunities of access through manufacturers’ own platforms as well as eBay and Amazon. Mr. Barrows is an active member of the Human Resources for Eye Health Working Group of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), and is Vice Chair of VISION2020/USA. From 2013 to the present, he is a Technical Advisor to US Agency for International Development’s Child Blindness Program.

He has co-authored several articles on vitamin A and micronutrients, prevalence of blindness (cataract and trachoma), family acceptance of child blindness services, hospital sustainability and has presented frequently on change management and financial sustainability at international meetings - AAO, WOC, IAPB and Vision 2020 regional meetings. Mr. Barrows received a Human Rights Award from the United Nations Association/National Capital Area in 2001, and a North America Regional Award from IAPB in 2012.


U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi, 1981-1984, Human Rights Award from the United Nations Association, 2001, International Agency for Prevention of Blindness North America Regional Award, 2012